Du bow digest american edition feb. 20, 2011

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A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

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Du bow digest american edition feb. 20, 2011

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONFebruary 20, 2011Dear Friends:Lots of water under the bridge since the last edition – including two Arabdictatorships. It’s always good to see people move toward democracy but if thatnew status enhances anti-Israel sentiment and, perhaps, anti-Semitism then Iwonder about it.One would think that especially in Europe, leaders would want to see how things“shake out” in the Arab world before starting to put more pressure on Israel.Certainly they understand as one of my colleagues put it, “I may well be missingsomething, but I just dont see any big chance for advancing the Israeli-Palestinian track anytime soon. The Palestinians have dissolved their cabinet,called for elections, are fearful of the street a la Tunis and Cairo, and are stillreeling from Palestine Leaks. The Israelis are unlikely to take any major newrisks while Egypt plays itself out and other key countries, including Jordan, are inpotential flux, unless, against all the odds, we see a surprise on the Israeli-Syriantrack. It was tough enough to move the Israel-Palestinian process forward beforerecent events. Now, it seems to me, it only gets tougher, at least in the short run.However, with the Brits and French leading the charge among the Europeansalong with the normal pro-Palestinian nations, Germany signed on to a UNResolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as "illegal" and calledfor an immediate halt to all settlement building. It was vetoed by the U.S. but allthe other 14 members of the Security Council voted for it.No question! Germany and the EU are solidly against settlements. We should notexpect Germany to go it alone in spite of how much we wish they would. EUsolidarity is too important to them and, besides, they are really (and havefrequently said) opposed to the Israeli settlement policy (as is the U.S. for thatmatter in spite of the veto). It doesn’t thrill me but that is the reality of thesituation. 1
  2. 2. The UN aside, Germany has other things on its mind at the moment. TheirDefense Minister (Guttenberg) has all but admitted that he plagiarized someoneelse’s work in the writing of his Ph. D. thesis, more of their soldiers were killed inAfghanistan and European leaders clearly are relishing tearing apart ChancellorMerkels ideas for a European economic government.It’s not a happy time. However, let’s get on with the rest of the news which mostlyisn’t very happy either…IN THIS EDITIONA NEO-NAZI VILLAGE – If you think it’s not possible – you’re wrong!THE DRESDEN REACTION – The citizens of Dresden take to the streets.THEY’RE BACK! BUT ALL IS NOT COMING UP ROSES – The national pollnumbers for the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition are better. How about the voting booth?HAMELN: A GREAT HONOR FOR ME – This was too precious for me not toinclude it.GERMANY & A UNILATERAL PALESTINIAN STATE – The citizenry seems tohave their priorities straight.THE SPY & POLITICAL PRISONER EXCHANGES – 25th ANNIVERSARY – It’smore about freedom and political prisoners than spying.MORE ON SPIES - Who were the post-war spies for Germany and what weretheir backgrounds.GE RMANY & IRAN: THE QUALITY OF THE SANCTIONS – The sanctionsseem to have more holes than Swiss cheese.ANOTHER COMMEMORATION? – Not for the Holocaust this time.A NEO-NAZI VILLAGEA month or two ago I mentioned the fact that Jamel, a village in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (former East Germany) had become infested by neo-Nazis.It’s gotten worse and the news about what is going on there has finally driftedback to the United States.Fox News.com talking about Jamel recently reported, “This is a town taken overby neo-Nazis. 2
  3. 3. Wooden signposts by the main road point to Vienna, Paris, and Braunau am Inn— the birthplace of Adolf Hitler. A far-right leader runs his demolition companyfrom home, its logo featuring a man smashing a Star of David with asledgehammer.Every few months, townsfolk host outdoor parties where guests sing "Hitler is myFuehrer" to chants of "Heil" around a massive bonfire.Jamel is the most extreme manifestation of a chilling phenomenon in the formercommunist East Germany: a creeping encroachment of neo-Nazism that makesMecklenburg-Western Pomerania one of only two states where Germanysbiggest far-right party, the National Democratic Party, or NPD, sits in parliament."Federally the Islamic extremists are the biggest problem; for us the extremeright is the biggest problem," said Reinhard Mueller, who heads the state branchof Germanys domestic intelligence agency.In Jamel, six of the 10 houses are in the hands of the far right, and authoritiesconsider 10 of the villages 28 adults right-wing extremists. Town life isdominated by one man: Sven Krueger, a 36-year-old leading NPD official, whogrew up here.The NPD is marginalized at the national level in Germany, and wherever theparty holds rallies, the hundreds who show up are dwarfed in numbers bythousands of counter-demonstrators. And even though its popularity has slippedslightly in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, it appears poised to remain over the5 percent of the vote needed to keep its seats in the upcoming Sept. 4 stateelection.Germanys domestic intelligence agency estimates that as of 2010 there wereabout 1,400 far-right extremists in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania — a smallfraction of the states 1.6 million population. Of them, 400 are NPD members.Still, officials acknowledge the far-right extremists in the state make up adisproportionate number of Germanys overall 26,000.Mueller said the state government supports a ban of the NPD, which would cut itoff from funding given to all parties that receive a certain proportion of the vote,based on a sliding scale. The NPD got some €1.19 million in 2009, the last yearfor which a figure was available; while by contrast Merkels conservative partygot €41.9 million.There is little support federally for a ban, however, after a previous attempt wasthwarted in 2003 by Germanys highest court as it emerged that the argument forthe ban was partially based on statements by NPD members who were also paidinformers for state authorities. 3
  4. 4. I guess that this sort of national disgrace is the penalty Germany must pay forbeing a democratic country. Of course, free speech there is not totally free. Anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying or pro-Nazi speech are crimes. However, the NPD issmart enough to walk a tightrope and not get itself (at least, frequently) intotrouble.But let’s not go overboard in worrying about it. Jamel is not Berlin or Hamburgand the vast (vast!) majority of Germans have had enough of Nazism. In fact, ithas gone in the other direction with very strong feelings about non-violence, anti-militarism and support for what they see as the oppressed (It’s what, amongmany Germans, that explains their pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel support).However, Jamel sticks out like a sore thumb. I doubt there is much the authoritiescan do about it except watch it carefully and support the anti-NPD population ofwhich there are, I am sure, many.Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/02/06/neo-nazis-dominate-tiny-german-village-2108123018/#ixzz1DNijbzzuTHE DRESDEN REACTIONEvery year the neo-Nazis hold a “funeral march” in Dresden for it was (TheLocal) … 66 years ago that a massive Allied bombing raid on the city killedthousands of civilians in a raid which has since been criticized as strategicallyunnecessary as Hitler’s forces were already pretty much defeated.The number of those who were killed has also been controversial, with an officialestimate lowered to 25,000 a few years ago. Prior to that, hundreds of thousandswhere thought to have died in the raid.Some 1,300 neo-Nazis showed up, as they do every year, to hijack thecommemoration and make the loss of life in 1945 a nationalist event. Thecitizens of Dresden did not take it lying or sitting down.According to DW-World.de, This year… some 17,000 people braved freezingtemperatures on Sunday to protest against the neo-Nazis by forming a gianthuman chain around the city.The thousands of people wore white roses pinned on their lapels and encircledthe city center for 10 minutes while bells tolled from the churches. The WhiteRose was the name given to a group of students in Munich who opposed AdolfHitlers regime."When we remember the victims of the Dresden bombings today, we rememberall the victims of Nazi violence and World War II," said Detlef Sittel, Dresdens 4
  5. 5. mayor. "There are so many people here who want to express their opinionclearly and make Dresden a tolerant, friendly and strong city, open to the world.""The people of Dresden are defending their remembrance," said German InteriorMinister Thomas de Maiziere, who participated in the event along with otherpoliticians.Several hundred people also attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the cemeterywhere many of the bombing victims are buried.State Premier Stanislaw Tillich said the people had "once again made clear thecity is theirs and that there is no space for rightist extremists."What can one say except that it seems as if the citizens of Dresden seem tohave their priorities in very good order?Der Spiegel also has a good piece on this matter. Click here to read it.http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,745423,00.htmlAs I write this, another Dresden demonstration is taking place with thousands ofprotestors massed, perhaps for a melee.THEY’RE BACK! BUT ALL IS NOT COMING UP ROSES.I have been reporting that the ruling CDU/CSU/FDP coalition was losingpopularity and things were looking pretty dim for their prospects in the upcomingseven state elections that will take place this year. I have also noted frequentlythat in my opinion Chancellor Merkel is one of the best politicians to come downthe ‘pike (In this case the Autobahn) in a very long time. It now seems that thingshave turned around in the national polls and the coalition has pulled almost evenwith their opposition, the SPD/Greens coalition.The Local reports, “Trailing heavily in opinion polls a few months ago, ChancellorAngela Merkel’s ruling centre-right coalition has clawed back support just onepercentage point behind Germany’s left-wing opposition parties.Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their junior coalitionpartners the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) managed to win 41 percent ofvoter support in a poll published by news magazine Stern on Wednesday.Meanwhile the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the environmentalistGreens together garnered 42 percent of their support in the poll.The results are a drastic swing back in the coalition’s favour after it reached anall-time low in voter support last October. It is also the narrowest margin since 5
  6. 6. May of 2010.Broken down by party, Merkel’s CDU registered the most support at 36 percent,followed by the Social Democrats with 22 percent. Meanwhile the Greens pickedup 20 percent, the socialist Left party got 10 percent, and the FDP remained at alowly 5 percent.While the overall numbers are better, the 5% for the FDP is still verytroublesome. Parties need at least 5% to be part of any state or nationalparliament (Bundestag). If in the national election the FDP remains on “therazor’s edge” and fall below the 5%, no matter how well the CDU does, theircoalition could not gain the 50% needed for an outright victory.There’s a long way to go until the national election (2013) but, for the moment,the CDU/FDP has stopped the bleeding nationally. However, on the State byState level that is not the case.As you read this they are about to take a genuine drubbing in Hamburg. Theelection is today so I’ll report on it in the next edition. However, in the run up youcan see what’s on the horizon. Click here to read about it.http://www.thelocal.de/politics/20110218-33193.htmlhttp://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,746122,00.html#ref=nlintHAMELN: A GREAT HONOR FOR MEA few issues ago I wrote about the rebirth of Jewish life and the building of thefirst new Reform synagogue in Germany in the small city of Hameln (Englishspelling Hamelin). It is the very same community where legend tells us that thePied Piper supposedly led its children away never to return. While the childrenmay not have returned, Jews from the former Soviet Union (sort of) took theirplace. There are now about 200 Jews in the community and the synagogue hasbeen recently dedicated.With cooperation of the international arm of the Reform movement, the WorldUnion of Progressive Judaism, a torah was located and purchased. The WUPJhad a dedication ceremony that I was honored to be invited to for the dedicationof the torah.The acquisition of this scroll was made possible by generous donations by ACKHameln, (Arbeitskreis christliche Kirchen), a consortium of churches in Hameln,and individuals living in the United States. This Sefer Torah was written inGermany about a hundred years ago and has served congregations in Israel andthe United States.Beiteinu, the name of the synagogue, is built on the site that housed the previousHameln synagogue, dedicated in 1879 and lost on November 9, 1938. Two 6
  7. 7. pyramid oak trees, planted at the 1879 dedication, survived the Holocaust andare an integral part of the new building site.Hameln’s new Progressive Jewish community was founded in 1997 by RachelDohme, an American living near Hameln, and a small group of Russianimmigrants.Today, the Jewish community serves over 200 members and is affiliated with theUnion of Progressive Jews in Germany, the World Union for ProgressiveJudaism, and the Central Council of Jews of Germany.Now we come to the personal part. Since I was among the “Honored Guests’, Iwas invited to participate in the decoration of the torah – something I did notknow was possible. It is. The decorations are small crowns placed some of theletters. With my hand on top of that of the “Sofer”, Neil H. Yerman (scribe) (Hedid most of the work) a small crown was drawn.It was very exciting for me and a great honor.GERMANY & A UNILATERAL PALESTINIAN STATEOne would think that a “peace” oriented, frequently critical of Israel populacesuch as there is in Germany would be strongly behind the “quickie” route toPalestinian statehood such as being marketed throughout the world these days.It’s not the case! Seemingly, in a poll, the vast majority of Germans are moreperceptive about the road to real peace than we sometimes might give themcredit for – maybe even mores o than their political leaders.Recently, JTA reported “A new poll suggests that most Germans would opposean early declaration of a Palestinian state. “The poll also found that Germans would view a nuclear Iran as a serious threatboth to Israel and Germany, and that respondents also backed enforcingsanctions against Iran even if it would hurt German companies.The survey of 800 people was conducted Jan. 12-19. In addition, focus groups ofopinion leaders were held Jan. 6.Both polls were conducted by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner institution for TheIsrael Project, a think tank based in Washington and Jerusalem.Asked if Germany should recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state, 57percent overall were opposed, with 27 percent were strongly opposed. Only 14percent strongly favored such recognition; 36 percent overall approved of theidea. 7
  8. 8. Asked to imagine a nuclear-armed Iran, 69 percent felt this would be threateningto Germany, and 88 percent saw it as a threat to Israel. Backing up their fears,76 percent said they approved strong enforcement of economic sanctionsagainst Iran, even if the sanctions had an impact on German business.The survey was conducted just as a former German politician raised eyebrowsby calling on the European Union to recognize an independent Palestinian state.Former German development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul of the SocialDemocratic Party drew a sharp reaction from Reinhold Robbe, head of theGerman-Israeli Friendship Society, who called her comments “irresponsible” and“naive."We will have to see whether this same sort of opinion is held throughout the restof Europe. We already know that Ireland has upgraded the diplomatic level itaccords the Palestinians. The leadership of the EU itself is something to watchclosely. However, after all is said and done, it is good to know that at least theGerman population seems to have its priorities in order on the two issuescovered in the poll.THE SPY & POLITICAL PRISONER EXCHANGES – 25th ANNIVERSARYAnyone who has traveled from Berlin to Potsdam by car or bus has probablygone over the Glienicke Bridge. It’s not a very imposing structure but during theCold War it had great significance. Being that it was one of the links betweenEast Germany and West Berlin it became the primary place for the swapping ofspies and political prisoners. The last exchange took place in 1986 when Anatoly(later Natan) Sharansky, the most famous of the Jewish Refuseniks in the SovietUnion was traded and freed for a number of Soviet spies. Sharansky now servesas Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel.It has been 25 years since the last Glienicke exchange took place and DeutscheWelle recently produced a brief 5 minute video commemorating the anniversary.For those who are into spy stuff, were active in the Soviet Jewry movement orlove inspiring stories about the battle for freedom, it’s a must.You can see it by clicking here. It might take a moment or two to come up so bepatient. http://mediacenter.dw-world.de/english/video/#!/73451/Spy_Bridge_25_Years_Ago_the_Last_Cold_War_Exchange_of_Agents_Took_Place_on_the_Glienicker_Bridge/Program=3217In thinking about it, one must conclude that this anniversary really belongs toNatan Sharansky. We are very fortunate that the Jerusalem Post has done an in-depth interview with this very amazing man. (Interview by David Horovitz.)Sharansky tells about the actual facts of his release and the implications of it 8
  9. 9. today especially for Israel and the Middle East. Don’t miss it! Click here.http://www.jidaily.com/2OSTj/eMORE ON SPIESSince I’m on the subject spies, Spiegel On-Line tells us, “Germanys foreignintelligence agency, the BND, is having historians look into its shadowy earlyyears, when the organization hired former Nazi criminals. The coming revelationscould prove embarrassing for Chancellor Merkels Christian Democrats and mayeven tarnish the legacy of former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. They were inpower at the time.It’s a sordid story with former Nazi murderers on the payroll with the wholeoperation bankrolled originally by our own CIA. Of course, the Cold War was onso it was the Russians and the Communists that had become the enemy. Nazis,well, they had information and knew where to get more so they got cleaned upand worked on our side.It’s ugly but it reads better than a John Le Carre novel. The sad thing is that it’sall true. Read it by clicking herehttp://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,745640,00.html#ref=nlintGE RMANY & IRAN: THE QUALITY OF THE SANCTIONSIs Germany doing all it can to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb?Certainly, all of Chancellor Merkel’s public statements supporting the boycottpoint us in that direction. However …Donald Snyder reporting in Fox News notes, “Germany may be scaling back itstrade with Iran, but not fast enough for the United States.The German government won’t close a Hamburg-based bank that the U.S.Treasury Department says helps finance Iran’s nuclear weapons and missileprograms.The bank is the European Iranian Trade Bank, or EIH, founded in 1971. The U.S.Treasury has barred it from doing business with any American financialinstitution.“EIH has acted as a key financial lifeline for Iran as one of Iran’s few remainingaccess points to the European financial system,” the Treasury Department saidin a press release. 9
  10. 10. EIH is essential to German trade with Iran. It is also Iran’s gateway to allEuropean Union member states. It facilitates the sale of Iranian crude oil andgas, which is 80 percent of Iran’s export revenue and 50 percent of its budget.India recently announced it will purchase crude oil from Iran and that EIH inHamburg would handle this multibillion-dollar transaction. India imports 14percent of its oil from Iran. It turns to EIH because most financial institutions donot deal with Iran.The Treasury Department also said EIH facilitated the sale of more than $3million in materials for Iran’s missile programs, but gave no details.Eleven U.S. senators sent a letter to the German foreign minister on Feb. 1asking that he stop EIH from doing business with Iran. The letter expressedconcern about EIH’s “continued financial support of Iran’s nuclear proliferationactivities.”“It’s not an option for us to close down a bank simply on the basis that the U.S.has blacklisted it and approached us,” said a high-ranking official of the Germanforeign ministry told Fox News. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said theGerman government would not act against the bank unless the U.S. suppliesevidence that would stand up in court.During this interview, the official said Germany has introduced trade barriersagainst Iran that are tougher than current U.N. sanctions, and that the UnitedStates and Israel have acknowledged this tough policy.“However, we can’t simply tell German businesses to stop dealing with Iranunless the company’s activities are prohibited by the U.N. or they violate our ownlaws,” he saidTherein lies the problem. Many German corporations do business with Iran andEIH is a major financial player in that area. The UN sanctions, as I understand it,are not a total boycott. They apply to materials, etc. that are in some way directlyconnected to Iran’s nuclear program. Are stronger sanctions needed? Probably!However, German industry, like that in other countries, is not going to stop doingbusiness with Iran unless it is actually deemed illegal. Boycotts and sanctions arerarely very effective. Yes, they impose economic pain but almost never keep thecountry at which they are aimed from doing what they see as important in theirown national interest. Take a look at Cuba when you get a chance. Our sanctionsthere are in their 51st year.Read the rest of Donald Snyder’s article by clicking here.http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/02/11/german-trade-iran/?cmpid=cmty_email_Gigya_U.S._Presses_Germany_to_Take_Action_Against_Bank_Said_to_Be_Backing_Iran%27s_Nuke_Program 10
  11. 11. ANOTHER COMMEMORATION?Does Germany need another commemoration, this time for Germans displacedafter World War II ended? Well, the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition has introduced theidea into the Bundestag.However, according to Dw-World.de, “A group of prominent historians has joinedGermanys Central Council of Jews and the Polish government in condemning aproposed holiday to commemorate Germans expelled from Eastern Europe atthe end of World War II.The proposed national holiday was put forth by Germanys League of Expellees.It was officially proposed Thursday in parliament by the countrys governingcoalition parties, Chancellor Angela Merkels Christian Democrats and the FreeDemocrats.But on Monday, a group of 70 historians from Germany, Austria, Poland and theCzech Republic published a petition against the holiday, accusing it of dismissingNazi atrocities.Specifically, the historians reject the proposed date for the holiday: August 5, theday the Charter of German Expellees was signed in 1950."If you read the charter you see how strongly Germans see themselves as warvictims," Eckart Conze, a history professor and petition signatory, told DeutscheWelle."The most problematic part of it is the central statement: We expellees renouncerevenge and retaliation. That sentence is morally and politically totallyinappropriate in light of Germanys mass murder of Jews, Roma and Sinti as itsforced displacement of so many other people," he said."The sentence certainly cannot serve as the reference point for a national day ofremembrance 60 years later."Conze, like other signatories to the petition, does not want to give specialhistorical weight to German suffering.But the president of the League of German Expellees, Erika Steinbach, seesthings differently."Of course the charter - written in 1950 - doesnt address Nazi atrocities," shetold Deutsche Welle. 11
  12. 12. "The charter is about the expellees dealing with their personal plight, overcomingtheir own justified resentment to say that they wanted to look forward and bringabout a peaceful coexistence in Europe," she said.As the leader of a group that purports to represent the 12 million expelledGermans and their descendants, Steinbach says her demand is "not about selfpity at all.""It is the sympathy of the German state I am expecting for the particular fate of asubstantial part of the German people."It is a very personal issue for the controversial Member of Parliament, who is onethe most right-wing members of Merkels Christian Democrats.What’s it all really about? Politics pure and simple! With the CDU/CSU/FDPcoalition facing 7 State elections this year they need all the votes they can get.12 million votes is a lot and they have their eye on the prize. The very right wingmembers of the coalition are probably in favor on philosophical grounds,however, politics is the real answer. We’ll have to see how it is handled in theBundestag but rarely is anything introduced by the majority defeated. Stay tuned!Read JTA story herehttp://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/02/17/2743020/jewish-leaders-condemn-memorial-day-for-expelled-germans********************************************************************************************See you again in March.If you’d like to contact me or comment on something in DuBow Digest click here.All the American and Germany Editions of DuBow Digest are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.com Click here to be linked. 12
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