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Du bow digest american edition june 12, 2011

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  • 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONJune 12, 2011Dear friends:I’m back! Neither E.coli nor too much wurst got me.The trip to Germany with this year’s participants in the 31st annual AJC – KonradAdenauer Foundation Exchange Program was genuinely exciting. The group itselfwas great (smart, articulate and deeply interested in German – Jewish relations) andthe program put together for us (Munich and Berlin) by Ingrid Garwels of the KAFwas outstanding.We met with many people and heard a lot especially about Germany’s stance on theIsrael-Palestinian matter and the progress made by the Jews from the former SovietUnion who have settled in Germany. We all took a lot of notes. Rather than quoteeach and every source I will try to summarize the main points that were madehoping that what appears below is accurate. I’m sure that members of my delegationwill write to me if they think I erred. Middle EastFirst and foremost, and almost without exception, we were told that the Germangovernment and leadership stand firmly behind Israel’s security but, (and this is a bigbut) they feel that the current Israeli government is not doing enough to bring aboutpeace. Prime Minister Netanyahu is far from being a favorite (That’s a kindassessment). If, indeed, the German government’s commitment to Israel is firm, thatof the non-elite Germans (the citizenry) throughout the country is a lot less so. I didnot do any surveys but my guess is that support of Israel is down in the teenssomewhere – and Germany is probably more positive than the results in the otherEU countries. As one speaker put it, Israel’s popularity is down there with N. Koreaand Iran. 1
  • 2. A legitimate question is, “When will the German unhappiness with the settlementpolicy and the alleged Israeli intransigence regarding the peace process build upsufficiently to begin to impact upon government policy?” Of course, no one knowsthe answer or what will actually happen between Israel and the Palestinians.Recently the French have suggested some sort of a peace conference in Franceand our own government has suggested that the Turks sponsor a conference inorder to hold off the next Gaza flotilla that is planned for later this month. However,Chancellor Merkel, Israel’s staunchest ally, is having political troubles of her own soshe, or any politician for that matter, will be able hold off a strong anti-Israel waveforever. The German policy already favors more accommodation on the part ofIsrael. No question! A stronger stand against Israel policy is not far off if nothing inthe Middle East changes.The battle to make Israel’s case in Germany is left to the Central Council of Jews inGermany (Zentralrat), the Israeli Embassy and AJC plus a few other smallindependent groups. I fear that what they have to say is seen as “special pleading”and, perhaps, is discounted and does not change attitudes. However, trying to add anote of objectivity to the public discourse is not an easy task though, of course, itmust and will continue.I have often asked myself what Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security reallymeans. Would they commit their military to fight on Israel’s behalf if a war broke outor would diplomatic and economic assistance be the limit of their willingness to cometo Israel’s aid? Munich based Prof. Dr. Michael Wolffsohn pointed out that Germanyabhors the use of power and force in international relations as they did in the 20thCentury. It is their “Never Again” while Israel believes that “Never Again” meansnever again being a victim.Michael (he’s an old friend) noted that Germany does not believe in the centrality ofterritory. They gave up much of their own country to Poland after World War II anddo not believe that Israel should put its focus on territorial boundaries. Of course, thematter of the religious meaning of the land means a great deal to both the Arabs andthe Israelis. This is not the case with Germany which is, by and large, secularized.Religion is not much of a factor in German political thinking these days.Interestingly (at least to me), I had occasion a talk with a very high German militaryperson (high rank). I asked him the question about whether the German armedforces would ever become involved in a Middle East shooting war if Israel’s securitywas in question. He responded by saying that if Israel requested military helpGermany would have no option than to come to Israel’s assistance. Of course, myrespondent was a military man and not a politician. I wonder whether the politicoswould be in the same boat. Jews in GermanyThere was a difference in opinion among the Jewish speakers (and others) we met 2
  • 3. with about the future of the Jewish community in Germany. In 1989 when the BerlinWall fell, there were 28,000 Jews (combined East and West) in Germany. With theimplosion of the Soviet Union, Jews from there flocked to Israel, the U. S. andGermany. Today there are 105,000 registered Jews and, perhaps, another 100,000to 150,000 who are unregistered. There are even (roughly) 20,000 Israelis who,mostly, live in Berlin.Some felt that there is no “intellectual leadership” in Germany and that the numbersof Jews will slowly diminish and that much of what is today a substantial number inthe community will largely evaporate. On the other hand, some feel that, while therewill probably be a reduction in numbers, a “Russian leadership” will emerge from thesecond generation, change the nature of the community’s leadership and make for asmaller but more stable German Jewry.I tend to lean toward the latter assessment. It’s only been 20 years since the vastmajority of Russian Jews landed in Germany – almost all without knowledge of theGerman language and with no employment. Even in the U. S. in the 20th Century itwas the second and third generation that finally became full blown “Americans”. OurRussian immigrants are undergoing the same sort of process that the GermanRussians are experiencing. Yes, the death rate among Jews in Germany nowexceeds the birth rate and the immigration has largely stopped. That is a statisticalconcern but that does not mean the end of the community. Far from it!There are now over a hundred Jewish communities in Germany. Some are verysmall and they probably will not all survive. My guess is that there will be aconsolidation and in 20 or 30 years there will be 10 or 20 solid communities. Theoverall number may drop to even 100,000. So what? That’s better than the 28,000that there were in 1989. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the “Jews in Germany”whose children will one day be “German Jews”. To quote a former NY Mets baseballplayer, “You gotta believe”. Anti-SemitismDepending on who you talk to, the level of this virus is either up or down. Speakingto the people who monitor such things in Bavaria, we were told that there have beenvery few incidents. There are more in the former East Germany where there are afew members of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in state legislaturesbut none in the Bundestag. Islamic extremism is being watched carefully.I didn’t detect any great change in the situation over last year. The variousgovernment agencies that follow the extremists continue doing their job but it doesnot appear as if anti-Semitism has expanded. It’s certainly there but not affectinggovernment policy or the mass of population in any way. As long as that’s the caseI’m not too worried.IN THIS EDITION 3
  • 4. BREMEN – Another State election. Another loss for the Chancellor.NUCLEAR POWER – Japan causes a 180degree turn.GERMANY”S PLACE IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS – Major or minor?MERKEL IN WASHINGTON – A great reception but did anything happen?NEO-NAZI WOMEN – Are they burning their swastikas?THE SURVEY – Thanks to those who participated.BREMENWhile I was away, Bremen, which is both a city and a state, held its state election.Once again, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its national coalition partner, theFree Democrats (FDP) took it on the chin.The Local.de reported, “The Greens for the first time on Sunday overtook theconservatives in a state election in Germany, according to exit polls made public inthe wake of the Bremen vote.This was a further drubbing for Chancellor Angela Merkel following four otherregional elections this year which have all seen her conservative ChristianDemocrats (CDU) shed support.The Social Democrats (SPD), who have ruled the city-state of Bremen for 66 years,came out on top, and will be returned to power with their Green allies in the smallestof Germanys 16 states, exit polls show."For the first time in the history of the German Federal Republic, we are ahead ofthe CDU in a regional election," said one of the Green federal leaders Claudia Roth.This is just another nail in the CDU-FDP coffin. Now, the box is not yet shut tight asthe national election is still two years off. However, no matter how well ChancellorMerkel and her CDU do, unless the FDP can rise up from its doldrums there will beno logical party which the CDU can coalesce with to get a majority in the Bundestagunless…I’ll have more to say about the “unless” a little later (below) in this newsletter.NUCLEAR POWER 4
  • 5. The nuclear power disaster in Japan resulted in a catastrophe for the Japanese buthas also had considerable fallout in Germany. Chancellor Merkel, at the end of 2010extended the lifetime of Germanys 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, whichwould have kept them open until the mid-2030s. Fukushima changed all of that.TheLocal.de recently reported, “Chancellor Angela Merkel said the decision,hammered out by her centre-right coalition overnight, marked the start of a"fundamental" rethink of energy policy in the worlds number four economy”.."We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable andaffordable," Merkel told reporters as she accepted the findings of an expertcommission on nuclear power she appointed in March in response to the crisis atJapans Fukushima plant."That means we must have a new approach to the supply network, energyefficiency, renewable energy and also long-term monitoring of the process," shesaid.The commission found that it would be viable within a decade for Germany tomothball all 17 of its nuclear reactors, eight of which are currently off the electricitygrid.Germany’s seven oldest reactors, plus Krümmel reactor – all of which are currentlyoffline after Japans Fukushima disaster – will be closed down permanently.However, one of these, yet to be named, will remain on stand-by from 2013 – to beswitched on only in the event of electricity shortages – until the full phase out in2021 or 2022.The decision is effectively a return to the timetable set by the previous SocialDemocrat-Green coalition government a decade ago. And it is a humbling U-turn forMerkel, who at the end of 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of Germanys 17reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them open until themid-2030s.That decision was unpopular in Germany even before the earthquake and tsunamiin March that severely damaged the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan, promptingMerkels review of nuclear policy.Her zigzagging on what has been a highly emotive issue in the country since the1970s has cost her since at the ballot box.The Chancellor’s 180 degree turnabout has not helped her image. However, the new(actually not so new in Germany) “No Nuclear” policy brings her and the coalitioninto line with the feelings of most German citizens. 5
  • 6. Now to the “unless” factor – and this is all conjecture. If the FDP continues itsdownward slide and does not come up with enough voter strength to continue in thegovernment with the CDU, might the Chancellor try to join up with the Greensinstead. There are vast differences between the two parties but – nothing isimpossible. At least now the CDU has a nuclear policy that the Greens mightswallow. If for some reason both the Greens and the FDP both do poorly in 2013,might there be a “Grand Coalition” once again between the CDU and the SocialDemocrats (SPD), the other (at the moment) major party? Neither of these scenariosare particularly likely, however, the Chancellor is a great politician so I never counther out.GERMANY”S PLACE IN FOREIGN AFFAIRSI recently came across two articles which are very critical of Germany’s place ininternational diplomacy. Both indicate that the Federal Republic’s abstention in theUN on the Libya no-fly zone placed Germany in a very weak position.Dustin Dehaz, a Frankfurt based historian and author who lectured to our groupwhile we were in Berlin notes in an article published in www.atlantic-community.org,“For Germanys foreign policy conservatives and conservative intellectuals the pastweeks have been yet another step toward general disillusion with and disbelief atthe actions of its centre-right government. For years now Germany has lobbied hardto secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and now that ithas barely won a non-permanent for a two-year term, it struggles to manage itsnewly acquired political capital. The resolution to establish a no-fly zone over Libyapresented the first serious challenge to the United Nations Security Council thisyear. And while all of Germanys major allies voted in its favour, Berlin abstainedand joined the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China, or so Germanysforeign minister, Guido Westerwelle, claims. A group, one might note, that in thecontext of sovereignty and a dictators right to slaughter what is sometimes socallously referred to as his own people, is best understood as the gang of the worldsleading reactionary powers.Once the Council passed resolution 1973 to empower the international communityto provide for the safety of the Libyan populace with any means deemed necessary,the German chancellor Angela Merkel was quick to declare that the governmentsupported the goals set in the resolution to a hundred percent. This is as close toinsanity as one can possibly get in international relations, and German intellectualsrightly ask why on earth the government decided to abstain from a resolution that itnow claims to wholeheartedly consent to?And where on the other hand is the aspiration to democracy and freedom of apeople oppressed for four decades. Whoever concludes from that sort ofconsideration that the right course of action is to fold his hands (Ed. Note: ForeignMinister Westerwelle)and do nothing and then goes ahead to lobby others to do 6
  • 7. absolutely nothing is not only politically bankrupt, he has a right to also claim moralbankruptcy. It is here where many German conservative intellectuals rightly thinktheir government has ended up.To add to the negative commentary about German foreign policy, reporter GerdAppenzeller, writing in Der Tagesspeigel penned an article entitled, “Germany in2011: Economic Giant Political Dwarf. In it Hr. Appenzeller notes, “Its a thoroughlyshameful situation. Its the precipitous decline of an important nation, a nation that isregressing back to a time when it was a passive player in global affairs.Its a self-inflicted relegation from the ranks of the world players to the status ofspectator and heckler. And we have to ask ourselves just how this could happen inless than a year and a half.Germany is by far the most important economic power in the European Union. TheEU would be unthinkable without its German engine, just as the euro debt crisiscannot be resolved without active German involvement.Berlin wants a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and Germansoldiers fight alongside those of other NATO countries in the struggle againstinternational terrorism in Afghanistan.But these facts and goals have little to do with Germanys current standing in theEuropean Union and on the global stage. In the orchestra of great powers, Berlinhas not had an instrument to play for months. Paris and London are making themusic and giving the cues.This country, represented by its government, has become a bystander to worldpolitics while others show the way. How long has it been since Berlin had somethingto say and others actually listened?There’s more and you should read both articles in full (links below). After reading thetwo articles the question I have revolves around Germany’s policies toward Israel. Isit really taking a backseat and, if so, what will happen if push comes to shove in theUN this fall when (if?) a Palestinian state is discussed? Chancellor Merkel is onrecord in being opposed to a unilateral declaration of such a state without directnegotiations with Israel. That position can be maintained with some muscle behind it– or not. Weak backing will be a clear message to the other European countries thatare on the fence that it is O.K. to go ahead with a pro-Palestinian vote.We’ll have to keep our eyes open and listen carefully as well to the sorts ofmessages that emanate from Berlin.To read the Dehaz article click here. http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/Open_Think_Tank_Article/Germany%27s_Stance_on_Libya_Shows_Lack_of_Direction_in_Foreign_Policy 7
  • 8. To read the Appenzeller article click herehttp://www.thelocal.de/opinion/20110531-35367.htmlMERKEL IN WASHINGTONChancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Washington on Monday evening (June 6th) for avisit aimed at emphasizing close relations between Germany and the US.Pres. Obama presented her with the highest civilian award in the US - thePresidential Medal of Freedom - in a state dinner at the White House on Tuesdayevening.One would think that all is “peaches and cream”. It isn’t – on both sides!DW-World.de noted, “Germany annoyed the US and many others in theinternational community with a surprising abstention when the UN Security Councilvoted to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. Great Britain and France made apositive impression on the US with their decisive action, while hesitant Germanywas sent off to the sidelines of international diplomacy. At the same time, the USpraised German suggestions for solving the Transnistrian conflict.Prior to the controversial Libya vote, the relationship between Berlin andWashington was a solid one, but it lacked dynamism. Two and a half years after hetook office, Obama still hasnt managed to visit Berlin.”Der Spiegel reported, “More than anything, though, Merkels Freedom Award isfreighted with many hopes and expectations. Compared with where things stood justa year ago, people in Washington regard Merkel with much more skepticism today."The prevailing view in Washington is that friendship with the United States is nolonger necessarily Germanys top priority," says Fiona Hill, a Europe expert at theinfluential Washington-based Brookings Institution. Indeed, Americans want the oldMerkel back.Obama and Merkel have not established a close personal bond, but thats not theonly problem. When it comes to important issues, Germany and the United Stateshave never stood farther apart during Merkels two terms as chancellor as they areat the moment. Merkels reputation in Washington has been hurt by Germanysdecision to phase out nuclear power by 2022, Berlins abstention in a United NationsSecurity Council vote on imposing a "no-fly" zone in Libya and the countryseconomic and financial policies.Looking at things from the opposite perspective, Obamas standing has also taken ahit in German government circles. In the Chancellery, he is viewed as a presidentwho fails to deliver on lofty pronouncements. Indeed, Merkel does not have faith that 8
  • 9. he can solve the worlds problems. The greatest thing the two governments have incommon is their mutual annoyance.Berlin views Obamas actions related to the Middle East conflict as particularlydamaging. The government reportedly believes that Obamas most fundamentalmisstep came last September when he spoke before the UN General Assembly andpredicted that a Palestinian state would be welcomed as a new member of theglobal community within a year. In Berlin, many feel it only served to fosterunreasonable expectations among Palestinians -- and to anger the Israelis.Merkel also resents Obama for having initially spoken out against intervening inLibya and then allowing pressure from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and otheradvisers to change his mind. She believes that Obama did not give enough thoughtto the consequences of intervening in Libya and that doing so ended up puttingGermany in an awkward position.In the US, on the other hand, Germanys abstention in the UN Security Council votewas viewed as an effort to shirk its responsibility. "Merkels Germany is now themost powerful country in Europe," says Stephen Szabo, executive director of theWashington-based Transatlantic Academy, "yet it still wants to act like Switzerland."Though they might be less fraught with symbolism, the tensions related to economicpolicies are hardly less important. One major source of this tension can be found inUS Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has hardly let a meeting of the G-20finance ministers go by without criticizing German export surpluses in the samebreath as Chinese trade surpluses.Despite all these issues, Merkel and Obama are still dependent on one another.Washington knows that a government led by the center-left Social Democratic Party(SPD) or the Green Party would presumably be even less America-friendly thanMerkels government. At the same time, Berlin watches with worry as theRepublicans seem to inch further and further to the right. For the time being, officialsin Merkels Chancellery realize that Obama is the best theyre going to getThere is much more to read about the differences and difficulties that exist betweenthe two countries. However, I think they both understand that for the time being (asabove) for each, they are, “the best they’re going to get”. Yes, there will always bedifferences. After all, the two countries are located in different places, have differentcultures and have very different political needs. However, there is this bond betweenthem and so none of the problems are so dire as to make a real split possible. SinceObama and Merkel are both very good politicians I have the feeling that that they willsettle some of the differences and paper over those that can’t be totally worked out.As far as the issues that are of greatest concern to the Jewish community areconcerned, they both still seem to be on the same page as far as Iran and the needfor Israeli – Palestinian negotiations are concerned. We’ll just have to wait and see if 9
  • 10. that unanimity continues.NEO-NAZI WOMENDW-WORLD.de reports, “Men make up the majority of neo-Nazis, but emancipationhas also forged new territory for women in right-extremist circles in Germany. A newbook sheds light on female neo-Nazis.“Women want to have their say. That slogan from the 1960s women liberationmovement still echoes through to today. And its a rallying cry that leaders fromGermanys National Democratic Party, the NPD, have picked up on.The NPD, which is not prohibited in Germany, uses women to lure people into theright-extremist movement, maintain authors Andrea Röpke and Andreas Speit. Theirnew book "Mädelsache! Frauen in der Neo-Nazi-Szene" ("Girls Business: Women inthe Neo-Nazi Scene") illuminates how women are used as ambassadors for themovement.The strategy seems to work, as regional elections in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt this past March showed. NPD women reaped an impressive number of votes.…authors Röpke and Speit stress that one should not underestimate the power andreach of women within the right-extremist movement. They have a stabilizingfunction within their groups; they are particularly loyal in toeing the NPD party line;and they have a major impact on how children and youth are raised.They also dont stay within their own extremist enclaves, but are often employed associal workers or caregivers in pre-schools or daycare centers. There, they caneasily recruit members for the movement - one with no shortage of young people,Speit said”.I put this development in the “Didn’t we have enough to worry about?” category. I’msure the German authorities are on to it and will watch it carefully. However, nomatter how weak the neo-Nazi movement and its NPD party are, any developmentdemands attention. While we in the Jewish community watch it (for historicalreasons), the German government is watching even more closely. Most Germansare embarrassed by these groups and, more to the point, are very wary of them. Theruins and disaster of 1945 are still very much in the German psyche. That’s a verygood place for them to be.THE SURVEYMany thanks to all of you who took the time to answer the brief survey I sent to you.The responses were very helpful. 10
  • 11. A vast majority (roughly 95%) said that I should keep the title, DuBow Digest. I bowto your superior knowledge on the subject of “branding”.A sizeable minority, 30% felt that receiving it twice a month was too much and that itshould be monthly. A few suggested a middle course – namely once every threeweeks. No one suggested that I stop.I am going to take that criticism to heart and feel that I can be more flexible in thefuture when thinking about when an edition should be e-mailed. I will not becompulsive about twice a month and rely more on how much there is to report.However, much of what is reported is time sensitive. I hate to wait too long and losethe timeliness of a subject.So, in the future you will receive DD on a slightly less frequent basis. I don’t thinkwe’ll lose much by doing it that way.Again, my thanks for your cooperation. I deeply appreciate it.************************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 11

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