Du bow digest american edition march 31, 2011
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Du bow digest american edition march 31, 2011

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A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

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Du bow digest american edition march 31, 2011 Du bow digest american edition march 31, 2011 Document Transcript

  • AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netTo receive DuBow Digest directly send your e-mail address todubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONMarch 31, 2011Dear Friends:The last few weeks have been unbelievable. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan,the military action in Libya and more terrorism coming from both Gaza and the WestBank would have been – dayenu – enough! However, the political situation inGermany experienced its own tsunami with Chancellor Merkel’s coalition getting hithard in three state elections. We’ll talk about them in articles below.The Baden-Wuerttemberg election hurts the Chancellor most because in the UpperHouse of the parliament, the Bundesrat, domestic legislation is almost impossible topass without the agreement of the opposition. The ruling coalition is now veryhampered.The Chancellor’s coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP) have been shown tobe particularly weak and without them in 2013 when the national elections are held,the Christian Democrats (CDU) have no chance of remaining in power because theyneed the FDP for a coalition.(A fact to remember: In a parliamentary system such as Germany’s the party withthe largest percentage of the vote does not always become part of the rulingcoalition. In almost all state and national elections no party gets the 50% plus onethat is needed to rule alone. So, a coalition is needed. If two parties getting a lesserpercentage of the vote can put together a majority the party getting the largest votecan be left out. Keep that in mind when reading about the Baden-Wuerttembergelection.) 1
  • The coalition abstention in the UN on the Libya no-fly resolution didn’t go down wellwith France, Great Britain and the U.S. A seeming flip-flop on nuclear plants (closingseven of them) was seen as a political ploy and not a genuine matter of principle.Double dayenu! Let’s get on with the details…IN THIS EDITIONSAXONY-ANHALT: THE GOOD & THE BAD NEWS – The first of the stateelections. A precursor of things to come.THE WORSER NEWS – The elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Stuttgart) andRheinland-Palatinate (Mainz). The CDU takes it on the chin.LIBYA – Germany goes it alone. An explanation.MERKEL, NETANYAHU, OBAMA & NATIONAL INTEREST – A follow up on therelationships and the national interest.EXTREMISM NEXT DOOR – The Le Pen’s rise again.MUSLIMS DON’T BELONG – A new German Minister says what others might think– and causes a (What do you call a small political tsunami?).MORE ON IMMIGRATION & INTEGRATION – Strong language about immigrationfrom Bavaria.ANTI-SEMITISM & XENOPHOBIA – A troubling report.SAXONY-ANHALT: THE GOOD & THE BAD NEWSOn March 20th a state election was held in Saxony-Anhalt, one of the states ineastern Germany. Long a stronghold of the Christian Democrats (CDU - ChancellorMerkel’s party) they managed to hold on but lost percentage in the vote. Theirpreferred partner, the Free Democrats, did not get the needed 5% which a partyneeds to be in the state parliament. So, the CDU will, once again, have to be in a“grand coalition” with the Social Democrats, normally their opponents. So, for theChancellor Saxony-Anhalt is the “good news” (such as it is) even though no onecould detect big victory celebrations.The bad news is that the National Democrat Party (NPD), the neo-Nazis, got 4.8%(Ed. Note: Various stories report 4.6% and 4.8%. There’s not much difference) whichmeans they missed being in the parliament by a whisker. According to Spiegel On-line, “The far-right NPD received 4.8 percent of the vote, just missing the 5 percent 2
  • necessary for representation in parliament. Concerns that the NPD could leap the 5percent hurdle resulted in a higher-than-expected voter turnout of 51 percent, sayanalysts. Five years ago, a mere 44 percent of state voters cast their ballots, thelowest for any state in Germanys history.Despite the apparent dwindling support for Merkels Berlin coalition, little is likely tochange in Magdeburg, the capital of Saxony-Anhalt. The center-right CDU hasgoverned the state in coalition with the SPD for the last five years, and Sundaysresults make it probable that the "grand coalition" will continue. Reiner Haseloff, theCDUs lead candidate in the vote, looks set to become state governor in place of hisfellow CDU member Wolfgang Böhmer, who is retiring.Hold it! The bad news isn’t over yet. DW-WORLD notes, “The far-right National-Democratic Party of Germany, or NPD, didnt win any seats in Sundays stateelections in Saxony-Anhalt, but it was particularly popular with young people.Although the party, which has aroused criticism for its links with racially motivatedviolence, only earned 4.6 percent of the overall vote, polls show that 15 percent ofmen under 30 cast their ballots for the party.The fact that the NPD didnt manage the 5 percent hurdle to enter parliament, saysProfessor Hajo Funke, an expert on social and political issues who has writtenextensively about Germanys far right, does not mean that it has no influence in thestate. It represents a culture of youth violence and aggression towards foreignersthat is very present in society."The number of violent attacks in Saxony-Anhalt increased again in 2010," he said."This culture of violence is a racist culture; it hasnt been properly dealt with and isstill relatively strong."In 2010, 42 percent of all attacks in Saxony-Anhalt were racially motivated,compared to 24 percent the previous year, according to an advice centre for victimsof right-wing violence.There is more to the story although not all of Saxony-Anhalt is a hive of neo-Naziactivity. The NPD, as the story points out, is a fringe party but I recall that thepredecessor Nazis in the 1920’s were even smaller. So, eternal vigilance is calledfor.To read it all, click here. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14937033,00.htmlTHE WORSER NEWSFollowing the Saxony-Anhalt election two more state elections were held.In an analysis my Berlin colleague Deidre Berger wrote, “There were two majorupsets in elections today in two southern German states, Baden-Wuerttemberg 3
  • (Stuttgart) and Rheinland-Palatinate (Mainz).For the first time in 58 years, the important southern German stateof Baden-Wuerttemberg will no longer be ruled by the conservativeChristian Democratic Party. Instead, it will be governed by aGreen-Social Democratic coalition. The Free Democratic Party (FDP) camein just over the 5% mark needed to re-enter parliament, losing abouthalf of its votes from the previous election.For the first time in its 30-year party history, the Green Party willgovern a German state (Baden-Wuerttemberg) as the major coalitionpartner.The Greens doubled their vote from the previous election, fromapproximately 12% to 24%, just ahead of the Social Democrats with 23%.In Rheinland Palatinate, they probably tripled their results, from less than5% (they were not in the parliament the past four years) to about 15% ofthe total vote. Here, the Free Democrats did not make it back into theparliament.The dominant topic for the elections was unquestionably energy policiesand the Japanese nuclear disaster. Nuclear energy was never popular inGermany, particularly since Chernobyl, and the decision last year by ChancellorMerkels conservative coalition to extend the operating times of olderatomic energy plants in Germany by 12 years was not well-received.About 200,000 Germans protested nuclear energy yesterday in four majorGerman cities at rallies and demonstrations, calling for a shift toalternative energy resources. All of the candidates after todayselections spoke about reviewing their partys energy policies. Nuclearenergy accounts currently for about 23% of German energy needs, apercentage likely to decrease considerably in coming years. Thedifference is unlikely to come from gas and oil but from wind and solarpower, among other alternative energy sources, as well as from increasedenergy efficiency. The German government has spent considerable fundson subsidies for building insulation programs.While the elections were a blow for the conservative ChristianDemocrats, the results could have been worse. The party lost 5% of thevote compared to the last election, coming in today at 39%, they stillare 15 percentage points ahead of their traditional main competitor, theSocial Democrats. And in Rheinland-Palatinate, where the incumbent governoralso lost 9% of the vote over the last election, the CDU wasable to slightly improve its results over the previous election.If the Free Democratic Party had failed to be re-elected in its homestate of Baden-Wuerttemberg, it might have caused a coalition shake-up 4
  • in Berlin. However, this result was narrowly averted.The greatest impact of the elections from today is likely to be theimpact on an energy policy moving away from nuclear power, as well as ona renewed emphasis in politics on grass-roots activism. In Stuttgart,the government decision to put the main train station underground todevelop a new city quarter was unpopular, leading to a wave ofpopular demonstrations for months last year. This was an additionalfactor that swept the Green Party into government, as many Greens helpedlead the demonstrations. The protest movement, which was dubbed"Stuttgart 21," has become synonymous in Germany for local protestmovements that oppose policies perceived as serving the needs of bigbusiness rather than of average voters.So far, it does not seem as if foreign policy played a role in thesestate elections. Fortunately, far right-wing parties played anegligible role, receiving about 1% of the vote in each of the twostates.In sum, the most significant impact from our viewpoint is probably theastounding success of the Green Party in two relatively conservativeareas of Germany. These elections establish the Greens again as thethird major national political force, instead of the fifth place itcarried during the last national elections (behind the Free DemocraticParty and the Left Party, which did not get into either parliament intodays elections). While the Christian Democrats lost both elections,this was not entirely unexpected and they did not do so poorly in eitherof the two states. The Social Democrats held their own in one election,slipping in the other, not showing a clear trend for ascent for the nextnational elections.That’s about as good an analysis as you will get anywhere.LIBYAChancellor Merkel and her government created a major furor by abstaining from theUN vote on the Libyan No-Fly Zone. The criticism came from all sides. The French,who largely initiated the resolution, felt deserted by their closest ally. There was afeeling that EU solidarity was violated. Leaders in her own coalition felt thatGermany’s abstention indicated weakness and a failure for Germany to undertakean international leadership role.For what was behind the German government’s thinking I turned to my old pal Dr.Jackson (Jack) Janes, the Director of the American Institute for ContemporaryGerman Studies at Johns Hopkins. 5
  • Jack, in an analysis, wrote, “The governments case that support for the UNresolution would have required sending German troops to Libya remains the core ofits defense. How could we support the resolution and then not send troops, goes thelogic. In addition, the emphasis on using more effective sanctions to containGaddafis aggression was deemed the more effective course over engaging inmilitary action. Then there is the argument that the rebels in Libya do not representthe same type of opposition seen in Tunisia or Egypt in the past weeks and thatLibya is embroiled in civil war in which Germany cannot intervene. The Merkel-Westerwelle team argues that Germany is not alone in Europe or the world, pointingto others in the Security Council - not only Russia and China but particularly Indiaand Brazil - who also abstained in last weeks vote.While all these arguments appeal to a German public which is already againstGermanys presence in Afghanistan and generally favors the rejection of militaryforce as a viable tool for such conflicts, the counter-arguments underscore acontinuing struggle in Germany over its role on the international stage. The attemptto differentiate between the need to stop a dictator from mass-murdering his ownpeople and the unwillingness to use force to achieve that goal is strained to say theleast. Arguing that Gaddafi can be stopped by strengthening sanctions when he isthreatening to systematically and immediately kill the rebels fighting against himlacks credibility when one looks at the unfolding humanitarian crisis on the ground.Furthermore, arguing that the UN resolution would have immediately required theengagement of German troops in the Libyan conflict is also jumping to anunnecessary conclusion as every member of NATO can determine its resourcesavailable. The need for ground troops in Libya - particularly from Western nations -is questionable to begin with and is not part of the UN resolution. The struggle inLibya is finally a Libyan challenge to get rid of Gaddafi. The question is how to helpthat homegrown effort without undermining it, and the overwhelming presence ofWestern troops could certainly do just that.Whether you buy the German rationale or not it is very important to understand itand particularly German public opinion when the use of military forces is concerned.Jack’s analysis is far deeper than the portion I have quoted above. It is only a pagelong and will give you further insight . No question! You should read it. Click here todo so. http://www.aicgs.org/analysis/at-issue/ai032511.aspxMERKEL, NETANYAHU, OBAMA & NATIONAL INTERESTMany thanks to those of you who wrote me regarding the piece I had in the lastedition about the growing distance between Germany & Israel and, as well thatbetween Chancellor Merkel and P.M. Netanyahu. 6
  • I wasn’t the only one who detected the rift. Judy Dempsey in the New York Times,the day after my newsletter was e-mailed, had a column which basically said thesame thing. Dempsey wrote, “The German vote exposed the divisions in Israel overits complicated relationship with Germany. On one side are Jews who will neverforgive Germany for the Holocaust; in their view, Germany has a permanentobligation never to criticize Israel.On the other side are voices who say that because Germany is a good andconsistent friend of Israel, it should use that special relationship to speak out whenneeded.There’s much more to her article and you should read it. Click here.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/world/europe/08iht-letter08.html?_r=1I also talked about the troublesome phone call between Merkel and Netanyahu andhow critical the Chancellor was of the Prime Minister. It looks as if the Chancellorhas company. Aaron David Miller, a former State Dept. Middle East expert who hastaken part in the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations in the past and now is at theWoodrow Wilson Center Public Policy writes about Obama’s feelings towardNetanyahu.Writing in Foreign Policy he notes, “Obama may not be Israels best friend, but hesnot self-destructive. Unlike Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who were inlove with the idea of Israel, Obama is not. Hes too cool, detached, and analytical.He sees Israel primarily in the context of U.S. interests -- and less so in the contextof its values. As the stronger party, he believes Israel should be much moremagnanimous when it comes to the Palestinians. Moreover, he looks at Israelscurrent prime minister as a kind of smooth-talking con man. Clinton and Bush weretruly impressed by Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon; Obama doesnt think much ofNetanyahu, and it shows. If the president could find a painless way to squeeze theprime minister, hed do it.The article has nothing to do with Germany but Miller makes the case that “nationalinterest” trumps everything else these days. (Wasn’t it always so?). Good personalrelations help but national interest reigns supreme. No matter how nice (or nasty)leaders are to each other the political end game is what really counts.To read Miller’s article click here.http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/07/for_better_or_for_worseEXTREMISM NEXT DOORIn the American Jewish community there is a constant worry about the rise ofextremism, fascism and Nazism in Germany. Considering history and theimplications for anti-Semitism, it’s a legitimate concern. Indeed, there are a few neo- 7
  • Nazis in state legislatures but none have ever made it into the federal parliament,the Bundestag.While I normally concern myself mostly with Germany, at times I get a little up tightabout what is going on next door in France. DW-World.de reports, “An opinion poll inFrance has found that right-wing politician Marine Le Pen could defeat PresidentNicholas Sarkozy in upcoming elections, Le Parisien reported Saturday.The poll results, published in the Sunday edition of the French daily, showed the 42-year-old leader of the National Front party would receive 23 percent of the vote inthe first of the two rounds of presidential elections due to occur in France next year.Center-right Sarkozy would only receive 21 percent of the vote, according to thepoll."This poll makes me believe that Nicolas Sarkozy will lose this presidential election,"Le Pen said at a news conference in northern France.Part of Le Pens platform so far has included comparing Muslims in France to anoccupying force. Meanwhile, Sarkozy has initiated a national debate on the role ofIslam in France, a move that some feel is designed to neutralize Le Pen.No margin of error was published for the poll, conducted between February 28 andMarch 3 with 1,618 people aged 18 and up.Frances next presidential elections are set for May 2012.The French elections are a long way off but news of the new life that seems to haveinvigorated the Le Pen forces is very troubling. Granted, the young Le Pen seems tobe somewhat less radical than her father. She may have learned that anti-Semitismis bad politics. However, even the possibility that someone so far to the radical rightmight become President of France outpolling Pres. Sarkozy is scary.I’m not the only one who has such fears. The French Jewish community is verymuch ill at ease with Le Pen and the National Front. An internal dispute has eruptedas to how she should be related to – if at all.Ben Harris covers it quite well in JTA. Click here to read his story.http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/03/22/3086506/marine-le-penMUSLIMS DON’T BELONGOn would have thought that a newly appointed Minister of the Interior would take afew days or weeks to get a feel for his Ministry and the difficult problems thatconfront Germany in the area of immigration. Not Hans-Peter Friedrich! With the first 8
  • shot out of the starting gate Minister Friedrich announced “Islam “does not belong” inGermany.Tony Patterson in the British journal The Independent writes, “Chancellor AngelaMerkels newly appointed Interior Minister has reignited an already-heatedimmigration debate by insisting that Islam "does not belong" in Germany – a countrywith a resident population of four million Muslims.Hans-Peter Friedrich took office only last week in a cabinet reshuffle, but hisoutspoken views have provoked instant condemnation from opposition MPs and avitriolic response from Islamic groups which have branded them a "slap in the facefor all Muslims"."To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history", Mr.Friedrich said. At the weekend, he underlined his position, insisting that immigrantsought to be aware of their host countrys "Western Christian origins" and learnGerman "first and foremost".His views flatly contradicted those of Germanys conservative President, ChristianWulff, who, in an attempt to defuse an increasingly bitter integration row, proclaimedin a keynote speech last year that Islam "belongs to Germany" precisely because ofits large Muslim population.Mr. Friedrich, who belongs to the Bavarian wing of Ms. Merkels ruling ChristianDemocrats, a group known for its opposition to Muslim immigration, insisted in aspeech on Saturday that his stance was meant to bring "society together and notpolarize it". Addition by subtraction? That’s what it sounds like.For a politician there’s nothing like playing to the home crowd. Perhaps with hisfellow CSU member, former Defense Minister zu Guttenberg, out of the cabinetFriedrich fancies himself as the top CSU dog or maybe even a Chancellor candidatesomewhere down the line. As the old radio hero, The Shadow, used to say, “Whoknows what lurks in the minds of men?”Click here for the rest of the article.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/minister-insists-islam-does-not-belong-in-germany-2234260.htmlMORE ON IMMIGRATION & INTEGRATIONQuite different from the problem we have in the U.S., Germany has its own severeproblem with immigration as noted in the article above. Germany, unlike the U.S. isnot an “Immigration country” and does not share the “open arms” policies that havemade America great since its inception. After World War II as Germany began itsmiraculous economic recovery it welcomed laborers especially from Turkey tohandle the jobs that Germans did not want to deal with themselves. The expectation 9
  • was that after earning enough in the way of wages they would return home. Theydidn’t!So, Germany now has roughly 4 million of those “guest workers” (including theirchildren and grandchildren) living throughout the Federal Republic. Since citizenshipin Germany means giving up their Turkish nationality and German citizenship is veryhard to obtain anyway, there remains a substantial number (almost all) who are not“integrated” into German culture and life and who do not speak German. To makethe problem even greater, almost all are Muslims (see above) making integration allthat much more difficult.The opposition to the movement for more inclusion comes from southern German,namely Bavaria. It reminds me a little of our own civil rights struggles of the 1960’s.What is it about “The South”?The leader of the Christian Social Union Party which only exists in Bavaria, HorstSeehofer, according to D-W World.de “.. said at a political rally on Wednesday thathis Christian Social Union (CSU) would "resist until the last bullet", in order to stopimmigration into the welfare system.A poor choice of words.A German politician has reported Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer to thepolice for inciting hatred. Hes accused of using a turn of phrase with NationalSocialist overtones."I want to see, if the speech constitutes the criminal offence of sedition," UlrichKaspari, who until 2009 was a state secretary in the Transport Ministry for the SocialDemocrat party, wrote in his internet blog."In my opinion he crossed the line, which a democrat should not cross," he added.Kaspari claims that this phrase "significantly" disturbs the public peace.The phrase "defend until the last bullet" was used in the battle of Stalingrad in WorldWar II and by Adolf Hitler in spring 1945 during the battle for Berlin.The leader of the opposition Greens in Bavaria, Dieter Janecek, also voiced hisoutrage."Germany is not Stalingrad, the CSU is not the German army and immigrants arenot the Red Army," he said.Where are the German Martin Luther King’s and Lyndon Johnson’s when we needthem? 10
  • ANTI-SEMITISM & XENOPHOBIAA new report by a German political foundation; the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung,produced some very troubling statistics. The report, “"The State of Intolerance,Prejudices and Discrimination in Europe," was released March 11 in the frameworkof a conference sponsored by the foundation.According to a JTA story, “The foundation commissioned the new evaluation of a2008 survey by researchers at the University of Bielefeld of about 1,000 people ineight European countries: Germany, Poland, Holland, Great Britain, Italy, Hungaryand Portugal.Asked whether they agree with the statement that "Jews have too much influence inmy country," 69.2 percent of Hungarians and 49.9 percent of Poles agreed. Thelowest levels were in Holland, with 4.6 percent agreeing. Germany, with 19.6percent, was in the middle, sociologist Beate Kuepper told JTA in a telephoneinterview.Kuepper, Andreas Zick and Andreas Hoevermann evaluated the data for thefoundation.Scientists found that those with anti-Semitic tendencies also were likely to bexenophobic against other minority groups, including Muslims, as well as resentful ofhomosexuals and women, Kuepper said.Kuepper said she was most surprised by the fact that Germanys level of anti-Semitism was about average, given the strong public message against anti-Semitism, including the emphasis on Holocaust education. She also said that theresults for Poland bore out those of previous studies, which show that religious-based anti-Semitism is extremely high there, at 70 percent.When you think about the numbers, they really are shocking and very depressing.The Jewish community in Hungary consists of, at most, 50,000 Jews out of a totalpopulation of about 10 million. The fact that almost 70% think the Jews have toomuch influence is astounding. My guess is that most have never met a Jew.Poland is even more unbelievable. With a population of about 38 million and only(roughly) 50, 000 Jews (0.06% of the population) anti-Semitism is still a major factor.Perhaps, most disappointing is Germany. Kuepper said she was most surprised bythe fact that Germanys level of anti-Semitism was about average, given the strongpublic message against anti-Semitism, including the emphasis on Holocausteducation. 11
  • Working in the Jewish community for all the years that I have, long ago I came toterms with the fact that anti-Semitism is a deadly virus that, like TB, can be arrestedbut never fully eradicated. It lies there waiting for the proper set of politicalcircumstances to raise its nasty head and do the harm that it has done for almost thelast 2,000 years. The best way to deal with it is through education and eternalvigilance. Better understanding reduces the possibilities of it surfacing and an earlywarning system helps us raise the alarm so that we can try to deal with its mostpernicious affects.I’m sorry I can’t be more upbeat. The situation doesn’t merit it.**********************************************************************************************See you in April. 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 12