DuBow Digest american edition nov. 14, 2012

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  • 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONNovember 14, 2012Dear Friends:What a month! Super Storm Sandy brought destruction and power interruption evento our small shtetl in the Lower Hudson Valley. It was followed by a major coastalstorm which slowed the recovery. We needed that, as my grandmother would say,“like a loch in Kopf”.Though our house evaded any real harm, we were without power for five days. Nocomputer. Only a cell phone. I now know what being shipwrecked feels like.The activity surrounding the election was almost as furious as the storm. Whetheryou liked the outcome (I did!) or not I’m sure you’re glad it’s over and the Americanpolitical participants can get back to the usual trench warfare.The Sandy recovery for me was marred by the news that Larry Ramer, the founderof AJC Berlin’s Ramer Institute had passed away. A great guy! What a loss! (Seebelow)As far as Germany is concerned, much is still going on regarding the economicproblems of Europe. The Germans are trying to hold the Euro zone together hopingthat Greece and a couple of other weak economic countries do not go under. So far,so good.So, with that introduction, let’s get on with the news…IN THIS EDITIONLARRY RAMER: IN MEMORIAM – Jewish – German relations lose a giant.TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST: USEFUL OR USELESS? – It depends… 1
  • 2. THE PIRATE SHIP IS SINKING – They didn’t do well on the Barbary Coast. DittoGermany!THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS & FATAH – Is it real love?CIRCUMCISION & THE LEFT – What are they really thinking.THE POLITICAL SCRUM BEGINS – Our election ends, theirs starts.FAR RIGHT ATTITUDES – More troubled thinking.AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY – As it impacts Germany.LARRY RAMER: IN MEMORIAMThe field of American Jewish – German relations sustained a great loss recently withthe passing of Lawrence “Larry” Ramer, the founder of AJC Berlin’s Lawrence andLee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. He died at his home in LosAngeles after a long illness and was 84 years old.AJC noted in its press release, “Larry Ramer was a visionary,” said AJC ExecutiveDirector David Harris. “He was one of the first to understand German unification asan opportunity for advancing global security, for transatlantic relations, and relationswith Israel. This is a great loss for AJC, for the Jewish world, and for the numerouscultural and academic institutions which he supported with passion.”German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that “Ramer was a great architectof German-American understanding and a true friend of Germany.” The Germangovernment honored Ramer in 2000 with the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit inrecognition of his achievements in enhancing German-Jewish relations.The AJC Berlin Ramer Institute was created in 1993 to foster German-Jewishdialogue, support post-war democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany, advanceGerman-Israeli relations, and monitor anti-Semitism and extremism. When theInstitute moved to Berlin in 1998, global media covering the gala opening calledAJC’s presence in Berlin an “embassy” of the American Jewish community.Under Ramer’s leadership, AJC Berlin has strengthened enduring partnerships withfoundations from all political parties, deepened understanding among opinionleaders of relations with Israel, initiated programs to fight anti-Semitism, launched anoutreach to Germany’s large Turkish community, and created civic educationprograms with German educators now used widely in schools in Berlin andBrandenburg. 2
  • 3. “Larry Ramer’s faith in cooperation and partnership with Germany was a model ofreconciliation,” said Deidre Berger, director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute, whoworked closely with Ramer since 1999.“He was tireless in upholding Holocaust remembrance, while reminding others to bemindful of the need to secure democracy and promote security of the Jewishpeople. He was beloved for his forthright engagement and commitment to commontransatlantic values,” Berger continued. “His presence will be deeply missed, whilewe carry on the mission of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute.”Ramer was co-chair with Dr. Rita Suessmuth, former President of the GermanParliament, of the Ramer Institute Advisory Board, which includes notable publicleaders in Germany and the United States. During decades of involvement withAJC, Ramer served on the organization’s Executive Committee for many years.Ramer is survived by his wife, Lee, his children Doug, Stephanie and Susan, andtheir families, and his brother Bruce Ramer, who served as AJC National Presidentfrom 1998 to 2001.As the Founding Director of the Ramer Institute’s Berlin Office I had a great deal ofcontact with Larry Ramer. He was not one to merely financially support the Instituteand leave it at that. He was intimately interested in everything we did. He visitedBerlin frequently and undertook the responsibility for meeting many of Germany’sleaders and explaining the complexities of American Jewry to them. His contactswere always meaningful. He advocated strong German support for Israel and forthose other matters of importance to the Jewish people.Larry Ramer was a lovely and sweet man. We have lost a real champion. He will besorely missed by many people including yours truly. His Institute continues on as alegacy to his devotion to the improvement of relationships between Germany andthe Jewish people.TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST: USEFUL OR USELESS?In the last edition of DuBow Digest I wrote, “…it seems to me that our focus on moreand more Holocaust education will get us nowhere. What is needed is earlyeducation (starting with the family and kindergarten) on the positives associated withdemocracy.”In a recent Forward article Don Snyder (a very good journalist) wrote a piece noting,“Teaching about the Holocaust has not kept the old wounds of Jew hatred fromreopening in Germany.This is the reality that the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, implicitlyacknowledged October 17 when it debated the state of anti-Semitism in the country 3
  • 4. following a disturbing government-commissioned report delivered to it last January.The report, written by a commission of nine academics that reviewed data from alarge body of recent research, found that one-fifth of German citizens harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.Lawmakers attending the debate, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel andInterior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, agreed across party lines on the need to acton the study’s recommendations. It was a consensus that included Bundestag VicePresident Petra Pau, a member of the Left Party, which is staunchly critical of Israel.The legislators hope to have an action plan to vote on in the coming weeks.But one of the report’s most important recommendations may prove to be amongthe most difficult to implement. The study calls for education about anti-Semitism inGermany to be separated from the study of the Holocaust.Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, sharesthis concern.“There is a belief that if you teach young Germans about the Holocaust and the Naziperiod, they won’t become anti-Semitic,” Berger said. “But this is frequently not true.”Holocaust teaching is losing its effectiveness in the fight against anti-Semitism, shesaid, particularly with younger Germans several generations removed from theevent.Ministry of the Interior figures show that most of the country’s anti-Semitic incidentscontinue to come from the far right. In 2011, almost 96%, or 1,188 of the 1,229reported cases, came from this quarter. Only 24 cases involved Muslims.“The far right is getting stronger in Germany,” said Frank Jansen, investigativereporter for the respected centrist newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, during an interview.“Right-wing extremism is attractive to young men who see it as exciting in theirboring environment.” Jansen is an expert on Muslim and right-wing extremism inGermany.…even teachers often do not distinguish between Jews and Israelis, and maythemselves harbor prejudices, stereotypes and anti-Israel views.Substantive opposition to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bankand Gaza is common in Germany, and polls show that most Germans have negativeviews of Israel. But Israel bashing has also become a favorite weapon in anti-Semitic attacks. A 2010 report by the University of Bielefeld’s Institute forInterdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence found an increase in anti-Semitism linked specifically to Israel.”There is more to Don Snyder’s article but I think you get the main idea. Anti-Semitism is alive and well in Germany. The mere teaching of the Holocaust does 4
  • 5. very little if any good. The Merkel Administration recognizes it and is trying through agovernmental committee to do something about it. The feelings among many aboutIsrael are quite negative.It’s probably worse in other European countries and their governments are probablydoing little or nothing about it. That does not make it any less troubling whenconsidering what is going on in Germany. The saving grace is that, at least they’redoing something about it and we have to be thankful about that.To read the entire Snyder article click here.http://forward.com/articles/164912/teach-the-holocaust-separately-germans-told/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Weekly%20%2B%20Daily&utm_campaign=Weekly_Newsletter_Friday%202012-10-26THE PIRATE SHIP IS SINKINGIn 2006, the Pirate Party, a new entity appeared on Germany’s political horizon andin practically no time had captured the imagination of a great many people and wonseats in four state parliaments. It was made up of many young “nerd” types whoseemed earnest and dedicated.However, when questioned as to what they stood for and what issues were ofimportance to them they really didn’t have an answer especially on the mostpressing economic and international issues. (Wikipedia) “According to politicaltheorist Oskar Niedermayer, the party sees itself as part of an internationalmovement to shape with their term of "digital revolution" which is a circumscriptionfor the transition into information society. With their focus on freedom in the net andtheir fight against government regulations of this sphere, they caught the attentionespecially of the younger generation. Even if the network policy is the core identityof the party, it is now more than just an advocacy party of "digital natives" andcharacterizes itself as a social-liberal-progressive. ”This kind of a non-party party was destined to flame out relatively quickly. Peoplewho voted for it have become disillusioned. “Openness” and “the net” are not exactlybread and butter issues. Der Spiegel reported a few weeks ago, “As nationalelections approach next year, Germanys Pirate Party cant explain what its positionsreally are. Its representatives in state parliaments prefer to focus on technical issuesand themselves, while party leaders are withdrawing from the forefront. Voters, inthe meantime, are turning away from the party.This spring the party was polling at 13 percent. Since then, though, it seems votershave come to recognize that the Pirate Party often offers little more than aspectacle. 5
  • 6. More recent polls show that Germanys newest political party has fallen back nearlyto the "five-percent hurdle," the percentage of votes a party needs in order to takeseats in Germanys parliament, the Bundestag. The Pirate Party is now at risk offailing to meet that hurdle in national elections next year.The party hasnt managed to find a true sense of team spirit -- its leaders varyinglifestyles and beliefs are simply too different.This lack of content is already having an effect in the state parliaments where theparty is represented. The newcomers are gaining a reputation as a party of self-promoters, whose members most often garner big headlines for bizarre behavior --for example, one representative in North Rhine-Westphalia uses Twitter to describeher one-night stands and broken condoms.All this might seem comical. A party with no platform gains seats in four stateparliaments and a few months ago seemed to have enough votes to gain seats inthe Bundestag. However, I see a more troublesome side to all of this. If a sizeablenumber of people can vote for something they have absolutely no real idea what itis, might it not be easy for a small more well organized group with a more sinisterhidden agenda to do the same? The thought gives me chills.In any case, the Pirate ship seems to be sinking to which I can only say “Ho Ho Hoand a bottle of Good Riddance brand rum”.You can read the whole story by clicking herehttp://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-voters-grow-disillusioned-with-pirate-party-a-863234.htmlTHE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS & FATAHThere is no doubt that the left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD), one ofGermany’s two major parties, has been and is very sympathetic to the Palestiniancause and a long time critic of Israel; especially the Netanyahu government. Theyfrequently make the case that they are not anti-Israel but voice their criticism in aneffort to be positive.Recently Haaretz reported, “Germany’s Social Democratic Party shares “mutualvalues” and “mutual goals” with the Palestinian Fatah movement, the party declaredlast week, after a delegation of Fatah members met with party members, includingSecretary-general Andrea Nahles.The SPD is Germany’s largest opposition party, and hopes that its candidate willreplace Chancellor Angela Merkel in elections scheduled for the end of next year. 6
  • 7. The declaration was reported Monday by the Bild newspaper, the country’s largest-circulation daily, which put the story on its front page under the headline “Mutualvalues with Israel’s enemies?” and criticized the declaration. “What was the SPDthinking?” the story asked. “Fatah is an enemy of Israel, the faction of the PLO terrororganization that was led by Yasser Arafat.”The Central Council of Jews in Germany also condemned the joint statement.Council president Dieter Graumann called it “scandalous” and explained, “The SPDis cooperating with a terror organization that calls for hatred against Jews. The partyshould be ashamed of itself.”While it is true that Fatah is not Hamas and has dealings with Israel, the U.S. andother European countries, it is not a pariah. The more important point here is thestance of the SPD. The current government, led by the Christian Democrat’sChancellor Angela Merkel is much more positive in its relations with Israel. With anelection coming up next year, should the SPD come out on top and capture theChancellor’s position, the relationship between Germany and Israel might becomemore of a question.CIRCUMCISION & THE LEFTI want it to be understood that in general I have nothing against left wing parties.Some of the Bundestag members of the SPD and the Green Party are the mostdedicated supporters of the issues dealing with Jewish interests and Israel.However, when criticism dealing with Jewish matters appears it usually comes fromthe left side of the political spectrum.The Jewish Daily Forward reported only yesterday, “A new proposal by liberal andleft-leaning legislators in Germany would bar ritual circumcision for boys under theage of 14.Some 50 members of Parliament - from the Social Democratic Party, the Left Partyand the Greens - have signed on to the proposal, which they hope will preemptanother bill currently awaiting parliamentary approval. That bill, submitted lastmonth, would allow Jewish and Muslim parents to choose ritual circumcision for aninfant son under strict regulations, including medical training for the circumciser andthe use of anesthesia.The new proposal would prohibit the non-medical circumcision of infants, and wouldrequire that the procedure be carried out by a trained urologist or pediatric surgeon,according to German news reports. The legislators reportedly insist that the childhimself should be able to decide whether or not to allow “such a serious interferencewith his bodily integrity.” 7
  • 8. The current campaign against ritual circumcision in Germany, which is led by acadre of activists and boosted by some politicians on the left, picked up steam lastMay after a Cologne District Court ruled that the circumcision of a minor wascriminal assault. The ruling came to light in the general public in June. In response,Jewish and Muslim leaders demanded a legal response that would protect theirreligious freedom.Though the bill submitted in October introduces new restrictions on a ritual practicedwithout interruption for centuries in Germany, Jewish and Muslim groups havepraised it as a way to protect their religious freedom against increasing onslaughtsby opponents of circumcision.The new attempt by left-leaning lawmakers would undermine that security and isexpected to meet vigorous opposition in the Bundestag.As I have said before, it is hard for me to believe that “a serious interference with hisbodily integrity” is the only motivating factor behind the support of this new bill.Considering that Mohels have been performing circumcisions for thousands of yearsand that the practice has taken place in Germany for hundreds of years, this suddenburst of disapproval hidden behind a need to protect male children seems totallydisingenuous. Can one prove that it is based in anti-Semitism? There is no smokinggun. However, it doesn’t take a social scientific study to see where it comes from.The fifty signers of the proposal should look at themselves in the mirror. My guess isthat if they are honest they will see something very ugly.THE POLITICAL SCRUM BEGINSNow that the American election is out of the way (Germans followed it very closely)the political pushes and pulls surrounding their own 2013 election is underway.Briefly, in order to understand it, the election is one of parties, not so much ofindividuals, though personalities certainly count. In Germany’s post war history onlyonce has a single party gained enough seats in the Bundestag on its own obviatingthe need for a coalition with a second party to be in command.Currently, the governing coalition is made up of a right leaning Christian DemocraticParty (CDU) and the business oriented Free Democrats (FDP). In opposition are theSocial Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party (The Greens), both more left-leaning.At present the FDP seems very weak and so the CDU and Chancellor Merkel are indanger of not having a “natural” partner with which to form a coalition. There is somepossibility that if the CDU comes out with the most Bundestag seats but not enoughfor a coalition, they might try to pick off the Greens. It’s remote but possible. 8
  • 9. If the two big parties, the CDU and the SPD, gobble up most of the seats and haveno junior party possibility, they may have to (unhappily) join together in a “GrandCoalition”. They have done that before and it worked out somehow. Neither partyliked it though.The Local ran a story recently noting, “The Green Party leadership choice for theelection campaign raised talk of a possible shift towards Angela Merkelsconservatives, prompting the Social Democrats to call for a clear statement in favourof a coalition with them.This is only the opening salvo in what sounds as if it will be an on-going battleuntil the Sept. 2013 election. There is much more to come perhaps making ourown election seem tame. There are numerous possibilities, deals and intrigue.Stay tuned. It’ll be fun.In any case, to read the “thus far” story click here.http://www.thelocal.de/politics/20121112-46117.htmlFAR RIGHT ATTITUDESAn on-going problem in East Germany revolves around the extreme right wingattitudes of the populace. DW recently wrote, “A study released by the FriedrichEbert Foundation says that 9 percent of Germans harbor extreme right-wing views.The proportion of East Germans with extreme right-wing beliefs continues to rise.The Friedrich Ebert Foundation released the findings of its study, "The ChangingSociety: Right-wing Views in Germany 2012," on Monday in Berlin. Compared to thefoundations past studies, which it has published once every two years since 2006,the number of Germans identifying with right-wing world views has grown.The report indicates that 9 percent of Germans have adopted extreme right-wingbeliefs, up from 8.2 percent two years ago.While extreme right-wing beliefs in former West Germany have retreated slightly(7.3 percent in 2010 compared to 7.6 percent in 2012), they have grown in theformer East German states. In 2010, 10.5 percent of those surveyed in former EastGermany displayed extreme right-wing beliefs, but this year, that figure rose to 15.8percent.This continues a trend dating back to the foundations first study in 2006.Findings of non-extreme viewsThe study showed that even among Germans not considered at the extreme end ofthe right-wing spectrum, many still had right-wing tendencies. Hatred of foreigners is 9
  • 10. the most commonly held right-wing tendency among all Germans, with the studyreporting that 25.1 percent adopt this attitude in some way.Anti-Semitism is manifest in around one out of every eleven Germans, according tothe study.In this years study, "secondary anti-Semitism" was analyzed for the first time inaddition to "traditional" anti-Semitism. For example, just under 32 percent of thosesurveyed said they agreed with the sentence: "Jewish people use the memory of theHolocaust to their own advantage."Sixty percent of those questioned said they were critical of Islam.One of the new trends highlighted by the study was that in the former EastGermany, people surveyed in the 14 to 30 age group showed a stronger preferencefor a right-wing dictator, chauvinism, social Darwinism, and a softer stance towardNational Socialism (neo-Nazism) than those from the over-60 age group.For the survey, 2,415 German citizens (with and without a migrant background),along with 95 people with a migrant background of other nationalities, were given aface-to-face questionnaire.I’m not enough of a social scientist to understand the implications of the differencesbetween primary and secondary anti-Semitism. I do know that if a third of theGerman population thinks that Jews use the memory of the Holocaust to their ownadvantage, there is much work to be done in educating every-day citizens.Having said that, if only one out of every eleven “manifest” anti-Semitism that, forEuropean countries, is not bad. In fact, in a 2009 report ADL noted, “The surveyfound that 12% of Americans hold anti-Semitic views, a decline from 15% in 2007and matching lowest figure ever recorded by ADL, in 1998. In its 1964-benchmarksurvey 29% of Americans were categorized as having anti-Semitic views.Considering that East Germans lived under anti-Semitic governments from 1933 to1989 (when the Wall came down) and from 1933 to 1945 the policy of theirgovernment was to eliminate Jews, the eleven percent figure is actually quiteamazing.AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICYWith Pres. Obama now set for a second term the Germans are beginning to thinkabout American foreign policy. It is evident to them they Europe and Germany areno longer #1 on the President’s list of important items to be taken care of. However,the economic health of the “Old World” still has major implications for the U.S. andso, they figure (and hope) that it won’t be too long before he might even make a visit 10
  • 11. to Germany.Without doubt, Pres. Obama was the favored candidate of most Germans. Now thathis election is accomplished what do they hope will happen? Spiegel On-Line notes,“So what does Obamas re-election actually mean for Germany? Will the presidentset a new tone in German-American relations in the coming four years? From theGerman governments perspective, the top priority -- not least because of its effectson the global economy -- is the United States high national deficit. ChancellorMerkel and her strategists have expectations for Obama to finally consolidate hiscountrys budget. "The time of policies financed by debt has come to an end, andthe US knows this," says Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the FreeDemocratic Party (FDP). "Obama needs to demonstrate that he can get the deficitunder control," stresses Philipp Missfelder, the foreign policy spokesperson in thefederal parliament, the Bundestag, for Merkels Christian Democratic Union (CDU).…Obamas re-election should make planning on one important point easier for theNATO states, and thus for Germany: the future of NATOs engagement in the HinduKush. President Obamas goal remains the withdrawal of American forces fromAfghanistan by 2014. Other nations with troops in Afghanistan, including Germany,have oriented their plans around this goal. During the election campaign, Romneysowed doubt about the plan for withdrawal, leaving politicians in all the NATO stateswondering what would come next.International cooperation with Obama, though, has its own potential problem areas.The presidents focus on the Asia-Pacific region in recent years has made clear tohis European partners that the old Continent no longer ranks first in the Americanpresidents eyes.…any major conflict between the United States and Beijing -- which could take placeeither by way of a trade dispute or a proxy within Chinas sphere of influence in theSoutheast Asian region -- could also threaten to have an impact on the GermaneconomyMeanwhile, the question of when Obama will visit Germany remains an open one.As president, Obama has already traveled to Germany twice, but he has not yetvisited Berlin, the capital. But that could soon change -- at least if you go by hintsprovided by US Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy. "Every visit is enriching.But Berlin is a special place and I hope that he will come here soon."During a visit by Merkel to the US last year, Obama himself said he would love tovisit Berlin -- after his re-election. Theres a hitch though. Germany is heading into anational election next September and the campaign will kick into high gear startingin mid-2013. Obama would have to visit before summer in order to avoid making itlook like he was giving a boost, intentional or not, to Merkels re-election effort. That,at least, is how the Social Democrats, who are roughly tantamount in Germany toObamas Democratic Party, view the matter. 11
  • 12. That doesnt leave a whole lot of time for a visit by a US president, especially sincethe massive security effort that is necessary requires meticulous preparations. ButObama knows Berlin and probably has good memories of the city. As a senatorrunning for president in 2008, he gave a major speech in front of Berlins VictoryColumn. Around 200,000 people came to listen to him. It was a major event -- thekind that people remember for a long time.Interestingly, there is nothing in the article about the Middle East. Maybe SpiegelOn-Line thinks it’s a secondary concern. With the President’s first post-election tripbeing made to Asia, it’s clear that that is where the action is. When he gets back it isthe “fiscal cliff” that he has to deal with.My guess is that somehow he’ll find time to get to Berlin, perhaps in the late spring.A visit would be a big boost for Chancellor Merkel who will be thoroughly engaged inher own election battle. Stay tuned!********************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12