Du bow digest american edition april 16, 2011

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A Newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

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Du bow digest american edition april 16, 2011

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONApril 16, 2011Dear Friends:Spring has sprung (sort of) and Passover is almost upon us. It is the best of theJewish holidays. There is just nothing like the family Seders to turn us away from thedisasters that seem (as always) to be consuming much of the world and give uspause to focus on the love of our history and the joy of coming together. So, to myJewish readers I want to wish you a Sweet Passover with my annual warning aboutthe danger of an excess of Matzoh balls and Matzohbrei.Too bad my grandmother wasn’t around during the Civil War. If Robert E. Lee hadused her Matzo balls in his cannons he probably would have defeated the Unionforces at Gettysburg.To my Christian readers I want to wish you a wonderful and peaceful Easter holiday.If by some chance you’re invited to a Seder the M & M warnings are for you as well.Enough foolishness! Let’s get on with the news…IN THIS EDITIONTHE MERKEL - NETANYAHU POW-WOW – A needed meeting – for both.ELECTION FALLOUT: FREE DEMOCRATS – The Germans would call it“Katastrophe”.GREENS – For the Green Party just the opposite.A FAILED MISSION – Sad! Will he keep trying?THE IRAN OIL DEAL: THE CHANCELLOR INTERVENES – Better late than never. 1
  2. 2. A DANGEROUS FOREIGN POLICY DOCTRINE – The “go it alone” vote in the UNon Libya isolates Germany from the rest of the EU.ANOTHER SUBMARINE – Not yellow! Blue and white with a 6 pointed star.GERMANY’S HOLOCAUST RESPONSIBILITY – A little good news.CONTINUING INTEREST – In the Holocaust.NEO-NAZIS IN BRANDENBURG – Hooray for the cops!THE MERKEL - NETANYAHU POW-WOWThe Prime Minister and the Chancellor needed a meeting of reconciliation after thefractious phone call they had which I reported on in the last edition. It’s politicallyimportant for both parties to have a relationship free of public acrimony.S-o-o- o, Prime Minister Netanyahu stopped off in Berlin prior to a scheduledmeeting he had in Prague. The Jerusalem Post reported, “After media reports abouta diplomatic row in February between Netanyahu and Merkel over the peaceprocess, both leaders showed no signs of frosty relations during their meetings.“When I talk to the prime minister, I am never put out, never irritated, “said Merkel,continuing: [Our conversations are] “close, very candid...They are fun. Apart from being fun, they are allowing us to make progress.”I can just imagine what fun they must be. Ha! Ha! Ha!These sorts of “Let’s patch things up” meetings normally produce nothing other thana press report that, well, things are patched up. This one was an exception. Again,The JP reported, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday voiced hergovernment’s opposition to a possible United Nations resolution creating anindependent Palestinian state. “The Federal Republic of Germany is championing atwo-state solution...Any kind of unilateral recognition does not promote this goal.This will be our position in September,” she said, during a joint press conferencehere with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.Considering that Germany is party to some sort of EU peace plan that Israel isopposed to, Germany’s opposition to the unilateral peace plan that Palestinians aretrying to push through the UN General Assembly is a big plus for Israel. It’s aquestion whether the rest of the EU nations will join them.Other issues were discussed seemingly without any conclusions. They can be read 2
  3. 3. about by clicking here. http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=215564ELECTION FALLOUT: FREE DEMOCRATSThe dust has now settled after the three state elections I wrote about in my lastedition and so there’s much to report. The Free Democrats (FDP) did so poorly in all(shut out in two and barely made the necessary 5% of the vote in the third) that thehead of their party, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was forced out as partyhead and Vice Chancellor. Whether he will be able to maintain his post as ForeignMinister remains to be seen. He is pretty much shorn of power and my guess is thathe will be removed sooner rather than later. His replacement is much moreinteresting. Read on.According to Spiegel On-Line, “Germanys business-friendly Free Democratshave nominated Vietnamese-born Philipp Rösler to replace outgoing party leaderGuido Westerwelle. Rösler, 38, has pledged to give the beleaguered party a freshstart. He faces the mammoth tasks of uniting the FDP and reversing its slide inpopularity.The FDPs executive board agreed that Rösler, 38, should stand for thechairmanship at a party conference in May. He is expected to remain healthminister, a job in which he has had only modest success since taking it on as theyoungest minister in Merkels cabinet in 2009.Rösler was born in a southern Vietnamese village in 1973 during the war, and wasadopted by a family in Germany at the age of nine months. He joined the pro-business FDP while he was still a teenager in 1992. He studied medicine in Hanoverand Hamburg before becoming a medical doctor in 2002.Rösler is affable and eloquent and less confrontational than Westerwelle, who isfamous for his outbursts of combative rhetoric. He has shown an interest inimmigration issues and could herald a shift to a softer, more social FDP, if thestridently pro-business party lets him.Rösler, who physically looks Vietnamese, has a big job in front of him. He has torebuild confidence in his party so that they can be a force in the 2013 nationalelections. Without them, most likely Chancellor Merkel and the CDU, who needsthem as coalition partners, would be cooked. An Asian and a woman! Germany hassure changed in the last 65 years.GREENSThe big election winner across the boards, without question, is the Green Party. Sowell did they do that not only did they capture a state governorship (Minister 3
  4. 4. President). After winning regional elections in Baden-Württemberg in March theGreens are set to lead the coalition government with the Social Democrats as theirjunior partner in this key southwestern state.According to DW-World, “The Greens are now the largest opposition party inGermany, according to the independent pollster Forsa in a survey conducted for thenews magazine Stern.Support for the center-left environmentalist party has risen to 28 percent, sevenpoints higher than in Forsas previous survey.The Social Democrats (SPD), traditionally Germanys largest center-left party, arepolling at 23 percent. The SPD is normally the senior member in coalitiongovernments with its partner-of-choice, the Greens.The Greens recent surge of support has put them in a position of power unseensince they entered Germanys political stage in the early 1980s.After winning regional elections in Baden-Württemberg in March, the Greens are setto lead a coalition government with the Social Democrats as their junior partner inthe key southwestern state.That is a first in the history of the German Republic. And the latest poll suggests theGreens regional success is currently reflected nationwide. If the results of Forsassurvey were replicated in national elections, Germany would likely see its first Greenchancellor."We are witnessing major changes in the opinions of voters," said the Green partychairwoman Claudia Roth. "That has to do with the insecurity spread by theunbelievable flip-flopping of the federal government."Let’s not get carried away! The national elections are two years away and a lot canhappen in that period of time. It wasn’t all that long ago that the CDU and the FDPscored a national victory which relegated the Greens to a very minor role. Theirstrong anti-nuclear position enormously enhanced by the tragedy in Japan gavethem a lot of political strength which may not last all that long. In addition, as above,the FDP is in a rebuilding mode and so all is not lost for the ruling CDU-FDPcoalition.You also do not want to count out the Green Party’s partners, the Social Democrats(SPD). They’ve been around since the beginning and they may also gain newstrength.Again, two years is an eternity in politics. It’s a little early for the Green Bundestagmembers to start measuring the drapes for their new majority party offices. 4
  5. 5. A FAILED MISSIONIt has been almost five years since Gilad Schalit, an Israeli corporal was kidnappedby Hamas in a cross border raid into Israel. In the last few years Gerhard Konrad, ofthe German intelligence service (BND), has served as a negotiator between theIsraeli government and Hamas trying to gain Schalit’s freedom. Hamas, usingSchalit as a bargaining chip, has demanded the release of a large number of Hamasprisoners being held in Israel.Recently the Jerusalem Post reported, “A senior Hamas official said that Germanmediator Gerhard Konrad had failed to make any progress in talks to return captivesoldier Gilad Schalit, the London-based Al-Hayat Arabic-language newspaperreported Saturday. He rejected further involvement by the German mediator.Deputy chairman of Hamas political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Al-Hayatthat Konrad had not succeeded in advancing the prisoner exchange and had beenunable to make any breakthroughs and that "there is no way back."He "did not succeed in changing the attitudes of Prime Minister BinyaminNetanyahu," Abu Marzouk said, adding that he had "adopted [Netanyahus]positions instead of addressing them."Explaining the failure, he said that Konrad had not made an adequate effort toincorporate previous understandings reached under the previous government ofEhud Olmert into the current negotiations. The Hamas leader added that "now abreakthrough is no longer possible."Abu Marzuk noted that while Konrads role in the negotiations had ended, Hamaswould "not oppose his return if the Israeli government wants it."The failed negotiations have been going on for a long time but it is my guess that theBND will continue its efforts. It is a plus for Germany in its relationship with Israel.As far as a chance for success is concerned, it has very little to do with Schalit or theHamas prisoners. Again, it is my guess, that when the proper political situationarises for Hamas or enough political pressure can be applied they will quickly cometo terms. However, since they seem so well ensconced in Gaza I don’t see wherepressure can come from. It’s not a good situation – especially for Schalit.THE IRAN OIL DEAL: THE CHANCELLOR INTERVENESThis story ends better than it begins. It ends with Chancellor Merkel stepping in tostop a practice which was running counter to her announced feelings that Iranshould be further isolated. 5
  6. 6. In early March, in my Germany Edition I reported on the release of two Germanreporters by the Iranian government. It required that German Foreign Minister GuidoWesterwelle travel to Iran and appear in a public meeting with Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad which included an embarrassing photo op with the twoleaders shaking hands.At that time I wrote, “The trip that Foreign Minister Westerwelle made to Iran to getthe two reporters back to Germany required paying a heavy price. While those thatknow how these sorts of things work in the world of “realpolitik”, it certainly gave offthe wrong sort of a message as far as what Germany’s relationship with Iran isadvertised to be. One recognizes blackmail when one sees it. One also recognizesthe weakness of the paying of the ransom – especially by a nation that is supposedto strong and independent. It’s certainly not the first time it has happened but thatcertainly doesn’t make it any better. When I wrote that it was only the disheartening photo I was talking about. Itsubsequently came out that more than a photo was involved. Spiegel On-Linerecently reported, “With Berlins approval, the German central bank providedassistance to India in an oil deal with Iran. The US has vociferously criticized anysuch dealings with Tehran, but according to information received by SPIEGELONLINE, the deal was connected with the release of two German reporters detainedby the Ahmadinejad regime.The controversial involvement of the Bundesbank in an oil deal between India andIran is possibly more politically sensitive than previously thought. According togovernment sources in Berlin, the deal was made in connection to the release of tworeporters from the weekly paper Bild am Sonntag from Iranian detention lastFebruary. The sources say the German government approved the Bundesbankshelp in the Iranian-Indian transaction in exchange for the release of the twoprisoners.The governments official response to questions from SPIEGEL ONLINE has beenreserved. A connection was neither confirmed nor denied. When asked what rolethe Indian-Iranian deal played in the release of the two prisoners, a spokespersonfor the Foreign Ministry said: "The federal government became active at the verybeginning of the detention of the two German journalists in October 2010, so thatthey could be brought back to Germany as soon as possible."The spokesperson referred to the statements made by Foreign Minister GuidoWesterwelle, of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), after the return of thejournalists. At that time, Westerwelle thanked "all those who worked together to finda solution for this very complicated case."That Germany would help Iran, despite sanctions against the regime in Tehran, tomake the oil deal is not universally smiled upon -- and could create trans-Atlanticproblems. The US has viewed Westerwelles diplomatic course critically, evenbefore the government abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote on 6
  7. 7. Libya in March. In particular, Berlins stance on the debate over Irans presumednuclear program is seen as too soft by many. The oil deal would be consideredfurther proof that Germany is distancing itself from its most important allies. Arepresentative of the US Treasury Department was quoted in the New York Timeson Thursday as being "concerned" about the German governments compliance withthe deal.After the above story was published and both the Central Council of Jews inGermany (Zentralrat) and the Obama administration turned up the heat, ChancellorMerkel stepped in and put an end to “India through Germany to Iran” deals.Spiegel On-Line reported, “The sources cited by Handelsblatt said the Bundesbankwould process payments for oil deliveries that have already taken place, but wouldnot permit further deals in the future. Both the Bundesbank and the controversialEuropean-Iranian Trading Bank (EIHB) had been used by India previously totransfer payments to Iran in a move American officials believed had been designedto circumvent sanctions against Tehran.Do I think that this is the end of various countries trying to skirt around attempts toisolate Iran? Absolutely not! India will find another country in order to pass themoney through to Iran. Doing business with Iran entails financial deals worth billions.That will not end soon. However, at least Germany has removed this one avenueand that is all to the good.A DANGEROUS FOREIGN POLICY DOCTRINERalf Neukirch writing in Spiegel On-Line noted, “With its abstention in the UNSecurity Council vote on Libya, Germany has abandoned its strict alignment with theWest, a basic tenet of German foreign policy for decades. Foreign Minister GuidoWesterwelles new doctrine is a dangerous one. It would be disastrous forGermanys Western partners began doubting Berlins commitment.By abstaining in the United Nations Security Council vote on the resolution toimpose a no-fly zone over Libya, the government has given up what had been across-party consensus on German security policy. Until now, Germany wascommitted to siding with America and France. That wasnt always easy. Sometimes,for example before the 2003 Iraq war, it was impossible. On Iraq, Germany had tochoose between one of its two most important partners. But it remained convincedthat on no account should it oppose both nations at the same time.The government has now given up this basic tenet of German policy.The official explanation is an excuse: Germany doesnt want to take part in a waragainst Libya,… In fact, much more is at stake than the question of a Germanmilitary contribution. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Westerwelle have called central 7
  8. 8. principles of German foreign policy into question.His supposed new foreign policy doctrine smacks of domestic populism.Westerwelle has succumbed to such temptations before. He opposed the Iraq war,but then complained that Germanys "no" had damaged the trans-Atlantic alliance.He has been demanding the withdrawal of militarily redundant nuclear weaponsfrom German soil although they are an important symbol of Germanys cooperationwith the US. Hes more worried about scoring political points at home than about thedamage hes doing to Germanys standing in the world.It has been the same pattern with Libya. Westerwelles advisors in the ForeignMinistry recommended that Germany should vote "yes" in the Security Council. Heignored their advice because that would have diluted his domestic message: noinvolvement of German troops.Angela Merkel didnt stop her foreign minister. She has often shown the right foreignpolicy instincts. But she probably wanted to avoid a public debate about Germanmilitary involvement ahead of important regional elections. That kind of thinkingwould be in line with her character.Perhaps she agrees with Westerwelles view that the old certainties no longer apply.In that case a Christian Democrat chancellor would be jettisoning Germanys policyof Western loyalty -- a stance that was part of her partys creed for decades.There’s more to the Neukirch’s article but I think what I have above captures itsessence. International politics is a complicated game. In the Libyan abstentionGermany joined with Russia – from whom it gets a great deal of its natural gas. Inseemingly going along with the Indian – Iran deal and voting yes in the UN on thesettlements resolution is it edging away from Israel, the U.S. and the West? I have toleave all that to the political scientists – and history. We’ll just have to see how itturns out? However, at present I’m feeling a little, as the Germans say, “angst”.ANOTHER SUBMARINENo, it’s not a Beatles “Yellow Submarine”, it’s a German built diesel submarine thatIsrael is trying to buy at a “deep discount”. When you’re in the market for this sort ofvessel at a bargain price you don’t walk into Costco or Target and plunk your creditcard down. This sort of purchase requires the Prime Minister and the Chancellor tohash it out which they did at the recent stopover Netanyahu made in Berlin.Why is a sixth German built sub so important that the leaders of the two countrieshave to pow-wow about it? Well, Israeli nuclear armed subs stationed off the coastof Iran are Israel’s best deterrent against an Iranian attack of any sort – nuclear orotherwise. 8
  9. 9. The Jerusalem Post reported, “Talks on the Dolphin submarine deal stalled last yearafter the Germans declined to underwrite it, as they had done with previouspurchases. Israel sought up to a third off the $500 million to $700 million price forthe new Dolphin."Were still hoping for a discount, and the prime minister will raise this matter" in ameeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel scheduled for Thursday, the Israeliofficial said without elaborating.Political turbulence in the Middle East has led Israel to float higher defensespending, which may allow it to absorb more of the cost of a new Dolphin. Thediesel-powered submarines are widely regarded as an Israeli vanguard against foeslike Iran.Israel has three Dolphins in service and two on order from Germany with deliveryexpected in the next two years.Germany is dedicated to the security of the Jewish state, founded in the wake of theHolocaust. Merkel has championed an international campaign to rein in Iranscontentious nuclear program, which Israelis consider a potentially mortal threat.But Berlin has budgetary constraints and in the past heard misgivings from Germanopposition parties about exporting weapons to crisis areas. Israel is reputed to havethe regions only atomic arsenal, including submarine-fired nuclear missiles.We’ll have to wait to see whether the bargain basement deal can be made. Too badmy mother is no longer alive. After a little discussion with the Chancellor she wouldhave the sub in her shopping bag and probably a box of German chocolates to boot.GERMANY’S HOLOCAUST RESPONSIBILITYHow about some good news? According to JTA, The German government willincrease funds given to Holocaust survivors by 15 percent.The new deal reached Tuesday between Germany and the Conference on JewishMaterial Claims Against Germany, known as the Claims Conference, means that theGerman governments contribution to homecare funding for Holocaust survivorsaround the world will rise from $156 million in 2011 to about $180 million in 2012.The allocations will rise to nearly $200 million by 2014.“With restitution-related sources of funding on the decline, this long-term agreementobtained by the Claims Conference is vital to addressing the growing social welfareneeds of aging Holocaust survivors,” said Claims Conference Chairman JuliusBerman. “It will provide survivors and the agencies that care for them the certainty 9
  10. 10. that funding will be available to meet the anticipated growing demand over the nextfew years.” “Once again, the German government has recognized its historic responsibility tohelp care for Jewish Holocaust victims in their final years,” said Stuart Eizenstat, theClaims Conferences special negotiator. “Over the decades, the government hasdemonstrated its commitment to alleviating the plight of elderly victims who need thecare that these funds will provide.”I think I’ll leave it to Stuart Eizenstat. He said exactly what I would have. We shouldall live up to our responsibilities as well as the Germans do in this instance.CONTINUING INTERESTIn the last dozen years or so I’ve heard a lot about young Germans being sick andtired of hearing about the Holocaust. I’ve even been told (very diplomatically) that inwhatever negotiations we American Jews have with Germany it’s best not even tomention it. I was even beginning to believe that, perhaps, the time had come to toneit down and focus on the future rather than the past.However, a non-scientific survey of the German media (by yours truly) tells me thatthe time to “forget” the Holocaust has yet to arrive in Germany. Perhaps notsurprisingly, it is the German media that keeps the issue front and center. Media, likeall businesses, focus on what they think “sells” and, without question the Holocaustis still a matter of deep interest to the German public. In the last two weeks I savedall the Holocaust stories I came across. 1. An exhibit which opened in the German capital on Tuesday examines the role Adolf Eichmanns 1961 trial in Israel played in shaping modern understanding of the Holocaust and World War II, giving survivors an unprecedented chance to tell their stories on a public stage. Click here for more information. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4053163,00.html 2. The myth that the Nazi-era German armed forces, the Wehrmacht, was not involved in war crimes persisted for decades after the war. Now two German researchers have destroyed it once and for all. Newly published conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the Allies, reveal horrifying details of violence against civilians, rape and genocide. Click here for more information. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,755385,00.html 3. The SS officer responsible for the arrest of Anne Frank was one of many Nazis employed by Germanys Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) foreign intelligence agency after World War II, Focus reported. Click here for more information. http://www.thelocal.de/national/20110410-34297.html 10
  11. 11. 4. Under the Nazi regime, the police were not obligated to commit murder.But many did. A new exhibition in Berlin reveals the extent to which the policewere involved in Nazi atrocities. Click here for more information.http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14973508,00.html5. Adolf Eichmann, who masterminded expulsion and transfer of millions ofJews from their homes to death camps, expresses regret on the tape for notbeing able to complete his task. Click here for more information.http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/in-newly-released-tape-eichmann-heard-boasting-about-his-role-in-holocaust-1.3537236. Before his arrest by Israels Mossad intelligence service, Adolf Eichmannboasted openly to other foreigners in Argentina of the war crimes he hadcommitted. He confided in one journalist that his only mistake was not havingmurdered all the Jews. "We didnt do our work correctly," he said. Click formore information.http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,754486,00.html#ref=nlintSo, as you can see, the Holocaust still “sells”. German researchers and themedia are beginning to dig more deeply than they have in the past especiallysince more and more material has become available to be looked at.Elements of the Nazi machine which previously drew a pass are now beingexamined in greater detail. The Germany of today is being confronted withinformation about those who previously were seen as being free of guilt.Germans, young and old, are being force fed with very uncomfortableinformation, perhaps about fathers and grandfathers. No matter, their interestseems deep and they seem not to be able to get enough of it.Forget forgetting about the Holocaust. |NEO-NAZIS IN BRANDENBURGThe State of Brandenburg actually totally surrounds Berlin (Berlin is not only aCity but also a State) with Potsdam as its capital. The fact that it was part ofEast Germany and is adjacent to Berlin makes it important. Its East Germanyantecedents have left it a legacy of unemployment and so it has become aspawning place of neo-Nazi activity. Over the years the State government hastried to stamp out this blemish. The Local recently reported, “Interior MinisterDietmar Woidke announced in Potsdam that the Freie Kräfte Teltow-Fläming,or the "Free Forces of Teltow-Fläming," would be the sixth such organizationto be banned in the state since 1995.The last right-wing extremist group to be banned was the SchutzbundDeutschland in 2006. 11
  12. 12. A large police contingent of some 175 stormed group locations inBlankenfelde-Mahlow and Zossen early on Monday, confiscating evidence."To enforce the ban, raids have been ongoing since the early morning hourstoday as part of a major search and confiscation operation by the police," theministry said in a statement.According to domestic intelligence service reports from 2010, the neo-NaziFreie Kräfte Teltow-Fläming has been active since 2006. Last year it hadabout 50 members, mainly in the northern cities of the Teltow-Flämingcounty.Its influence has been responsible for a rise in right-wing extremist activity inthe region, the report said.The attempt to wipe out neo-Nazi activity in Germany is an on-going process.As long as there is unemployment, especially youth unemployment, the neo’swill continue to exist and flourish to some degree. However, my reading of thesituation is that their presence is a genuine embarrassment and the Statesare doing all they can do to keep it under control and, where possible, wipe itout. However, Germany is a democracy and so, as here in the U.S., as longas laws are not being violated citizens have a right to organize themselvesinto groups and political organizations. Eternal vigilance is the keyword inkeeping them under control. Germany is, indeed, exhibiting that.****************************************************************************************See you again at the end of the monthDuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can becontacted by clicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12
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