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Du bow digest american edition march 6, 2011


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DuBow Digest is a newsletter on American Jewish - German relations.

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Du bow digest american edition march 6, 2011

  1. 1. AMERICAN EDITIONMarch 6, 2011Dear FriendsA NOTE FROM YOUR EDITORIn my newsletters I try to maintain an upbeat, at times humorous, edge inreporting and commenting on situations that have no real humor in them. Inwriting what follows I find myself void of any jocular feelings. In fact, I am ratherdown in the mouth about what I see as a growing and serious disconnectbetween Germany and the State of Israel. Considering that Germany is Israel’smost important friend in Europe, it poses a very big problemIt actually began to be apparent about a year and a half ago when the EuropeanUnion decided to establish an all-Europe international relations section with aBritish subject, Lady Catherine Ashton as the EU High Representative forForeign Affairs and Security Policy. This new agency is enormously importantand will eventually have 13,000 people working in it. Since High RepresentativeAshton’s appointment she has been nothing but critical of Israel at every turn.Her Palestinian leanings are quite obvious. Warning lights went on.It became obvious to me that this new EU body would be a genuine voice onMiddle East policy. I raised questions with my German friends about Germany’sindependent foreign policy especially as it pertained to Israel. I didn’t get anysatisfactory answers. Some said an overall European policy was more importantthan a singular German one. I didn’t agree and still don’t.On top of that, in late 2010, the Bundestag passed a unanimous resolutioncondemning Israel over the Turkish flotilla to Gaza incident. I felt that if Germanywas unhappy with Israel’s actions there were many other sorts of diplomaticmoves (letters, statements, diplomatic meetings, etc.) they might have utilized.Instead they decided on a Bundestag resolution which was passed unanimously.Very strong medicine indeed!More recently, at the UN Security Council, Germany went along with 13 othernations condemning Israel’s settlement policy. It was left to the U.S. to veto theresolution. I’m sure they “voted their conscience” but in its support, Germany andthe others gave the Palestinians a sense of empowerment and feeling that theywill gain more through the UN process than in sitting down with the Israelis forface to face negotiations. It drove a stake right through the heart of a negotiatedsettlement at least for the foreseeable future.Even more recently, Haaretz and other journals carried a story about a heatedphone conversation between Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Netanyahu 1
  2. 2. (see story below) wherein the Chancellor accused The P.M. saying, “You haventmade a single step to advance peace." It was leaked by a German source.These sorts of things don’t get leaked without a purpose.Whether that statement is true or not, the German vote at the Security Councilhelped torpedo any chance to “advance peace” any time soon.I’m not the only one who thinks that. Click here to read Richard Boudreaux’sarticle which also appeared in The Wall Street Journal. growing feeling among some German leaders is that, while claiming friendshipfor Israel, they are now free to say that Israel had better make peace (at anyprice?) before the chances of a two state solution are gone. Perhaps theylegitimately and honestly feel that way. Maybe they even have a point. However,are these increasingly open critical statements and actions helping themovement toward a peace settlement? I would argue in the negative.I hope that I am viewing things clearly. When I add up all the above and try to seewhether there is some guiding principle, it seems to me that Germany is slowlybut surely cutting itself loose from Israel, at least from an Israel government theydo not like. Forget about the “special relationship”. Germany has learned to livewith its history; they are handling it to the satisfaction of most and now feel free tobe critical of Israel when they see it in their own interest to do so. Anyone whoexpects a positive eternal political link between the two countries is dreaming.I don’t think Germany is any kind of enemy. There are many facets of therelationship that are still excellent. Actually I believe there is a deep reservoir offriendship in the hearts of many Germans toward Israel and the Jews – includingthat of the Chancellor. However, I think the government leaders see their nationalinterests in the Middle East as being very different than those of Israel. LordPalmerston, the 18th Century English statesman is quoted as saying, “Nationshave no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” 325million Arabs vs. 6 million Jewish Israelis (plus one third of the world beingMuslim), a sense that they are right about Israel’s intransigence and theimportance of oil supplies for Europe obviously trump the increasingly distantconnection to Israel and the Holocaust.However, let’s not go off the deep end. Germany is critically important to Israel. Itis the engine that drives the European Union and both are critical to Jewishinterests. There is still a great store of positive feeling in Germany toward Israel.We should try to build on it while explaining the difficult position Israel finds itselfin and the support that it needs from Germany and the EU. It would be suicidalfor us to turn our backs and burn our bridges. 2
  3. 3. There are no easy fixes. However, increased dialogue focusing on Israel’svulnerable situation, its security needs, the efforts it has made and is now makingto affect a peace and the intransigence of the Palestinians should be stressed.American Jewry’s most important tool in this case is enlightened discussion. Weshould not give up on that. Germany is too important!I’d be interested in your comments. Click here to send me an e-mailIN THE REST OF THIS EDITIONTHE NETAYAHU – MERKEL PHONE CONVERSATION – It obviously wasn’t a“Hello, how are you?”A SERIOUS SPLIT – Members of the German – Israel Association get into theact.THE HAMBURG ELECTION – The Chancellor’s party suffers a shellacking.NAMED AFTER WHOM? – A few schools in Germany are names afterquestionable characters.”I WAS ONLY “HEILING” A CAB” – “Tell it to the Judge”THE GUTTENBERG PLAGIARISM SCANDAL – A fallen idol.THE NETAYAHU – MERKEL PHONE CONVERSATIONAs noted above, a very heated phone conversation between Prime MinisterNetanyahu and Chancellor Merkel recently took place. Haaretz reported, “Acrisis erupted between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and GermanChancellor Angela Merkel. During a telephone call this week, Merkel toldNetanyahu that he had disappointed her and had done nothing to advancepeace, sources told Haaretz.The prime minister tried to persuade Merkel that he was about to launch adiplomatic initiative, explaining he is making a speech in two weeks in which hewill outline a new peace plan.A senior German source said Netanyahu had called Merkel on Monday, followingthe American veto in the UN Security Council last Friday and Germanys vote infavor of the Palestinian proposal to condemn construction in West Banksettlements. 3
  4. 4. The conversation between the two leaders was extremely tense and includedmutual accusations and harsh statements, the official said.Netanyahu told Merkel he was disappointed by Germanys vote and by Merkelsrefusal to accept Israels requests before the vote, the source added. Merkel wasfurious."How dare you," she said, according to the official. "You are the one whodisappointed us. You havent made a single step to advance peace."The prime minister assured Merkel that he intended to launch a new peace planthat would be a continuation of his Bar-Ilan University speech, given in June2009, in which he agreed to establishing a Palestinian state, the official revealed."I intend to make a new speech about the peace process in two to three weeks,"Netanyahu told Merkel.The German chancellor and her advisers, who have been repeatedlydisappointed by Netanyahus inaccurate statements and failure to keeppromises, did not believe a word of what the prime minister told her, the sourcesaid.Merkel decided to check with Israeli and U.S. officials to determine whetherNetanyahu was serious this time around, or was merely trying to buy more timeand alleviate the international pressure on him.Haaretzs check with a number of Israeli sources indicates that the prime ministerand his advisers are desperately looking for a way to jumpstart the peaceprocess, in view of Israels growing international isolation. "Netanyahu hasrecently begun talking about a second Bar-Ilan speech," said a senior ForeignMinistry official close to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.A non-government source told Haaretz that Netanyahu and his advisers areworking on a speech that would outline an alternative to the interim agreementwith the Palestinians, similar to Liebermans plan. That initiative, which Haaretzreported on a month ago, consists of establishing a Palestinian state withintemporary borders on about 50 percent of the West Bank.The prime minister has been discussing the plan with Lieberman in recent weeksto understand it more thoroughly.All of the sources, however, added that it was unclear whether Netanyahuseriously intended to advance the peace process or whether he merely wants toappear to be doing so, as a means of shifting international pressure onto the PA.In the latter case, he is counting on the Palestinians objection to the Israeliinitiative. 4
  5. 5. A source in the prime ministers office confirmed that Netanyahu told Merkel ofhis intention to outline his plans in a speech, but not in the next few weeks. Thespeech would be made only in the context of resuming the peace talks with thePA, the source revealed.Merkel ended her visit in Israel three weeks ago deeply disappointed, a Germanofficial said. While here, she told Netanyahu the situation in the Middle East, inview of the revolution in Egypt, made it necessary for Israel to create a peaceinitiative.Who knows what really took place during the phone call or what the real level ofemotion was? However, the German government would not have had a “seniorGerman source” release the story if a) it had not happened or b) they had somegood reason for wanting it out in the public. On the last issue, it’s hard to knowthe reasons behind the “leak”. Pressure on Netanyahu? A statement that Islamiccountries could see so as to place Germany closer to them and not on Israel’sside in the Palestine matter? It doesn’t make any difference, the message isclear. Given Israel’s current policies, on them Israel can no longer count.A SERIOUS SPLITAccording to Spiegel-On-Line, “A dispute is brewing in the German-IsraeliAssociation (DIG) over a fundamental question: How openly should Germanpoliticians be allowed to criticize the policies of the Jewish state?Because of the Holocaust and Germanys responsibility for World War II,solidarity with the Jewish state founded in 1948 is a fundamental tenet ofGerman policy. Israels security is "part of my countrys raison dêtre," Merkelsaid in a speech to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in 2008.Since the establishment of the DIG in 1966, supporting the institution has beenseen as the right thing to do in German politics.The DIG receives financial support from the federal government and has closeties to the Israeli embassy. All parties with seats in the German parliament, theBundestag, except the Left Party, appoint a vice-president to the DIG.But the associations current behavior is anything but friendly. The disputeerupted after the Israeli army boarded a Turkish ship carrying aid supplies for thePalestinians last May. Nine people died in the incident, and the Israeli actionswere criticized worldwide. The Bundestag, the lower house of the Germanparliament, also adopted a unanimous resolution demanding that Israel lift itsblockade of the Gaza Strip, much to the irritation of the fundamentalists in theDIG. 5
  6. 6. At the associations annual meeting in the fall, (Jochen) Feilcke (former CDUBundestag member) and his allies demanded the ouster of the members ofparliament from their positions as DIG vice-presidents. When he failed, Feilckeresigned from the board. But he has no intention of giving up the fight. In a piecein the upcoming issue of the DIGs magazine, Feilcke argues that theorganization must support positions "independently of Bundestag resolutions ordecisions at party conventions."Marieluise Beck, a member of parliament for the Green Party and one of the DIGvice-presidents, complains about "party line enforcers" who shouldnt even be inthe DIG.Beck wrote an essay for the DIG to commemorate the 60th anniversary of theState of Israel. At the end, she wrote about the "occupation policy" in Palestineand said it was a "gift" that Israelis and Germans could discuss such issuestoday.Unhappily, this article fits in all too well with my opening statement.It is very sad and, frankly, dangerous that there is a split in the DIG and, worse,that it has become so public. In addition, it had divided some of the mostimportant government figures leading to, in my opinion, a lessening in Germansupport of Israel giving cover to all sorts of “soft” Israel critics who can now bemore openly critical about Israeli government policies.We already see the current government being critical of Israeli actions regardingthe Turkish boat incident followed up by supporting the Palestinian SecurityCouncil resolution on settlements. There is little doubt that Chancellor Merkel’ssupportive stands are eroding and that the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition will becomemore critical in the future.One does not have to be a political seer to see that changes in the Middle East,no matter what kind, will bring about stronger negative feelings and policiesabout Israel not only in that region but in Europe as well. I fear that the Germany,the bulwark of Israel defense, melding more and more into EU positions, willmore and more join the list of Israel critics. Sad!THE HAMBURG ELECTIONHamburg is not only a city; it is also a German State. They held their stateelection on February 20, the first of seven state elections this year. To quotePres. Obama, Chancellor Merkel’s CDU took a real “shellacking”.According to Reuters, “The rout, the partys worst post-war result, will cost theCDU three seats in the upper house, or Bundesrat. 6
  7. 7. The unexpectedly large scope of the defeat may cause turbulence for Merkeland her conservatives at the national level with six further regional electionscoming this year.The CDU fell to 20.8 percent from 42.6 percent in the last election in 2008,according to an ARD TV projection. The drop of 21.8 points was the steepestdecline ever between elections for the CDU and about five points worse thanpollsters had forecast.The opposition SPD won 49.8 percent of the vote, up from 34.1 percent in 2008,ARD public television said. The SPD was projected to win 64 seats in theHamburg state assembly, three more than needed for an absolute majority.It was the SPDs best result anywhere since 1994.The loss of three seats in the Bundesrat, which represents Germanys states, willmake it harder for Merkels CDU-Free Democrats coalition to pass federallegislation.All is not lost for the CDU, (The Local)” Local issues, however, featured heavilyin the Hamburg campaign and surveys show the SPDs lead over the CDU inHamburg is not replicated nationwide, where the conservatives remain the mostpopular party.The next State election is in Baden-Württemberg on March 27, where theopposition hopes to unseat the CDU after 58 years in power. This is a “biggie” asB-W has 10.7 million inhabitants. Should the CDU lose this one, their nationaloutlook would begin to look very dim.NAMED AFTER WHOM?My good friend Ruth Block in LA who in on top of issues in Germany long beforeI get to them, alerted me to the fact that there are a number of schools inGermany that are still named after Nazis. A quick look through the Internetproduced a Spiegel On-Line story by Jan Friedmann which noted, “A new studyshows that several German schools are still named after Nazis, includingproponents of racial hygiene, rocket scientists and high-ranking party officials.But local authorities are often reluctant to change the names.Among the roughly 2,000 schools in the state of Saxony alone, eight are namedafter Nazi party members, three after SA members, and one after an SSmember.Chemnitz historian Geralf Gemser. Hes compiled the biographies of all the menand women with Nazi connections who are namesakes for schools in Saxony. 7
  8. 8. When schools in Saxony and other parts of the former East Germany wererenamed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, prominent locals -- some of whom hadNazi connections -- set out to scrap the names of Communist luminaries whohad previously lent their names to schools, such as Socialist Unity Party GeneralSecretary Walter Ulbricht and GDR President Wilhelm Pieck. But the Nazinames arent just an eastern phenomenon. The West has its own dubiouslegacies, and Gemser estimates that the number of schools across Germanynamed after Nazi party members could be in the hundreds.Gemser admits that schools are seldom named after "perpetrators in the legalsense of the word" -- in other words, Nazis who committed war crimes -- but hesays schools should be careful. "With their names, schools occupy a place in ahistorical tradition, and Nazi supporters and functionaries should be excludedfrom that," he says. According to state regulations, school names should reflecteducational ideals. Choosing names, however, is left to local authorities -- withunpredictable results.The Gemser article has kicked off some criticism in Germany about how schoolsshould be named and for whom. It is another example of the underlying legacythe Nazi past continues to impact upon every day life even in 21st CenturyGermany.Read the entire Spiegel On-Line article by clicking here.,1518,605223,00.html”I WAS ONLY “HEILING” A CAB”Germany is tough when it comes to its anti-Nazi laws. Giving the “Heil Hitler”salute is a punishable crime.The Local reported, “(A) 30-year-old from Quebec was with a German friendwhen he posed in front of the parliamentary building and made the salute,according to daily Der Tagesspiegel on Sunday.The German friend, a 29-year-old from the state of Lower Saxony, photographedhim in the pose.Making the salute is illegal in Germany – a fact widely known in Germany butoften unknown abroad.An investigation will now be undertaken against the Canadian for using an illegalsymbolic gesture.Berlin police officers confiscated the camera chip, but the man was releasedafter posting bail. 8
  9. 9. I hope the Canadian doesn’t get a long prison sentence. However, the messageis clear – when greeting a friend in Germany who happens to be across thestreet, make sure you put your arm in a back and forth motion. Or, when trying toget a taxi driver’s attention you’d better try whistling.Seriously though, Germany has these anti-Nazi laws for a reason. I, for one,would not be the one to tell them to get rid of them. They’ll know when.THE GUTTENBERG PLAGIARISM SCANDALIn the last edition I mentioned in passing that a scandal was brewing around thefact that German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had obviouslyused plagiarized material in the writing of his doctoral thesis. Since that timeeven he admitted “making serious mistakes” and asked that he be stripped of isPh.D. title which the University of Bayreuth proceeded to do. There was a greatdeal of political pressure for him to resign and on March 1st he did so. A genuinefall from grace.Guttenberg, who was Germany’s most popular politician, tried to maintain hisDefense job and had received the backing of the CDU, CSU, the Chancellor andmany conservative politicians. However, the academic community began to raiseits voice and (DW-World) “In an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel,thousands of Ph.D. students and graduates have reportedly labeled theplagiarism scandal involving Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg as a"mockery" of the research profession and doctoral process."The place of the sciences in Germany and the credibility of Germany as acountry of ideas have suffered as a result of the trivial handling of the Guttenbergcase," the letter said, according to the Hamburg Abendblatt newspaper"Merkels treatment of the plagiarism affair suggests that obtaining a doctoratethrough fraudulent means is a harmless crime," it added.(Guttenberg) told a board meeting of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party, ofwhich he is a leading member, that the affair has not affected his work asGermanys defense minister.The debate has exposed cracks in the ruling coalition, with the head of the CSU,Horst Seehofer, coming down hard on comments on the matter made byChristian Democrat (CDU) Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag,the lower house of parliament.Lammert was quoted by the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Monday assaying the Guttenberg affair was a "nail in the coffin for trust in our democracy." 9
  10. 10. But Seehofer quickly shot down the remarks, labeling them immoderate. TheCSU is the CDUs Bavarian sister party.It had become a four star scandal too important to be papered over. So, MinisterGuttenberg is now gone but only time will tell whether his departure concludeshis political career forever. My guess is that it will not. Certainly his chances ofbecoming a Chancellor candidate any time soon have evaporated which is ablow to the CDU/CSU. However, the fact that he is of the nobility and that hiswife is the great, great granddaughter of Bismarck may, in the final analysisoutweigh all the negative factors. It would not surprise me if in a relatively briefperiod of time, after paying the proper public penance, he emerges once againwith forgiveness and becomes a force in German politics. His popularity remainsvery high.You can read the entire story by clicking here.,,6454809,00.htmlChancellor Merkel quickly filled the Defense position with Interior MinisterThomas de Maiziere. The Interior job was given to Hans-Peter Friedrich of theCSU. Both are experienced and close to Merkel. The Guttenberg scandalcertainly did not help the Chancellor except that it removed a very well knownand liked political figure who might have challenged Merkel somewhere down theline. The replacements do not have that kind of personality. Things in theCDU/CSU should quiet down but the star power of Guttenberg will surely bemissed in the upcoming state elections.Click here to read more.,1518,748691,00.html********************************************************************************************See you again in late MarchDuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contactedby clicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 10
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