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Du bow Digest Germany Edition June 12, 2011


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

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Du bow Digest Germany Edition June 12, 2011

  1. 1. GERMANY EDITIONJune 12, 2011Dear friends:Normally in the Germany Edition of DuBow Digest I limit myself to writing about theAmerican Jewish community and its interests – frequently the Middle East. To beginthis edition I am going to digress somewhat and start off with some of my ownreactions to my recent trip to Germany. What follows is reprinted from the AmericanEdition which mostly (but not exclusively) goes to my American Jewish readers.Incidentally, both editions are always posted at .If you disagree with me or have any comments, please drop me a line and I’ll be glad, with your permission, to publishwhatever it is you have to say. You can also write if you agree. I’m always glad tohear from you.So, on with the news…I’m back! Neither E.coli nor too much curry wurst got me.The trip to Germany with this year’s participants in the 31st annual AJC – KonradAdenauer Foundation Exchange Program was genuinely exciting. The group itselfwas great (smart, articulate and deeply interested in German – Jewish relations) andthe program put together for us (Munich and Berlin) by Ingrid Garwels of the KAFwas outstanding.We met with many people and heard a lot especially about Germany’s stance on theIsrael-Palestinian matter and the progress made by the Jews from the former SovietUnion who have settled in Germany. We all took a lot of notes. Rather than quoteeach and every source I will try to summarize the main points that were madehoping that what appears below is accurate. Middle EastFirst and foremost, and almost without exception, we were told that the Germangovernment and leadership stand firmly behind Israel’s security but, (and this is a bigbut) they feel that the current Israeli government is not doing enough to bring aboutpeace. Prime Minister Netanyahu is far from being a favorite (That’s a kindassessment). If, indeed, the German government’s commitment to Israel is firm, thatof the non-elite Germans (the citizenry) throughout the country is a lot less so. I didnot do any surveys but my guess is that support of Israel is down in the teenssomewhere – and Germany is probably more positive than the results in the otherEU countries. As one speaker put it, Israel’s popularity is down there with N. Koreaand Iran. 1
  2. 2. A legitimate question is “When will the German unhappiness with the settlementpolicy and the alleged Israeli intransigence regarding the peace process builds upsufficiently to begin to impact upon government policy?” Of course, no one knowsthe answer or what will actually happen between Israel and the Palestinians.Recently the French have suggested some sort of a peace conference in Franceand our own government has suggested that the Turks sponsor a conference inorder to hold off the next Gaza flotilla that is planned for later this month. However,Chancellor Merkel, Israel’s staunchest ally, is having political troubles of her own soshe, nor any other politician, will be able hold off a strong anti-Israel wave forever.The German policy already favors more accommodation on the part of Israel. Noquestion! A stronger stand against Israel policy is not far off if nothing in the MiddleEast changes.The battle to make Israel’s case in Germany is left to the Central Council of Jews inGermany (Zentralrat), the Israeli Embassy and AJC plus a few other smallindependent groups. I fear that what they have to say is seen as “special pleading”and, perhaps, is discounted and does not change attitudes. However, trying to add anote of objectivity to the public discourse is not an easy task though, of course, itmust and will continue.I have often asked myself what Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security reallymeans. Would they commit their military to fight on Israel’s behalf if a war broke outor would diplomatic and economic assistance be the limit of their willingness to cometo Israel’s aid? Munich based Prof. Dr. Michael Wolffsohn pointed out that Germanyabhors the use of power and force in international relations as they did in the 20thCentury. It is their “Never Again” while Israel believes that “Never Again” meansnever again being a victim.Michael (he’s an old friend) noted that Germany does not believe in the centrality ofterritory. They gave up much of their own country to Poland after World War II anddo not believe that Israel should put its focus on territorial boundaries. Of course, thematter of the religious meaning of the land means a great deal to both the Arabs andthe Israelis. This is not the case with Germany which is, by and large, secularized.Religion is not much of a factor in German political thinking these days.Interestingly (at least to me), I had occasion a talk with a very high German militaryperson (high rank). I asked him the question about whether the German armedforces would ever become involved in a Middle East shooting war if Israel’s securitywas in question. He responded by saying that if Israel requested military helpGermany would have no option than to come to Israel’s assistance. Of course, myrespondent was a military man and not a politician. I wonder whether the politicoswould be in the same boat. Jews in Germany 2
  3. 3. There was a difference in opinion among the Jewish speakers (and others) we metwith about the future of the Jewish community in Germany. In 1989 when the BerlinWall fell, there were 28,000 Jews (combined East and West) in Germany. With theimplosion of the Soviet Union, Jews from there flocked to Israel, the U. S. andGermany. Today there are 105,000 registered Jews and, perhaps, another 100,000to 150,000 who are unregistered. There are even (roughly) 20,000 Israelis who,mostly, live in Berlin.Some felt that there is no “intellectual leadership” in Jewish Germany and that thenumbers of Jews will slowly diminish. Much of what is today a substantial number inthe community will largely evaporate. On the other hand, some feel that, while therewill probably be a reduction in numbers, a “Russian leadership” will emerge from thesecond generation, change the nature of the community’s leadership and make for asmaller but more stable German Jewry.I tend to lean toward the latter assessment. It’s only been 20 years since the vastmajority of Russian Jews landed in Germany – almost all without knowledge of theGerman language and with no employment. Even in the U. S. in the 20th Century itwas the second and third generation that finally became full blown “Americans”. OurRussian immigrants (in the U.S.) are undergoing the same sort of process that theGerman Russians are experiencing. Yes, the death rate among Jews in Germanynow exceeds the birth rate and the immigration has largely stopped. That is astatistical concern but that does not mean the end of the community. Far from it!There are now over a hundred Jewish communities in Germany. Some are verysmall and they probably will not all survive. My guess is that there will be aconsolidation and in 20 or 30 years there will be 10 or 20 solid communities. Theoverall number may drop to even 100,000. So what? That’s better than the 28,000that there were in 1989. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the “Jews in Germany”whose children will one day be “German Jews”. To quote a former NY Mets baseballplayer, “You gotta believe”. Anti-SemitismDepending on who you talk to, the level of this virus is either up or down. Speakingto the people who monitor such things in Bavaria, we were told that there have beenvery few incidents. There are more in the former East Germany where there are afew members of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in state legislaturesbut none in the Bundestag. Islamic extremism is being watched carefully.I didn’t detect any great change in the situation over last year. The variousgovernment agencies that follow the extremists continue doing their job but it doesnot appear as if anti-Semitism has expanded. It’s certainly there but not affectinggovernment policy or the mass of population in any way. As long as that’s the caseI’m not too worried. 3
  4. 4. IN THIS EDITIONUNITY FISSURES – Splits: between the U.S. & Israel -- Palestinians & PalestiniansISRAEL’S SUPPORT IN THE U.S. CONGRESS – How come? It’s not the Jewishlobby.JEWS IN EASTERN EUROPE – Quite at home.NEW SQUARE – Life in an American ultra Orthodox Jewish village.DURBAN III – America opts out.THE SURVEY – Thanks to those who participated.UNITY FISSURESBecause I was in Germany I missed the dueling speeches made by PresidentObama and Prime Minister Netanyahu which seem to have succeeded not in movingthe Middle East peace process any closer to a solution but, rather, to moving the twoleaders further away from each other. Not a good situation.Pres. Obama used an unfortunate phrase. He said the two states should beestablished along the borders from 1967 - before Israel had occupied EastJerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza - with the scope for "mutually agreed swaps." Itwasn’t anything new but focusing on “the 1967 borders” which any military personwill tell you are indefensible raised the hackles of many of Israel’s supporters. P.M.Netanyahu focused on that in his speech before the U.S. Congress and somethingthat previously had not been a point of major contention – became one.This almost needless point of contention will probably hurt Pres. Obama’s 2012election campaign in terms of the Jewish vote and Jewish campaign funding. He isalready seen in some Jewish circles as being less friendly to Israel than previouspresidents. The 1967 borders phrase certainly didn’t help him.A more important break in unity has emerged in the last week. This one has to dowith the Palestinians. reported, “The Palestinian leadership is sharplydivided over the unilateral move to seek recognition from the United NationsGeneral Assembly in September. While Palestinian Authority President MahmoudAbbas is determined to go through with the move, a group of senior Palestinianshave said in closed conversations that they oppose it because they believe seekingrecognition from the United Nations could do more harm than good to their cause.Two senior European diplomats who have been holding talks with the Palestiniansover the past few weeks, as well as three Israeli officials - some of whom are not in 4
  5. 5. governmental roles and some of whom are in senior government positions - toldHaaretz that the Palestinians are debating the matter.Among those opposed to the United Nations declaration are senior officials,including PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, former Prime Minister Ahmed Qureiaand the former Palestinian UN envoy Nasser al-Qudwa. The latters opposition isparticularly significant because he is considered the most experienced Palestinianofficial when it comes to dealing with the United Nations. He is also considered likelyto run for PA president after Abbas retires."More and more senior Palestinians are beginning to reconsider the approach to theUnited Nations," said a senior European diplomat who met about a week ago withtwo Palestinian ministers.An Israeli official who met with senior Palestinians and who disagrees with the movesaid, "Some of them are beginning to understand that approaching the UnitedNations might hurt Israel, but it wont help the Palestinians."Opponents say a declaration of statehood in the United Nations could negativelyimpact relations with the United States, especially with the U.S. Congress. Sixmonths ago, Congress passed a resolution, albeit a declarative one only, statingthat it would oppose a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in the UnitedNations.Opponents also say that even if the resolution passes in the General Assembly,there would be no change on the ground, which could mean escalation to a newintifada. They also say that such a declaration could provide the Palestinians a statewithin provisional borders, taking issues like East Jerusalem and refugees off thetable.There is more to story which you can read by clicking here., the story comes from the Israeli press so there must be some question asto its accuracy. However, there seems to be, at least, a kernel of truth in it. The greatIsraeli diplomat Abba Eban once said, “The Arabs never miss a chance to miss achance”. The only real chance they have to establish any sort of a nation is to getback to the negotiating table and see what they can work out.In years gone by I always thought that a deal could not be consummated becausethe Palestinians would be giving up what they consider “Arab land” and that couldnever be acceptable to the extremists. However, with the Arab world in such turmoilthese days change in views might rule the day and allow the Palestinians to cutsome sort of deal. While in the past I have strongly believed that such a thing wasnot possible, times have changed and, perhaps, thinking can as well. Let’s hope! 5
  6. 6. ISRAEL’S SUPPORT IN THE U.S. CONGRESSI have made to point many times that support for Israel in the U.S. comes not onlymainly from American Jews but from a wide spectrum of American Christians – andnot only the conservative ones. During P.M. Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. hisaddress to the Congress was a rousing success. Why? It was certainly not an anti-Obama warm welcome as Democrats as well as Republicans joined in what,seemingly, was a love fest. How come Israel is so popular in the Congress?A reasonable answer comes from Walter Russell Mead, the James Clarke ChaceProfessor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Editor-at-Large ofThe American Interest magazine, and is recognized as one of the countrys leadingstudents of American foreign policy. Quoted in an article The Atlantic in an article byJeffrey Goldberg, Mead says, “Full-throated support for hardline Israeli positions is apopulist position in American politics -- like full-throated support for a fence on theMexican border. It is a foreign policy idea that makes elites queasy and that they tryto steer away from, but support for it is so strong in public opinion, and therefore inCongress, that presidents have to figure out how to work with this force rather thantaking it on directly.Lobby groups like AIPAC play a role, because most politicians do not want to bebranded "anti-Israel" by AIPAC. The reason is that getting called anti-Israel byAIPAC weakens your support among pro-Israel gentiles. But if gentiles dontsupport hardline Israeli positions (like releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard), allthe alleged mighty power of the Israel Lobby vanishes in a heartbeat.The Israel Lobby is all powerful when it has gentile public opinion behind it; it is amuch weaker creature when it doesnt. What Netanyahu demonstrated in Congresswas not that he has the backing of the Israel Lobby. It was something much moreimportant and, depending on your viewpoint, more alarming: he has the backing ofthe American people.I think that says it all. It’s not lobbying or Washington pressure that puts Israel insuch a favorable light. It is its democratic political system, Western oriented cultureand religious connection (across the Christian spectrum) that gives it itsCongressional strength. That’s a tough combination to beat.JEWS IN EASTERN EUROPERuth Ellen Gruber, a noted European Jewish journalist writing in JTA notes, “Ageneration after the fall of communism, Jews in Central Europe feel comfortablewhere they live but are concerned about anti-Semitism. 6
  7. 7. They like to visit Israel but dont want to move there. And they feel that they donthave to be religious to be a "good Jew."These are some of the findings in Identity a la Carte, a landmark study of post-Communist Jewish identity, affiliation and participation released Monday."The most important feature for the post-Communist generation is that Judaism is nolonger experienced as a stigma that needs to be concealed," said MarceloDimentstein, operations director for the American Jewish Joint DistributionCommittee’s International Center for Community Development, which commissionedthe study."On the contrary," he said, "this is a generation that is proud of being Jewish andhas positive feelings about it."Carried out in 2008-09 by a team of leading demographers, Identity a la Carte is themost wide-ranging and in-depth comparative examination of Jewish life andattitudes in Central Europe since the Iron Curtain came down more than 20 yearsago -- Central Europe’s version of the decennial U.S. National Jewish PopulationSurvey. In fact, one of the demographers on the Identity a la Carte team, BarryKosmin, directed the 1990 NJPS.The survey sample was made up of 1,270 Jews aged 18-60 living in urban centers,where most of the Jewish population in each country resides. Face-to-faceinterviews were carried out based on a common questionnaire for all the countries.Identical criteria and terminology were used in all five countries, where Jewishpopulations range from 5,000 in Bulgaria to 100,000 in Hungary.At least one-third of respondents in each country -- and more than half in Polandand Romania -- said they were more involved in Jewish life now than five years ago.Between a quarter and one-third of respondents said they wish to be more active inthe future."The strength of Jewish identity, when contrasted with the mixed backgrounds ofparticipants, is something that is quite surprising," Dimentstein said.In all five countries, however, religious observance was found to play a minor role inthe formation of Jewish identity, with cultural, educational, social and other "non-religious communal activities" ranking higher.This study did not include Germany and I’m not sure how much of it would apply toRussian Jews who have settled in the Federal Republic. However, it seems to methat a large number have found peace, security and a place where they can practicetheir religion without discrimination. The threat of anti-Semitism is always there to beconcerned about but the same thing, perhaps in a different way, is also present inthe U.S. The point, however, is that Jewish life in Eastern Europe is not dying as 7
  8. 8. many predicted it would. Perhaps it is on a smaller level but it is there and, at leastfor the time being, seems to have an aura of communal health surrounding it.You can read the entire Gruber article by clicking here. buttress the fact that the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe are reachinggenuine stability, JTA reported, “After months of turmoil, a communal umbrellaorganization for Europe’s Jewish communities was re-established in Paris.The European Council of Jewish Communities was re-established with 20 memberorganizations that approved articles of association at a board meeting last week.Rather than political matters, the council will focus on its original mandate, includingJewish education, welfare and heritage for member communities.Real estate lawyer Evan Lazar, a founder of the Czech Jewish communalorganization Bejt Praha, was elected as president at the meeting. Newly electedvice presidents are Marguerite Zauberman, who serves on the board of the Paris-based United Jewish Social Fund, and Alexander Oscar, president of the JewishCommunity of Sofia, Bulgaria.Igor Kolomoisky, who had been named president of the ECJC during its meetingslast fall in Berlin, had withdrawn from the position and started another organization,the London-based European Jewish Union, with fellow Ukrainian billionairephilanthropist Vadim Rabinovitch, a former ECJC vice president.Many ECJC members had resigned following the naming of Kolomoisky aspresident last fall, objecting to the manner in which he was chosen and fearing thathe would take the organization in a more political direction.Some members decided to "do our best to rebuild the organization," Oscar told JTAin a telephone interview.An interim board was elected during a meeting Jan. 30 in Milan; its membersdesigned a new structure for the organization. All bank accounts were closed andthe organization was reincorporated, Oscar said, and meetings with Kolomoisky andRabinovitch were positive."We are working toward rebuilding the image," Oscar said, "and we are perfectlyaware that it will take some time until the communities that were disappointed andresigned will believe in the ECJC again and rejoin the organization."It’s not clear how involved the German Jewish community is but I imagine they areor will be once this newly re-constituted organization gets going. It’s also not unusual 8
  9. 9. that previously there was bickering in the organization which brought aboutresignations. As I have pointed out many times previously, Jews value theirdemocratic right to voice their opinions and even to battle out important matters witheach other. However, when it comes down important values, “Jewish education,welfare and heritage” always win the day.NEW SQUAREI live in a New York suburb about 25 miles north of New York City. My village ofSouth Nyack is part of a larger government unit called Rockland County. Because ofits relative closeness to New York City and because there has been open land onwhich to build, many Orthodox Jews have move to Rockland County and establishedcommunities, which, of course, must be open to all, but have in effect becomealmost totally Orthodox .In some of the villages since almost all of these OrthodoxJews are followers of a certain rabbi, the residents are of the same sect. They arevery insular and self-contained and do not welcome even those of other sects totheir village. Of course, they must adhere to all civil and criminal laws even thoughthey seem very closed to the world around them. Their children attend religiousrather than public schools and the word of the chief rabbi (rebbe) is taken almost aslaw. Such a community is New Square. It is populated by members of the SkverHasidim. Click here for more on the Skver sect., one of the Skver followers, unhappy with the tight rule of Rebbe DavidTwersky decided to worship in a place other than the New Square Synagogue inspite of a ruling against such practice by the Rebbe. According to him his childrenwere kicked out of the school, he was threatened and eventually had a fight with ayoung Skver who was about to fire bomb his house. Both were burned badly and thefire bomb perpetrator was arrested. Eventually the “outcast” moved to anothercommunity even the Skvers made it difficult for him to sell his house.A rather negative story about the life in New Square appeared in The Forward. Itgives one a intimate, and perhaps, a distorted view of life in New Square. However,I’m sure there is some truth to it. You can read it by clicking here.’m including this story not because the Skvers are a significant in American Jewry(They’re not) but because they are indeed part of it and you should have a wellrounded view of our makeup. However, I expect that they and other Orthodoxgroups will grow in numbers as they marry early and have many children.While they are inward looking they are not so oblivious to their surroundings thatthey do not vote. In fact, they tend to follow the lead of the Rebbe and vote as a blocfocusing mainly on issues that affect them directly such as educational funding, 9
  10. 10. health care and land use. In Rockland County they are an important political factor.Local politicians are very aware of them and their needs.DURBAN IIIWhat is Durban III?It is a conference to be held at the UN in New York on Sept. 21st to mark the 10-yearanniversary of the U.N.s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa,during which the delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in protestas the tenor turned increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.JTA recently reported “The United States will not participate in the United Nations-sponsored Durban III conference this September, the State Department said.In a letter to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joseph Macmanus, acting assistantsecretary of state for legislative affairs, confirmed that the United States would notattend the conference, which in its previous iterations has been a forum for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric. JTA obtained a copy of the letter.In November, the United States voted against a U.N. resolution to establish theconference. The following month, Gillibrand led a coalition of 18 senators in signinga letter to the American ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, urging the U.S. not toparticipate in the conference, scheduled for Sept. 21 in New York.Gillibrand applauded the decision in a statement Wednesday."I commend the Obama Administration decision to withdraw from this event,"Gillibrand said. "We all witnessed how extreme anti-Semitic and anti-Americanvoices took over Durban I and Durban II, and we should expect the same thing tohappen with Durban III."The U.S. and Israel, along with seven other countries, boycotted Durban II in 2009,during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a keynote speechassailing Zionism.In November, Canada was the first country to announce it would not participate inDurban III. Israel announced the following month that it would boycott theconferencePure and simple Durban III is another of the growing attempts to delegitimize Israelin as many ways and in as many venues as possible. Even if one is not in synch withIsrael’s policies any attempt to “make it go away” is a fool’s errand and, obviously, asa political ploy is not going to work. There are 6 million Jews living in Israel. Will theyevaporate or move elsewhere. Not likely! What conferences such as Durban III do 10
  11. 11. succeed in doing is to give what is seen as a legitimate voice to virulent anti-Semitesand those hiding behind them. They get a seeming neutral opportunity to vent andspew the sort of stuff that respectable people should be ashamed to be connectedwith. .Is that all? Not really! What it has succeeds in doing is putting up Israel as a “strawman” so that the real inequities that many Arab leaders have foisted upon their owncitizens do not become part of public discourse. This sort of political ploy is nothingnew. Blame Israel and the citizenry will not focus on what their leaders are directlydoing to them.I hope Germany and the other EU countries will stay away from Durban III. Iunderstand politics, oil and large populations versus small ones. However, there is aself-respect issue here. I hope my friends in the Federal Republic understand that.THE SURVEYMany thanks to all of you who took the time to answer the brief survey I sent to you.The responses were very helpful.A vast majority (roughly 95%) said that I should keep the title, DuBow Digest. I bowto your superior knowledge on the subject of “branding”.A sizeable minority, 30% felt that receiving it twice a month was too much and that itshould be monthly. A few suggested a middle course – namely once every threeweeks. No one suggested that I stop.I am going to take that criticism to heart and feel that I can be more flexible in thefuture when thinking about when an edition should be e-mailed. I will not becompulsive about twice a month and rely more on how much there is to report.However, much of what is reported is time sensitive. I hate to wait too long and losethe timeliness of a subject.So, in the future you will receive DD on a slightly less frequent basis. I don’t thinkwe’ll lose much by doing it that way.Again, my thanks for your cooperation. I deeply appreciate it.******************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted at 11
  12. 12. www.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12