Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism. A Change of Tone in Germany.
Israel-German relations has suffered over recent years by the utterances of the former Foreign Minister of Germany, Sigmar Gabriel. This Socialist politician constantly bated the Jewish State with references to apartheid.
As an example, while attending a meeting of Muslim migrants in December 2017, supposedly to counter the growing scourge of antisemitism in Germany which included the burning of Israeli flags by Muslims following the United States decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, Gabriel told them of his visit to Hebron several years before which, he said, reminded him of “what was seen during apartheid.”
He did not say that in Hebron today it is the Jews are a heavily guarded minority and, in that town, those suffering from apartheid are the Jews who desire to live there because of their devotion to the profound Jewish heritage sites such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial place of the biblical Abraham.
When the forefather of the Jewish people bought a plot of land on which to bury his wife, Sarah, it was the first mention of Jewish legal possession of the land, a fact that is ignored by UNESCO, much of the Muslim world, and by the former German minister.
The Tomb itself was built by Herod, a Jewish king, in homage to the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. He built it centuries before Mohammad established the conquering faith of Islam. Also buried there are Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah as inscribed in the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, written centuries before the Koran.
Gabriel, obsessed with the apartheid motif with which people like him attempt to cast a shadow of shame against Israel, called the Jewish state an “apartheid regime” back in 2012 and, with German arrogance, he did it during a visit to the Jewish state. He was not short of supporters for making such a statement on Israeli soil. Hamas praised him on its Twitter feed.
But, with the new elections in Germany, the tone is changing with the promotion of Heiko Maas to the position of German Foreign Minister. Although from the same party as the offensive Gabriel, he recently departed from his predecessor’s anti-Israel rhetoric, by saying that he rejects labelling Israel as an “apartheid regime.” The German Foreign Ministry confirmed that “Foreign Minister Maas has never made such a statement and will also never do so in the future.” This is warmly welcomed by any clear thinking person. Past statements from important politicians such as Gabriel contributed nothing to the dialogue, or to peace. On the contrary, they added venom to the current poisonous atmosphere. This is a vital lesson that should be learned by other European foreign ministers.
As a timely and poignant reminder to these European politicians, Maas said that “I did not go into politics out of respect for Willy Brandt, the late Social democrat chancellor, or the peace movement. I went into politics because of Auschwitz.”
Experts on antisemitism view the comparison of Israel with the former apartheid regime in South Africa as a contemporary form of antisemitism.
At the recent 6th Forum on Global Antisemitism, I was fortunate in sharing a lunch table with Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who said of Sigmar Gabriel, “by falsely claiming that Israel is an ‘apartheid state,’ he denies its democratic basis, which is a central tenant of Israeli statehood since its establishment, and he legitimizes unjust attacks on the Jewish state for sins committed on a regular basis by all its neighbors but not by Israel.”
The case of Hebron, where Arabs massacred Jews in the late 20s, and continue to kill them today, is an example of the hypocrisy of the apartheid falsehood.
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of the book ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS, and Antisemitism.’