Trade-union leaders in Israel and the US urged the federal German teachers’ labor organization this week to take action, including legal measures, against educators in the city of Oldenburg for their call to impose a full boycott on the Jewish state.
“The long-lasting connections and relationship between ITU [Israel Teachers Union] and the GEW [Education and Science Workers’ Union] are based on both genuine support and deep friendship,” ITU general secretary Joseph Wasserman told The Jerusalem Post. “ITU trusts GEW’s leadership to take the appropriate, legal measures against anyone endorsing antisemitism or BDS against Israel. These acts are in deep contradiction with the basic perception and beliefs of the GEW in particular and the German state today in general.”
A group of Oldenburg teachers, including members from the GEW leadership in Lower Saxony, recently launched a boycott campaign against Israel. The union published a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions article by public-school teacher Christoph Glanz in the September issue of their group’s magazine.
“We know that the GEW and the ITU have always had and continue to have a deep and positive relationship,” wrote Stuart Appelbaum, the US president of the Jewish Labor Committee. “The statements of the one GEW local in Oldenburg is an aberration, and we are confident that the GEW will take necessary and appropriate steps to counter anyone making antisemitic statements or endorsing BDS.”
The Jewish Labor Committee was founded in 1934 by leaders of major US unions in response to the rise of Nazism in Europe.
The head of the GEW’s national union, Marlis Tepe, did not respond to media queries.
The local GEW doubled down on its opposition to Israel. Heinz Bührmann, chairman of the local, scrubbed the union’s website of an anti-BDS statement and replaced it with an article slamming Israel titled “Palestinian schools under occupation.” The article was posted twice, each time as one of the lead articles on the site.
The local union’s treasurer Sabine Nier defended the boycott in a letter to the editor of the regional NWZ newspaper. Nier declined to respond to press queries.
The first boycott call against Jews by a mass German organization since the Holocaust has sparked an intense public row.
After the Hitler-era National Socialist Teachers League was disbanded, the GEW was formed as its successor. The Nazi teachers’ union paper Reich Journal of the German Educators stressed the necessity of the destruction of the “Jewish race” in Europe.
Critics accuse Glanz of promoting antisemitism, encouraging Palestinian violence against Israelis, playing down the Holocaust, and seeking the elimination of Israel.
Glanz said it would not be absurd to eradicate the Jewish state and relocate it to Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. On his Facebook page, Glanz posted a picture of himself standing next to a mural that depicts a Palestinian wearing a keffiyeh aiming a slingshot.
He wrote above the photograph, “feeling definitely not neutral.”
Glanz refused to respond to queries from the Post.
Charlotte Knobloch, head of Munich’s Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, slammed Glanz and the BDS movement in a speech titled “Antisemitism is again respectable” that she gave on Monday at a B’nai B’rith event in Frankfurt held in her honor.
“The debate in Oldenburg over the BDS activist and teacher Christoph Glanz is only one example that stands for an exemplary ludicrous and devastating development,” she said, adding that there is “fertile soil” for BDS in Germany.
“Most of the critics of Israel are not interested in human rights in other places,” said Knobloch.
“They are indifferent to Syria, Somalia, Iran, Saudi Arabia.”
In response to a pro-BDS talk by Glanz in Munich last year, Knobloch told the Post at the time: “The BDS campaign disguises the socially unacceptable ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’ as a modernized form of Nazi jargon by demanding ‘Don’t buy from the Jewish State.’” In Monday’s speech, she said that “antisemites must be demasked and ostracized” in connection with hatred of Israel.