For some two millennia, a strain of anti-Jewish animus within Christendom — most certainly not representative of all Christians, but toxic and persistent nonetheless — has resulted in the unspeakable dehumanization and persecution of Jews.
In our era, following the cataclysm of the Holocaust — the most systematic and documented genocide in history — many churches have engaged in noble, painful reflection and repudiated this evil that became known as anti-Semitism.
Even over the course of long periods characterized by widespread intolerance, incitement and barbarism, there always existed brave, compassionate voices who, sometimes at great risk to their own wellbeing, stood in defense of the shared humanity and equality of Jews.
Heartrendingly, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II — current Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — is not one of those heroes.
Rather, he carries forth a tradition of leaders fueling anti-Semitism, wittingly or not, in the guise of lofty ideals. No self-respecting anti-Semite ever did otherwise — and, like other bigots, very few actually acknowledge their bigotry.
Although I am a member of a community whose suffering is exceedingly well-known, I am among those who — in part hemmed in by some haters’ preemption of condemnation with a straw-man claim that Jews tarnish all “criticism” as anti-Semitism — exercise real caution in wielding that charge.
However, as a person affected by Reverend Nelson’s weaponizing of his influence as a faith leader, I do not hesitate to call out his abuse for the atrocious dereliction of duty that it is. I can only hope the Stated Clerk won’t belittle my highlighting of his actions in a way that he never would a member of another long-denigrated religious or ethnic minority.
We stand at a moment when even storied figures have been held to account for their misdeeds, when the privileged are forced to grapple with misuse of their privilege, and when hard truths are spoken to those in power. In this case, the power is wielded by the leader of a denomination that, its own recently diminished numbers aside, remains a pillar of the world’s dominant religious group and is the one to have claimed more presidents of the United States than any other except the Episcopal Church. And that religious leader has conveniently taken aim at a familiar target: the Jews, and the small Jewish state, Israel.
In a statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — that day dedicated to combating prejudice, honoring that Rev. Dr. King who epitomized a heroictradition of speaking out also against peers demonizing and delegitimizing the Jews and the Jewish state — Reverend Nelson issued what could have been a message stirring us to better empathize with all our fellow people created in the Divine image.
Instead, this leader of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) not only prolonged his denomination’s modern record of blatantly singling out for dismay only “the occupation in Palestine/Israel” — a one-of-a-kind formulation casting aspersions on the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence — but outrageously branded that condition as “21st century slavery.”
To be clear: no actual situations of contemporary slavery or other, equally monstrous atrocities are mentioned by Reverend Nelson. And neither are the existential threats, perennial discrimination and acute violence to which Israelis of all backgrounds have been endlessly subjected, with tragic resultant consequences for the dignity and welfare of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
No, in the moral imagination of Reverend Nelson, there isn’t room for nuance, complexity and shared solidarity, praise or reproach. There is no Iranian theocracy, no Palestinian extremism or chauvinism, no Assad regime, no Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah. Just the presence of the Jew, standing in the way of peace.
No other human’s presence would ever be deemed by Reverend Nelson illegal or immoral.
Shamelessly, in a statement on “unity of spirit,” the world’s only Jewish state — the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy — is the sole foreign country deserving of incendiary opprobrium and mention altogether.
Intolerably, in a statement invoking the Golden Rule — not just promulgated in Luke, as he cited, but in the earlier, Hebrew Leviticus, surely formative to Jesus as a Jew in the Jewish homeland that the Stated Clerk simplistically terms occupied — Reverend Nelson finds nothing positive to say about the growing number of Arabs and Israelis who actually are taking steps toward coexistence, cooperation, mutual respect and even friendship.
And obscenely, the week before International Holocaust Remembrance Day — right after another traumatic attack on a synagogue, in Texas, as Jews even in America remain by far the leading target of faith-based hate crimes — Reverend Nelson had the cruel temerity to actually call on American Jews to do more against the Israeli policies he opposes.
Needless to say, the Stated Clerk would never apportion responsibility to the American Muslim community for the British Islamist hostage-taker in Texas, or to any community for others linked to it by association. Yet Reverend Nelson’s appeal — cynically and cryptically mentioning “the history of Jewish humble beginnings and persecution,” as if no ongoingpersecution continues today — precisely foments the type of more general anti-Jewish hostility that wild anti-Israeli hostility repeatedly yields.
But if only the problem were just Reverend Nelson, as dispiriting as that would be. Rather, the Stated Clerk’s betrayal of justice — by directing nothing but indifference and self-righteous double standards at Israel’s Jews — is all too common.
Because it’s all too easy to construct a villain among the comparably “humble,” the politically outnumbered and those actually encumbered by democratic norms.
Because it’s easier to deplore others’ anti-Semitism — in past “history” — than to see it in the present, especially in the mirror.
And because the roots of the world’s oldest hatreds continue to run devastatingly deep.
Read the op-ed in Medium.
David J. Michaels is Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs at B'nai B'rith International. He previously trained at the Foreign Ministry of Germany, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Embassy of Israel in Washington, Ha’aretz and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. A Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar, and winner of the Young Professional Award of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America, he holds degrees from Yale and Yeshiva University. Click here to view more of his content.
CEO Op-ed in The Portuguese News: Working Together to Face Challenges to the Portuguese and European Jewish Communities
Over 40 years ago, on a visit to Israel, I learned from my cousin Chaya that our forebears may have originated in Portugal.
My mother was born in Lithuania, as was Chaya, her first cousin. They came from a small shtetl not far from Vilna, and frankly, most of our relatives had probably not given too much thought as to where our family might have originated. After all, the first Jews are believed to have arrived in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the late 14th century. That was pretty far back in time.
Many in my mother’s family came to America decades before the Holocaust. Chaya made her way to pre-state Israel in 1934. We know of only one relative who survived the Shoah, who later made his way to Israel after the war. All of our other family in Lithuania was killed.
I was excited to hear that Chaya had done some research at one of Israel’s universities and was convinced that our origins were in Portugal. Her maiden name, and my mother’s, was “Berzak.” Chaya concluded that a Portuguese rabbi, Elkanah Bar Zera Kodesh, had been among those who left Portugal in the expulsion of the Jews at the end of the 15th century. The acronym for the rabbi’s name became “Berzak.” It is likely he or his descendants made their way to Hamburg, which was a jumping off point for many who arrived in Lithuania in the late Middle Ages.
I tell you all of this because I take a special pride both in the rich history of the Jews in Portugal, and today, in the rebirth of the Portuguese Jewish community. In Porto, which I had the opportunity to visit some months ago, the beautifully maintained Kedoorie Synagogue, the establishment of two excellent museums, a kosher restaurant and an active local community are all to be admired at a time when Jewish communities everywhere are debating the best way to ensure Jewish continuity and communal life in the still-new century.
But that is not the only challenge Portuguese, and by extension European Jewry, is facing. We have seen, over the past two decades, a tremendous spike in anti-Semitism—some of it emanating from the populist right or ultra-nationalist quarters, and some from the left and Islamic extremists. This perfect storm of Jew hatred has spread throughout Europe at viral speed, energized by social media and its “influencers.”
That anti-Semitism is present in Europe comes as no surprise to anyone. That it remains ensconced in country after country within the living memory of those who were victims of and witnessed Hitler’s barbarity, and with it the worst crimes ever perpetrated on the Jewish people, is reprehensible.
B’nai B’rith, founded in the United States in 1843, but which has been present on the European continent since the last quarter of the 19th century, knows of this hatred firsthand. We confronted and battled anti-Semitism wherever it manifested itself here in the United States and in those places where we established a presence abroad.
In 1933, on the eve of Hitler’s coming to power, our organization had more than 100 branches in Germany alone, and in many other countries throughout the continent. At the war’s end, and as a result of the Holocaust, we had to re-build on the ashes of the devastation that befell European Jewry in Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, former Yugoslavia and so many other places.
Anti-Semitism is the world’s oldest, most persistent and resistant form of hatred. It sprouts and flourishes where there are substantial Jewish populations—or no Jewish communities at all. It thrives on lies and distortions, on envy and a perverse taste for inflicting harm—mental and physical. And it often operates with the approbation of public figures and some in the media, who use it for political gain or to attract new followers, readers or viewers.
B’nai B’rith itself has been on the receiving end of this malicious, hateful behavior. In days past, it might be like that which used to appear in the Soviet press, when we were called “the first violin in the Zionist orchestra.” Today, you’ll see it on websites, even those which claim to be legitimate press outlets. Some continue to ply old, shopworn and outrageous tropes about us, and Jews generally, suggesting “secretive” powers of manipulation and control over the media, banks and everyone else.
Clearly, when it comes to anti-Semitism in Europe, the more things change, the more they stay in the same.
What can we do about all of this? Years ago, B’nai B’rith opened an EU Affairs office in Brussels, to create awareness of anti-Semitism on the continent at the European Commission, the European Parliament and other bodies (including the Council of Europe in Strasbourg). We work closely with the very able Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism and Fostering Jewish Life, and with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions (ODIHR) to create new approaches to confronting Jew hatred Europe-wide.
In recent years, in several countries in Europe, there has been an assault--in the name of animal rights-- on the right of Jews to engage in the practice of shechita, or kosher slaughter, abrogating our right to freely exercise our religion. Bans and restrictions have been imposed in a number of countries in Europe, most recently in the Belgian regions of Wallonia and Flanders, and in Greece. Other initiatives have been afoot to ban circumcision, or brit milah. B’nai B’rith has been in the forefront of those speaking out loudly against attempts to roll back freedom of religion in a democratic Europe.
B’nai B’rith was among the earliest advocates for a standard working definition of anti-Semitism that could be used to clearly identify its manifestations, and not allow political leaders, the media, judges and others to either deny it or to nuance it away. That definition was adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a consortium of 35 countries committed to Holocaust research and remembrance. Portugal is a member of IHRA and in 2019 adopted the working definition. A growing number of countries, provinces, municipalities, universities, sports federations and others are joining the list of those who endorse it.
Additionally, we have pressed various governments in Europe to facilitate Holocaust-era restitution to survivors and their families, and promoted Holocaust remembrance and education initiatives.
With all of this, so much more remains to be done. Much contemporary anti-Semitism emanates from various bodies of the United Nations, especially, but not only at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Israel is singled out continuously in resolution after resolution for carrying out the worst possible human rights violations. The lopsided votes against Israel often include many countries—some of them in Europe—who should know better. They often “go along to get along,” signing on to the annual festival of calumnies against the Jewish State. Recently, this activity has spilled over to agencies like the World Health Organization.
Which brings me back to Portugal. Our history there came to such an abrupt stop at the end of the 15th century. The thought has often crossed my mind, what if there had been no disputations, no expulsion, no Inquisition, no auto da fès and no burnings at the stake? Unfortunately, “what if’s” have no answers, just speculation. What we can imagine, with some certainty, is that the community would be one of the world’s largest and its contributions to Portuguese and Jewish life immense.
For the Jewish people, numbers don’t really speak to what we have contributed to civilization writ large, and to European culture, science, education and commerce over the centuries. That continues today. What we lack in size, we have been able to compensate by our solidarity, based on shared history, values, traditions, a common ancient—and modern—language and so many other intangibles that make us a justifiably proud and creative people.
B’nai B’rith is proud to be a partner in the renaissance of Jewish life in Portugal and an ally in the fight against anti-Semitism, one of the seminal challenges of the day. We’ll work together to find friends and allies who can join us in confronting it. We’ll continue to speak out in those fora in Europe to advance the message that anti-Semitism, in the 21st century, is totally unacceptable anywhere, anyhow. And we’ll be there together with you in support of Israel, our ancient homeland.
As we begin the new calendar year, let’s all pray that the year ahead is one of new accomplishments for your community, and for peace and security for Israel, and for each of us, wherever we call home—always in good health.
Read the op-ed in The Portuguese News.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
In 2009, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was ousted by the army. It was an unexpected coup in Central America. Soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Tegucigalpa, early in the morning, disarming the presidential guard, waking Zelaya and putting him on a plane to Costa Rica. Zelaya was,and is, a leftist aligned then with then-President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and he angrily denounced the coup as illegal. But he was ousted, taken to Costa Rica and, despite strong speeches of condemnation from the Obama Administration, the Organization of American States (OAS), Venezuela and Cuba, the coup remained and Honduras had elections sometime later.
Twelve years after, Zelaya´s wife, Xiomara Castro, won the elections in November 2021 and will become the first woman to be president in Honduras in January 2022. She will become the first female president in a deeply conservative nation and its first leader to be democratically elected on a socialist platform. She has not been blatantly open in her support to Nicolás Maduro or Cuba, but her campaign was against “the corruption of the right.” She told supporters, after she was proclaimed as the winner of the elections, that she would immediately begin talks with political allies and opponents alike to form a government of national unity, but at the same time she called the current government “corrupt and violent.”
Who is the current president that will leave office in January? Juan Orlando Hernández, a devote evangelical and a very close friend of Israel. “Mr. President, you are a true friend of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Juan Orlando Hernández shortly before the inauguration ceremony for Honduras’s new embassy in Jerusalem in June 2021. “The Jewish people have a long memory, and you will be recorded in the pages of history as having done a brave and justified deed for the State of Israel.”
During his eight years as president, Hernández has made Honduras—which recognized the State of Palestine less than three years before he took office—into one of Israel’s most reliable allies. Hernández has regularly supported Israel at the U.N. and other international bodies.
Under Hernández, Honduras regularly voted against or abstained on anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. and other international bodies.
Honduras was one of only nine nations—including the U.S., Israel, and Guatemala—to vote against the 2017 U.N. General Assembly resolution that rejected America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was also one of the 37 countries that boycotted the Durban IV conference in September. In May, the U.N. World Health Organization adopted a resolution focusing on Israel alone as a health rights violator. Honduras was one of 14 countries to vote against the measure. The most visible manifestation of that support was the embassy move in June.
In December 2018, a delegation of senior officials from Honduras visited Israel to explore the possibility of moving the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem. The embassy move was seen as especially problematic because Honduras has the second-largest Palestinian population in Latin America. The first move was to open diplomatic offices in both capitals. Hernández traveled to Israel in August 2019 to open Honduras’s office in Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In January 2020, Honduras officially declared Lebanon’s Hezbollah a terrorist organization. That August, Israel opened a temporary representative office in the Honduran capital. The final decision, which included Israel reopening its embassy in Tegucigalpa, was announced in September 2020 but because of the COVID-19 restrictions, Hernández could not travel to open the embassy until June 2021. Hernández was the first foreign leader that Bennett met in person. The two discussed cooperation in milk production, agriculture and security. Israel finally reopened its embassy in Tegucigalpa in November at an event attended by Hernández, Israeli Strategic Planning Minister Eli Avidar and Israel’s Ambassador to Honduras Eldad Golan.
The big question now is how Xiomara Castro will manage the relationship with Israel and whether or not she will move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. The First Vice President-elect Salvador Nasrallah has issued anti-Semitic statements, saying in 2020 that “Hernández’s boss is the government of Israel.” The year before, he said in a debate that the Jews control the world’s money. His wife apologized publicly in 2017 after calling Hitler “a great leader.” Castro’s husband, Manuel Zelaya, claimed that Israeli mercenaries were torturing him with high-frequency radiation after his ouster in 2009. Zelaya’s close friend, journalist David Romero Ellner, said then it would have been “fair and valid to let Hitler finish his historic vision” of eliminating the world’s Jews.
Hernández believes there will not be a relocation of the Israeli Embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. He believes in the Christian Evangelical support to Israel in Honduras and in the strength of the Congress. So far, Castro has vaguely spoken of her desire to maintain close ties with Israel and the United States. One sign was a meeting between Castro’s representatives and Eldad Golan, the Israeli ambassador. On one hand, it is possible to think that, given the economic and social challenges Castro will face when she assumes the presidency in late January 2022, she may believe it a positive to continue cooperation with Israel. On the other hand, the experience in Latin America is that when radical changes in the presidencies take place, policies vis-a-vis Israel change too. It could be the location of the embassy or the U.N. record voting, but as a leftist in this current Latin America, it will be unlikely that she will not make some change vis-a-vis Israel.
Leftist Gabriel Boric, 36, who won the presidential elections in Chile some weeks ago and will take office in March will also be different vis-a-vis Israel than previous government. Even though Chile has not had a record of supporting Israel in the international agencies, neither with other leftist presidents (Michelle Bachelet) nor center-right ones (Sebastian Pinera), the general bilateral relations between Chile and Israel have been equitable and sometimes friendly. Will Boric follow those paths? He said in the campaign and before that Israel is a “genocidal state,” and he has publicly agreed with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). We will see if, as president, he will keep that language but either way, it is very likely that there will be changes in his international policies, and not only those related to Israel.
As political instability in Latin America is a trademark, we witness changes all the time. This year there will be elections in Brazil and Colombia. The left is favorite in the polls to win in Brazil changes as well as in Colombia, the strongest ally of Israel in the region in the last decades.
Instability will remain, Israel and the Jewish communities will have to play with great skill in the diplomatic field and add more question marks about the rise of anti-Semitism and the need to face it once several political changes in various countries take place.
CEO & Director of U.N. Affairs Op-ed in InsideSources: End U.N. Revisionism on Jewish Roots in Jerusalem
The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams like the air over heavily industrial cities.
It’s hard to breathe.
Those words, by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, testify to the rich and fraught history of Jerusalem. Sacred and singular, a symbol as much as a place, it has been coveted, conquered, and reconquered. Its layers of history can quite literally be excavated like an archaeological dig.
One thread, however, traces to practically the origin of the ancient city: Its centrality to the Jewish people. Until recently, this self-evident truth would have prompted no contention. In early Jewish texts, Jerusalem is “the light of the world,” the heart of Jews’ collective consciousness. While Christians and Muslims have cherished Jerusalem, many would make Rome or Mecca a focal point of their global faiths. For Jews, there has only been Jerusalem.
It is toward there that, over the course of their exile, Jews have directed their prayers. It is Jerusalem whose memory has been invoked in Jewish milestone events, whether marriage or bereavement. Jewish holidays commemorate yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Even in the diaspora, sizable Jewish communities were identified with the city: Amsterdam was once called “Jerusalem of the West,” Vilnius was “Jerusalem of the North” and Thessaloniki was “Jerusalem of the Balkans.”
Jerusalem was established by King David as his capital 3,000 years ago. And it is the only city to have been the State of Israel’s seat of government. Few nations have roots as deep.
On Dec. 1, 2021, however, the United Nations again repeated a ritual that represents a modern spin on efforts to deny the roots, rights, and very legitimacy of the Jewish people in their sole ancestral homeland.
The U.N. General Assembly passed some 15 resolutions attacking Israel in December – more than those targeting all other 192 members states. That bombardment reflects not the actual record of Israel – the only pluralistic democracy in the Middle East – but rather the combined political weight of its adversaries.
Among the most odious motions is the one adopted on Jerusalem.
The resolution condemns Israel, the country that has not just championed religious freedom more than any other in the region, but maintained Islamic administration of the Temple Mount – the single holiest place in Judaism – and restricted Jews’ own ability to pray there.
If the condemnation weren’t unjust enough, the text again erases Jewish history by referring to the Temple Mount exclusively by its later Arabic designation, Haram al-Sharif. Other iterations have belittled Jews’ connection to the epicenter of their civilization by consigning the site’s long-standard name to parentheses.
In contrast with Israel – where Arabic signage is ubiquitous, Christian and other minorities have grown continually, and hijabs mix with skullcaps in universities, hospitals, and parliament – Palestinian leaders have exported an endemic denial of Jewish history by referring at the U.N. only to a Muslim and Christian heritage in Jerusalem.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat famously denied the very existence in Jerusalem of the Jewish temples. His successor, Mahmoud Abbas, said of the mosque on the Temple Mount and of Jews: “Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet.”
But classical Islam, so closely connected with Judaism, never denied Jews’ place in the region – and Christian history is utterly inseparable from Jewish history in the holy city. It is Christian scripture that affirms that Jesus, a Jew, walked the Temple Mount even before the existence of the now-distinct religions.
The temple’s menorah is commemorated not only in Jewish homes each Hanukkah but on the Arch of Titus in Rome – which celebrates Jerusalem’s destruction and despoiling in the year 70.
Over recent years, more and more countries have said they will no longer tolerate denial of Jewish and Christian ties to holy places. But too much vacillation remains. Although Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands opposed outright a 2016 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization resolution lambasted for erasing the name “Temple Mount,” all three merely abstained on the General Assembly resolution guilty of the same offense.
At the U.N., because of its structural realities, there truly is no limit to Palestinian charges that not only defame but delegitimize Israel: whether “ethnic cleansing,” “Judaizing Jerusalem” or “apartheid.” The cynical linking of racism to Zionism – the movement to restore Jews’ national home in Israel, with Jerusalem, or Zion, at its heart – has been a longstanding tactic of Palestinian representatives seeking to challenge Israel’s existence altogether.
Fortunately, 30 years ago the United Nations revoked a notorious 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism.
It is now time for all countries to take a stand for honesty, decency, and diversity by rejecting efforts to whitewash Jews’ roots in the land that gave them their very identity.
Read the op-ed in InsideSources.
Dir. of Legislative Affairs Op-ed in the Algemeiner: Time for a New Chapter in German-Israeli Relations
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has taken office, becoming the first Social Democrat born after the end of World War II to head the federal government.
His rise to power comes during a year when thousands of protesters, many of them on the political left, demonstrated against Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza. Cities across Germany erupted in violence, as rioters burned Israeli flags, while flying Hamas banners.
Last year, Jusos, the Social Democratic Party’s youth wing, passed a resolution declaring its PLO-Fatah counterpart, which has called for Israel’s destruction, its “sister organization.”
Germany’s outgoing Chancellor, Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, repeatedly spoke about the crucial nature of Israel’s existence. But her statements were belied by Germany’s frequent votes in favor of one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations. In 2019, German UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen equated Hamas rockets with Israeli bulldozers at a time when Hamas was firing projectiles at Israeli civilians.
The growing normalization of anti-Israel activity in Germany tends to confirm the fears of Jews, who have long worried that the generational shift taking place in Germany works against the long-term German-Israeli relationship. With new leaders in power who neither lived through World War II nor its immediate aftermath, the lessons of the Holocaust might fade more easily — their resonance with a younger generation diminished or lost altogether.
The false perception of Israel as a colonial occupier in the Middle East, nurtured on the European left since the 1967 Six-Day War, has made German support for the Palestinian cause, and even open hostility toward Israel, increasingly palatable. Gone for some is the once bedrock assumption in German politics that Germany owned a special responsibility for maintaining Israel’s security.
The rise in Muslim immigration to Germany has helped shape this dynamic. Refugees and migrants from the Middle East often bring with them a viewpoint that is decidedly anti-Israel. They consequently resist the sense that they are integrating into a country with a historic responsibility to protect Israel.
Chancellor Scholz has said some encouraging things about the German-Israeli relationship. At an Israel solidarity rally near the Berlin Holocaust memorial in May, he affirmed Merkel’s famous pledge that Israel’s security is Germany’s “reason of state.”
But a look at the coalition agreement the Social Democrats have formed with their governing partners, the Free Democrats and the Greens, reveals some disturbing departures from former pacts. Israel is not referred to as a Jewish state in the document, while language critical of settlements and calling for a return to 1967 borders suggests the West Bank will be a sticking point in bilateral relations. Also, the agreement insists on negotiations with Iran, but does not decry the Iranian nuclear program.
The passage of time and the increasingly casual embrace of anti-Israel public attitudes in the country that gave rise to the Holocaust has hastened the need for the new left-of-center government to reassert Germany’s position as Israel’s leading defender in Europe. The German government should vote against anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, and persuade other European Union countries to follow suit. In a country that refuses nuclear weapons of its own, the government should insist that Iran be barred from acquiring nukes. And Germany should focus its attention on terror, incitement, and the Palestinian Authority’s consistent refusal to negotiate as the biggest obstacles to peace — not Israeli settlements.
Germany’s “reason of state” ethos demands that it take these proactive measures and embrace its historic role as Israel’s principal ally in Europe. With anti-Israel sentiment increasingly morphing into antisemitism, the urgency in rebuking anti-Israel activity — at the UN, within the EU, and among the German public — is greater than ever. Germany’s new government should infuse the German-Israeli relationship with new purpose and vitality. Seventy-six years after the Holocaust, history, and the future, demand it.
Read Fusfield's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Eric Fusfield, Esq. has been B’nai B’rith International’s director of legislative affairs since 2003 and deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy since 2007. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University in history; an M.St. in modern Jewish studies from Oxford University; and a J.D./M.A. from American University in law and international affairs. Click here to read more from Eric Fusfield.
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