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Germany’s Iran Lobby


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Germany needs an Israel Lobby. That was the thrust of Alan Posener’s commentary on Deutschland Radio in late May. Posener, chief columnist for Germany’s largest circulating Sunday newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, attended the yearly AIPAC conference in Washington and posits U.S pro-Israel solidarity as a model for Germany, where “Israel’s Lobby’s consists of six million dead Jews.”

There is a predisposition among a sizable number of Germans to memorialize the destruction of German (and European) Jewry while displaying an aversion to living Jews and the state of Israel. Posener views this German infatuation with dead Jews as “no substitute for six thousand living lobbyists in Germany – lobbyists who would remind us that solidarity with Israel is not part of how Germany deals with its past, but is an investment in Europe’s future.

“If Beirut and Damascus, Cairo and Gaza, would one day look like Tel Aviv, Europe’s freedom would be assured.”

Posener’s laudable goal is a tall order in a nation where 77 percent of the population harbors, according to a recent BBC poll, a pejorative view of Israel – the highest such level in Europe. And the German edition of Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby, just out in bookstores here, will no doubt help push that figure higher. The dust jacket features an American flag with stars of David rather than the conventional five-pointed stars.

Posener, who characterizes the book’s content as “an anti-Semitic diatribe done up in fancy academic terms,” describes the cover as a “scandal” in its own right. In fact, the dust jacket mirrors the cover of the Nazi edition of Powers Behind Roosevelt, which showed stars of David imposed on an American flag and stereotypical photos of Orthodox Jews and businessmen conversing behind a picture of Roosevelt – thus implying that Roosevelt was a marionette of American Jewry. (Johann von Leers, an intellectual gangster and Nazi ideologist, wrote that anti-Semitic tract and, following the war, fled to Egypt where he converted to Islam.)

The chattering classes in Germany are obsessed with The Israel Lobby, and every major newspaper has devoted extensive treatment to its arguments. The book was an instant bestseller here and a discussion of how the “Israel Lobby influences American foreign policy” is, according to major publications like the daily newspaper Die Süddeutsche, long overdue.

The prominent Austrian weekly Profil headlined its cover story: “Why is Israel so powerful?” The Vienna-based online Jewish magazine Die Jüdische (www.juedische.at) and its chief editor, Samuel Laster, sharply criticized Profil for rekindling anti-Jewish clichés. When I called the publisher of Profil, he claimed the Vienna Jewish community had not voiced any protest over the magazine. Yet the chairman of that community, Ariel Muzicant, told me he indeed feels “the cover is anti-Semitic” and explained that after having experienced “similar Profil events” he simply “gave up calling” to complain.

Journalist Robert Misik parroted the standard leftist rhetoric in his Profil article – namely, that American Jewish organizations are waging a worldwide campaign to silence dissent of Israel. Rather than combating anti-Semitism in Austria – where over half the population believes Jews exert too much influence on world events – Misik has developed a cottage industry critiquing the Israel lobby and attacking any imputations of anti-Semitism leveled at critics of Israel.

The recent $22 billion deal between Iran and the Austrian oil and gas company OMV is not on Misik’s radar screen. The machinations of Germany’s Iran Lobby is simply not a story with legs and cannot serve as a profitable whipping boy – in contrast to what Misik calls “the hardliners in Jewish organizations.”

The power of the Iran Lobby is a topic that dares not speaks its name in Germany or Austria. Germany is Iran’s most important trading partner; Lufthansa flights to and from Tehran are routinely packed with business representatives from Volkswagen, Mercedes, Siemens, Hermes, and Dillinger Steel, to name only a few of the thousands of German firms involved in an opulent trade relationship with a reactionary regime capable of utilizing German technology to advance its nuclear program.

What prompts the silence? Ruprecht Polenz is a member of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) and chairman of the important foreign relations committee in the German parliament. When I asked him in a recent phone interview if Germany could take a cutting-edge role in imposing a tough economic embargo against Iran – especially in light of Germany’s oft-repeated “historical responsibility” to Israel – Polenz said such an approach is not “sound.”

And so the rhetoric of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – his denial of the Holocaust, his desire to eliminate Israel – is met with carrots instead of sticks. This political theater of the absurd is notably apparent in the field of cultural exchange with Iran. The Osnabrücker Symphony recently performed a concert in Tehran following a public hanging of gay Iranians and journalists, and Germany’s leading theater director, Claus Peymann, plans to stage Brecht’s play “Mother Courage and Her Children” in Iran.

Peymann apparently is not losing sleep over Iran’s goal of bringing about a second Holocaust because he annually commemorates, in his Berliner Ensemble Theater, the deportation of Berlin’s Jews during the Shoah.

How does one explain this disconnect between the pathological obsession with dead Jews and the painful indifference toward the survivors of the Holocaust, their children and grandchildren, and Israel as an oasis of security for Jews?

The German Jewish Journalist Henryk M. Broder remarked recently, during a panel discussion in the Jewish Community Center in Berlin, that the inaction of a large segment of German society is due to covert admiration for Iran, a kind of Schadenfreude (malicious joy). For the Iranians vow to carry out the Nazi plan of extermination. and Israel, as the permanent reminder of Auschwitz, with the concomitant emotions of guilt and shame for Germans, will disappear.

A better social-psychological explanation has yet to surface to explain German indifference to the Iran Lobby.

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About the Author: Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (www.defenddemocracy.org


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Germany needs an Israel Lobby. That was the thrust of Alan Posener’s commentary on Deutschland Radio in late May. Posener, chief columnist for Germany’s largest circulating Sunday newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, attended the yearly AIPAC conference in Washington and posits U.S pro-Israel solidarity as a model for Germany, where “Israel’s Lobby’s consists of six million dead Jews.”

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