Opinion |

Bundestag Members, Am I anti-Semitic?

Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman
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The Bundestag in Berlin on April 4, 2019.
The Bundestag in Berlin on April 4, 2019.Credit: Axel Schmidt / Reuters
Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman

I want nothing from you, whether bad or good, Germany! That’s what I have to say, as a Jewish Israeli woman, to Germany, whose politicians have determined – under cover of opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – that I and my colleagues in the battle against Israeli policy deserve to be called anti-Semites.

The fact that you murdered my mother’s family and millions of other members of my people doesn’t give you the right to determine who is anti-Semitic, Germany. Yet you asserted this right in the sanctimonious resolution passed by a majority of the Bundestag on May 17, 2019.

It wasn’t the issue of BDS (whose rejection wasn’t even properly explained) that stood at the heart of the resolution, not at all. The vast majority of the long text defines anti-Semitism. In so doing, German legislators produced a tortuous, garbled and confused text whose true core is the equation of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel’s policy.

The resolution doesn’t contain even a hint of the processes Israel and Israeli society have undergone in recent years. Yet these processes have brought Israel to the brink of its own ruin and that of all its inhabitants, Jewish and non-Jewish alike – to the point that Israel has become the most dangerous place in the world for Jews, and quite a few people are fleeing it.

The loathsome resolution passed by the German parliament contains no mention that Israel’s parliament and cabinet include men and women who advocate fascist ideologies – a national Jewish dictatorship and the oppression of other peoples, above all the Palestinian people, in all the territory Israel controls, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. There is no mention that these ideologies have for years orchestrated new laws with a gradualism and deceptiveness that recall the processes Germany itself underwent in the years before World War II.

According to the Bundestag’s decision, a radical struggle against Israeli policy – in which enlightened Jews in Israel and worldwide are participating – is like denying Israel’s right to exist as a “Jewish and democratic state.” As if today’s Israel – whose legislators are working with frightening efficiency to reduce the justice system’s power, civil-society organizations’ freedom of action and non-Jewish citizens’ right to live in equality – were still a democratic country.

This country has been ruling millions of people deprived of any rights for more than 50 years, steals their land, demolishes their homes, denies them freedom of movement and the ability to earn a living and, under the aegis of its enormous military power, grants all the rights of a dignified life solely to Jews who have settled on the land belonging to those millions of people. As if an apartheid state like that could still be considered a democratic country.

Israel's wars

It’s true that Israel’s Knesset and governments are chosen in democratic elections (in which Palestinians in the occupied territories play no part, even though these elections determine their fate). But who should know better than you Germans that this isn’t the proper criterion for defining democracy, given that a majority of your people, whether directly or indirectly, put the Nazi party in power?

Anti-Semitism is denying Israel’s right to “defend its security,” you say. But your resolution doesn’t mention that Israel’s wars – which for four decades have been destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, with bombs and shells from land, sea and air – have for a long time not been aimed at protecting Israelis’ security.

Everything has already been written and said about these wars by the pens and mouths of both professionals and people with morals, most of them Jewish. Yet precisely at this dark moment in our country’s history, the Bundestag saw an urgent need to put Germany on Israel’s side politically, economically and militarily in the guise of a battle against anti-Semitism.

In your resolution, not one clause addresses the battle we’re waging – we who face permanent defeat, more than a little because of you – to realize our desire to live here as human beings rather than die in the bloody conflict. This is a conflict that Israeli governments have perpetuated in recent generations, and today they no longer bother to hide their belief that we will always live here by the sword.

Military power, say our statesmen and legislators, will always determine Israel’s geographic, political and moral map – military power, not the conventions signed by the international community, most of which were born in response to the death and destruction sowed by your country. It will always be military power, not the UN resolutions that Israel has scorned, denied and violated without let or hindrance.

No, you don’t mention any of this, you over there in the German Bundestag. Instead of recognizing your true and weighty responsibility for our fate here, you’ve chosen to cling, with poetic convenience, to your feelings of guilt. That’s the nature of your resolution, and that’s the meaning embodied by its paragraphs and clauses.

Gradual sanctions

Members of the Bundestag, to all this I have one reply for you, I who am among those Jewish Israelis still clinging to their love for this place, holding on with all their fading strength and going out to defend our moral character and physical security, for which there is no long-term guarantee other than a peaceful solution.

And this is my reply: Yes to gradual sanctions on Israel, both economic and cultural. Yes to a total boycott of everything produced in the settlements – that lunatic enterprise that has sent its tentacles throughout the West Bank under the auspices of your policy and with your support.

You don’t have the right to define me as anti-Semitic because I believe that under the current circumstances, sanctions and boycotts are the only effective, nonviolent tool remaining to force Israel to let go of the occupied territories and its civilian control over them. A political boycott of this sort has absolutely nothing to do with the brutal, racist boycott the Nazis in your country imposed on Jewish businesses in April 1933.

You don’t have the right to define me as anti-Semitic because in this newspaper I keep urging my colleagues, Israeli intellectuals and creative artists, to issue our own call, which will open with the following words: “We, creative artists, intellectuals and academics, citizens and residents of Israel, urge the international community to pressure Israel to the point of diplomatic, economic and political sanctions to force it to remove its citizens from the territories occupied in 1967. We have chosen this painful step of turning to outsiders out of love for our country and a growing fear not just for its democratic character but also for its future and even its very existence – and our existence.

“Let us tell civil society in the West: Stop this self-righteous embrace of your guilt feelings. Instead, atone for the terrible guilt of your parents and your countries by doing the only right thing at this moment – opposing the Israeli government’s policy.”

From Jerusalem, my city, which is divided by walls of stone, steel and hate, I also used these words, which I wrote in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition on February 1, to support the Jewish Voice movement in Germany that is already suffering serious harassment. The Bundestag’s resolution clearly encourages the measures taken against it as well.

“Kudos!” I wrote that group. “Those who call you anti-Semitic are misled, and above all, misleading. The distortion of this term is the newest danger, even more deceptive than its predecessors. It must be pulled up by its roots, which are digging even deeper at this very moment. This should be done sensitively and wisely, but also with determination, because time is not on our side.”

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