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A Different Germany? Not With Its Israel Policy

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a presentation of a new commemorative coin at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a presentation of a new commemorative coin at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

On Friday, Germany proved that it’s on a downward trend toward its past. Its decision to be a friend of the Israeli occupation at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, alongside beacons of morality like the governments of Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic, should worry all Germans haunted by the past.

Late in her impressive career, under the threat of anti-Semitism in her country, Angela Merkel is willing to forgive Israel everything in an utter knee-jerk reaction. Thus she’s abusing her office as chancellor of the different Germany and one of the last defenders of human rights in the world. We’re left with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

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A Germany that doesn’t allow an investigation into war crimes, no matter by what country, isn’t a different Germany but a Germany that provokes war crimes. Sometimes it seems that until Israel adopts the methods of the Nazis – and of course it's very far from this – Germany will legitimize all Israel’s actions.

Germany thinks it does this to atone for its past, but the truth is the opposite: As long as Germany doesn’t stand at the side of the oppressed and the occupied, it’s betraying the lessons of the past. When it comes to Israel, the country of its direct victims, and the Palestinians, its secondary victims, this is particularly severe.

In its application to be a friend of the court, Germany has accepted Israel’s claims that the ICC has no authority to hear suspicions of war crimes in the territories. The explanation that Germany gave for its position is especially strange: Germany is a firm supporter of the two-state solution and the ICC has no jurisdiction in the matter.

We’ve seen Germany’s firm support over the years; at its height it reached hollow lip service. One issue before the court is the settlements: No other issue has more thoroughly destroyed the possibility of a two-state solution. Now Germany tells The Hague to leave the settlements alone. So who will stop the settlements? The Yesha Council? The Israeli government? The White House? Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Merkel’s partner as a friend of the court?

A question for Germany: If not The Hague, who should investigate what happened in Gaza between Black Friday in Rafah and the killing of protesters at the border fence? The Israeli army? AIPAC? Maybe that renowned expert on international law, Donald Trump, through his son-in-law, that honest broker Jared Kushner?

It took ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda five years to conclude that there are suspicions of war crimes regarding the settlements, the 2014 Gaza war and protests at the Gaza border fence. Does the Merkel government believe that these suspicions shouldn’t be investigated? Why not? Because the suspect is Israel?

After the Bundestag’s decision that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is anti-Semitic comes its support in The Hague for the Israeli occupation, casting a heavy moral shadow over Germany. Germany’s obligation is to do everything for Israel’s security and prosperity. It should also be cautious in its criticism of Israel, more than any other country.

But to jump to the head of the line of those supporting Israel’s complete immunity is a step too far that works in the exact opposite direction of the lessons of the Holocaust. Immunity for Israel isn’t a gesture of friendship, nor does it reflect concern for its image. The founders of the different Germany would be ashamed. Back in the first half of the ‘70s, German Chancellor Willy Brandt wouldn’t have lent a hand to such a step. And his Austrian counterpart, Bruno Kreisky, wouldn’t have let his country stand up for the occupier and against the victim.

On Friday, Germany said to Israel: Expand the settlements to your heart’s content, bomb Gaza as much as you like, continue shooting at protesters with real bullets, unrestrained. You’re immune to all criticism and certainly to prosecution in The Hague. The Hague is for weaklings. The Hague is for Yugoslavs and Africans, not for Israeli political leaders and military officers.

Germany says to Israel: You are a country above all suspicion. This is how far guilt has led the most enlightened leader in Europe today. When it comes to Israel, Merkel is the same as Trump. Nothing less.

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