In Germany, a Non-violent Struggle Against War Crimes Could Be Declared Illegal

If the German government adopts the Bundestag resolution to outlaw the BDS movement, there will be nothing to equal it in any democracy

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File photo: A woman holds a sign which reads 'Boycott Israel' during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin, Germany, August 1, 2014.
File photo: A woman holds a sign which reads 'Boycott Israel' during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin, Germany, August 1, 2014.Credit: Steffi Loos/Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The Israel lobby is already on it, the Strategic Affairs Ministry is preparing a brief, the embassy in Berlin is disseminating it – a new bill to be brought before the Bundestag, the law of kowtowing.

According to the bill, anyone saying the name Israel will have to incline his head and bow while uttering the explicit name. No mention of Israel without bowing, that’s the lesson to be drawn from the Holocaust. Violating the law will be deemed an anti-Semitic act. Mentioning Israel without prostration will be a criminal offense. Politicians, broadcasters and run-of-the-mill citizens will practice making the gestures. Just like in Thailand, where anytime the king enters everyone genuflects, so will it be when Israel is mentioned.

Isn’t the country deserving of this gesture? Is there a more just response to anti-Semitism? Following Germany will be other countries, including many states in the U.S. Just imagine what a huge success for Israeli diplomacy.

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We’re not that far from this scenario. If the German government adopts the Bundestag resolution, which determined that the boycott movement against Israel is anti-Semitic, we’re there. The boycott, divestment and sanction movement will be outlawed, or at least prohibited from operating in public. On Tuesday, Noa Landau reported in Haaretz that Israel is employing its propaganda machinery to exert pressure on the German government to adopt this decision. It’s bound to yield, just like Germany’s parliament did when it adopted this delusional resolution.

A non-violent struggle against war crimes will be declared illegal. The oppressor will be declared a victim. Freedom of expression will become a joke. There is nothing to equal this in any democracy.

Just before Israel’s ambassador to Berlin, Jeremy Issacharoff – who called it “shameful” when Jewish intellectuals signed a petition against the bill – pops the cork and reports another of his achievements to Jerusalem, we must ask: Is this really a successful move? For Israel? For Jews?

Will such aggressive and rapacious conduct not blow up in Israel’s face? Will these imaginary achievements, attained by not-quite legitimate means, based mainly on the emotional blackmailing of Germany and the rest of the world, using various organizations, some covertly, exerting various forms of pressure, not exact a price from Israel, which has been standing behind this indecent campaign?

Israel has invented a scarecrow enemy for itself, one called Adolf BDS, and decided to wage war on it. The Palestinians have been beaten, the Arab states are busy with their own affairs, Iran is no longer enough of an existential threat, so Israel urgently needed another one.

The boycott movement formed by Omar Barghouti fell like a ripe fruit into the lap of a few Israeli politicians and diplomats. Suddenly, Gilad Erdan is not just a public security minister dealing with demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran and with traffic violations; now he’s a strategic minister, with a hush-hush organization that’s inflated with self-importance, with huge budgets, a military style director-general and meetings with the Mossad chief. He couldn’t have wanted any more than this. Branding BDS as anti-Semitic, like any criticism of Israel, has turned out to be the most effective strategy of all. Fighting anti-Semitism solves any problems associated with explaining Israel’s actions. Just say “anti-Semitism” and the world is paralyzed. One can kill children in Gaza, then say “anti-Semitism!” and squelch any criticism. Europe is still vulnerable on this. Exploit it to the hilt.

It’s hard to believe that the hundreds of Bundestag members who voted for this resolution, which defines a completely legitimate struggle as anti-Semitic, actually agreed with it. One may assume that deep inside, many harbor doubts if not opposition to a move that was imposed on them. It’s not only in Germany. In most European countries it’s difficult to criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism.

This is the biggest victory achieved by Israel’s propaganda machine. It could lead to its defeat one day. When it becomes too much to swallow, there will be courage to oppose it and not accept this fallacious equation. When the kowtowing law is passed and Germans have to genuflect in front of Israel and not just dance to its tune, perhaps some people will be there to stop this march of folly.

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