What Did and Did Not Happen

File photo: A member of Jewish community, before the trial of a Syrian charged with attacking an Arab-Israeli, Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2018.
\ HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/ REUTERS

On July 4, 2019, Haaretz published an opinion piece by Ilana Hammerman entitled “The evil, new apparition that is stalking Germany today.” Hammerman claimed that a discussion held in Germany with Arye Sharuz Shalicar about his new book, “The New-German Anti-Semite: Do Jews Belong to Germany?” had been characterized by “arrogant, toxic and racist incitement, mostly against Muslims ....”

This is insulting to Arye Shalicar as well as to us, the organizations hosting the book’s launch, namely the German-Israeli Friendship Association Berlin/Brandenburg, the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin and the Jüdische Volkshochschule Berlin. There were no racist remarks that evening. Shalicar merely explained what many Jews experience in their everyday lives in Germany, specifically the fact that they are often attacked by Muslims. Is this the racism that Ms. Hammerman referred to? Shalicar also reported how Muslims had helped and supported him. Is it not a form of paternalism on Ms. Hammerman’s behalf to ignore those Jewish experiences in Germany?

Ms. Hammerman complained that no one was willing to discuss with her. This might be caused by the fact that she talked the most of all our guests; at the same time, she was obviously unwilling to engage in a debate but only tried to propagate her own ideas.

Her claim that Shalicar ignores right-wing ideologies is just as wrong. After reading his book, she should know that the author is both vocal against right-wing and Christian anti-Semitism. But all of this doesn’t fit her agenda. Ms. Hammerman wants to promote the fable that Israel’s right-wing government makes it impossible to criticize Israel in Germany and that it is “pulling the strings” in Berlin from Jerusalem. Facts that don’t fit that narrative are simply omitted or adjusted accordingly. This starts with the defamation of the author and entails the claim his tour had been paid for by the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany, which is simply not the case.

Hammerman claimed to suffer from a repressive political climate she likens to the McCarthy era. What she ignored is the anti-Semitic character of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which not only demonizes and delegitimizes Israel but also refuses to recognize the Jewish state as such. BDS denies the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. If that isn’t anti-Semitism, what is?

She then continued with the claim that Peter Schäfer, the former director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, had to resign from his position after a single controversial tweet and due to influence from Israel. This is also wrong and has already been discussed with Ms. Hammerman at our event. In fact, Schäfer’s management had been subject to criticism before, for example when he invited representatives of the Iranian regime to the museum. The tweet was thus merely a catalyst.

The bank account of “the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” organization was not closed because of unfounded claims but rather because the association refused to distance itself from BDS.

Hammerman finished her opinion piece with the claim that Germans are afraid to criticize the Israeli government in Germany. This claim is absurd as there is in fact an excessive amount of criticism of Israel in the German media. Nevertheless, many may share this feeling, which is a staggering example of how widespread animosity against Israel is in Germany.

It is the aim of the BDS campaign – and apparently also the aim of Ms. Hammerman – to disturb every event where Israelis speak, even if, like in this case, the topic at hand was anti-Semitism in Germany and Israel wasn’t the topic at all. 

Michael Spaney, Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin 

Jochen Feilcke, Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft Berlin und Brandenburg 

Sigmount Königsberg, Jüdische Volkshochschule Berlin