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A public stoning in Germany

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    A public stoning in Germany Raymond Deane The Electronic Intifada 6 March 2009 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10375.shtml
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2009
      A public stoning in Germany
      Raymond Deane

      The Electronic Intifada

      6 March 2009

      Hermann Dierkes is a respected politician with an honorable record of
      campaigning for social and political justice in the German Rhineland
      city of Duisburg. He represented his party Die Linke (The Left Party) on
      Duisburg City Council, campaigning tirelessly on anti-racist and
      anti-fascist issues. Most recently, he was his party's candidate for the
      post of Lord Mayor.
      On 18 February 2009 Dierkes addressed a public meeting on the question
      of Palestine. To the question of how to take action against the
      injustice being suffered by Palestinians, he responded that the recent
      World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil had proposed an arms embargo,
      sanctions and the boycott of Israeli exports. He added: "We should no
      longer accept that in the name of the Holocaust and with the support of
      the government of the Federal Republic [of Germany] such grave
      violations of human rights can be perpetrated and tolerated ... Everyone
      can help strengthen pressure for a different politics, for example by
      boycotting Israeli products."

      A few days later, Dierkes gave an interview to the Westdeutsche
      Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ), a conservative paper based in the nearby city
      of Essen. He explained the demands of the World Social Forum, and
      requested that the published interview should stress that this had
      nothing to do with anti-Semitism -- a qualification that invariably
      needs to be made in Germany, except when there is suspicion of
      Islamophobia. Predictably, his precautions were in vain; scenting a
      political coup, the reporter published his article without including the

      All hell broke loose. In the 25 February edition of Bild -- Germany's
      best-selling and most obnoxious daily paper -- Dieter Graumann,
      Vice-President of the Central Jewish Council, accused him of "pure
      anti-Semitism." WAZ editorialist Achim Beer decried Dierke's "careless
      Nazi utterances," comparing his words to "a mass execution at the edge
      of a Ukrainian forest." Hendrik Wuest, General Secretary of the CDU (the
      Christian Democratic Party), warned that "the Nazi propaganda" emanating
      from Die Linke is "intolerable." Michael Groschek -- General Secretary
      of the local branch of the Social Democratic Party, which shares power
      nationally with the CDU -- played electoral politics with the claim that
      "[a]nyone playing electoral politics with such anti-Israeli utterances
      sets himself outside the rules of the democratic game."

      Worse still, Dierke's own party failed to stand by him unambiguously.
      Press spokesperson Alrun Nuesslein opined that if Israel is criticized
      because "the population in the Gaza Strip is collectively punished by
      the ... closure of border crossings, it is equally impossible for us to
      punish the Israeli population" by means of a boycott of Israeli goods,
      particularly "in the context of German history," a mantra with which
      Germans routinely absolve themselves of their historic responsibility
      towards the Palestinians.
      Other voices within the party took a more strident tone. Petra Pau, Vice
      President of the Bundestag (German Parliament), said Dierke's words
      "awake unspeakable associations and employ dubious cliches." Left Party
      politicians in Dierke's own area condemned his "anti-Jewish endeavors"
      (Guenter Will) and "anti-Semitic utterances" (Anna Lena Orlowski).

      Events took their predestined course, and on 26 February Dierkes
      resigned his position within Die Linke and withdrew his mayoral
      candidacy. In an open letter to his party colleagues, pointing out that
      he had been the victim of "a public stoning" and of a campaign that was
      "a terrible mixture of the gravest insults and defamation, Islamophobic
      hatred, hatred of immigrants, and murder threats," he maintained that
      "[t]he victims of the Shoah and the heroes of the Warsaw Jewish rising
      would turn away with horror [could they see] with what malice and toward
      what ends they are being instrumentalized in order to justify ... the
      undemocratic and murderous politics of the Israeli government."

      A quick perusal of the German blogosphere throws up countless
      repetitions of the phrase "kauft nicht beim Juden!" -- "don't buy from
      the Jew!" -- a slogan from the Nazi era that no longer serves to defame
      Jews but rather those who seek justice for the Palestinians. However,
      Jews aren't entirely immune from this weapon: in the respected weekly
      Die Zeit (15 January 2009) a certain Thomas Assheuer turned it against
      the Canadian Jewish author Naomi Klein after the British Guardian
      published her call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against
      Israel. Given that Klein had carefully specified that BDS should be
      aimed at Israeli institutions and not individuals, this piece of
      defamation was particularly crass.

      It appears that freedom of speech, supposedly one of the proudest
      acquisitions of post-Fascist Germany, is readily suppressed when
      exercised to advocate positive action against the racist, politicidal
      institutions and actions of the Zionist state. Indeed so brutal and
      venomous was the response to Hermann Dierke's remarks, and so
      instantaneous and unanimous the recourse, however ironic, to Nazi
      sloganeering, that it is difficult not to be reminded of the rhetoric
      promulgated by Julius Streicher's vile paper Der Stuermer between 1923
      and 1945 and not to feel that the same atavistic sources that once
      disgorged Jew-hatred are now being tapped in this virulent and unceasing
      campaign against the advocacy of Palestinian rights. The Palestinians,
      after all, stand in the way of the establishment of a racial Jewish
      state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, an eventuality
      that the German establishment deludedly sees as somehow shriving its own
      past crimes.

      It has to be said that ordinary German people are, by and large, as
      unimpressed by philosemitic hysteria as they are by anti-Semitism. It
      remains to be seen how those people who have repeatedly voted for
      Hermann Dierkes because they see him as an honest and reliable
      politician -- something as rare in Germany as elsewhere -- will react to
      being robbed of their representative by such a campaign of hatred and
      defamation on behalf of a quasi-fascist state.

      Finally, it will be interesting to see if this debacle induces Die Linke
      to reconsider whether it is more appropriate to adopt a principled
      position on Israel than to continue playing to the gallery of rightist
      pressure-groups that have taken upon themselves the task of perpetuating
      unconditional German support for Israel. It is hard to feel optimistic
      about this.

      Raymond Deane is an Irish composer and activist www.raymonddeane.com



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