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Germany’s Back-Channel Anti-Israelism

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 16, 2023. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 16, 2023. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 16, 2023. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

Recently Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Chancellor Scholz in Germany where they made joint statements of friendship and cooperation, including a perpetual commitment to Israel’s security. Tangible evidence of Germany’s support for Israel’s security is the sale of German-made submarines to the Israeli navy. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in the 80 years since the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. But concurrently with this public spectacle, Germany undermines the State of Israel through the back door of political foundations.

Two recent books show how this happens: Matan Peleg’s A State for Sale: How Foreign Countries Interfere in Israeli Policy (in Hebrew) is based on exhaustive financial analysis of the sources of funding of 70 Israeli NGOs and tracking of their activities. In Bedouistan: How the State of Israel is Losing the Negev (in English translation) Meir Deutsch shares his vast field experience in the Negev combined with painstaking research in government databases and long lost treasure troves of aerial photographs.

Peleg explains how each of the six political parties in the German Bundestag has a political foundation that is directly funded by the German government. These funds are intended to be used at the discretion of the individual parties to further their missions and all six foundations have set up subsidiary offices in Israel. There they make grants to politically aligned, Israeli, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). A conservative estimate of the level of funding is $10,000,000 over the past decade. These selected NGOs proclaim human-rights or humanitarian missions. They may tout aiding populations they perceive as disfavored or oppressed to build schools and housing, connect to basic infrastructure such as running water and electricity, and to protect their rights. But what actually transpires behind this facade is reproachable.

Deutsch takes us on a guided tour of the Negev Desert where these NGOs instigate and support the Bedouin to flout long-established land-use laws and thwart every attempt at urban planning. A nomadic desert people that traces its origins to the Arabian Peninsula, the Bedouin have been settled to a large extent by the governments of most of the countries where they are present. In Israel most of them have voluntarily abandoned their nomadic way of life and now live in planned towns with proper infrastructure and social services. But these NGOs urge those Bedouin not yet settled to set up chaotic, insalubrious sheet-metal encampments sometimes located dangerously close to major highways instead of encouraging them to move into the modern towns the Israeli government has provided for them. The NGOs help the Bedouin connect haphazardly to water sources and electrical mains. The substandard encampments they finance are set up illegally in military training zones, on state land, or on the private land of others without any evidence of ownership or construction permits. They build superfluous schools in these ramshackle encampments, then make sure pupils transfer from the well-established schools they had already been attending in nearby towns to these substandard schools staffed with unqualified teachers to their own detriment.

These NGOs are active in other arenas, too. Some of them encourage terrorism by protecting terrorists and their families. With their deep pockets they are able to provide batteries of lawyers to argue in the courts on their behalf, resulting in the emasculation of the government’s policies regarding deterrence of terrorist attacks. Others file petitions against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and succeed in tying their hands. In this way they instill in the soldiers a fear of being brought to trial, making them hesitant to carry out their missions.

A major method of these domestic NGOs is to engage in lawfare. The German political foundations, among other funders, provide them with the financial means to retain high-priced lawyers. They exploit known flaws in the Israeli judicial system; namely, the lack of any requirement for standing, unlimited jurisdiction, and rulings according to a nebulous doctrine of unreasonableness rather than to the legality of a case based upon existing law. These legal teams file unending series of petitions, dragging cases out for years or even decades, clogging up the courts’ dockets, and thereby impeding the government from enforcing laws and carrying out its policies.

In the final analysis, the goal of these German political foundations is to cause the government of Israel to lose governance in the Negev and other areas and obstruct its ability to defend its citizens. In essence, German political parties use funds provided by the German government to set policy for the Israeli government according to its own agenda, undermining it from within. Such hypocritical action in the field belies Germany’s public stance of friendship and cooperation with the unique Jewish and democratic State of Israel. One can only conclude that anti-Jewish sentiment still runs deep in the German political establishment.

But Germany is not alone in undermining Israel in this manner. Away from the public eye, most of the western European governments individually as well as the European Union as a whole funnel massive sums of money to zealous, Israeli NGO “subcontractors,” whose ultimate goal is to destabilize the government of Israel by defeating legitimate government policies, sowing divisions between various ethnic groups, hobbling the Israeli army and police, and other such seditious endeavors. This off-stage political interference by western democracies in the internal affairs of Israel, itself a western-style democracy, violates international protocol and is unacceptable not to say outrageous.

A bill that would rectify this intolerable state of affairs is currently being brought before the Knesset. Unsurprisingly, Germany is protesting loudly against it under the disingenuous pretext of promoting dialog and human rights in Israel but in actuality to preserve its back-channel grip on Israeli government policy and its ability to undermine the state. The European Union and individual member states have loudly expressed their opposition as well. Despite this self-righteous noise, the Knesset must pass this legislation without delay to preserve the sovereignty–and very existence–of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

About the Author
Jerry Schwartz is a retired physician from the US who now lives in Tel Aviv.
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