Josef Olmert

On Barcelona and Bayern, or me and Germany

It was few days ago, when Barcelona FC played Bayern Munich in the European Champions League Semi Final. Played…

…well, they crushed them, and in a certain house in South Carolina there were wild cheers. So much so, that some of my nice neighbors were concerned. ”Did something happen”?, well, ”yes”, I said, Germans lost and I am happy!, trust me, that the neighbors did not understand then, nor now…

Some background is needed here. I am a soccer fan, fanatic fan, and soccerism is my third religion, after Judaism and Zionism. Barcelona is NOT my favorite club, surely not when they play Rial Madrid, my favorite Blancos, even more so, Arsenal of London, the only Reds I have liked in my not too short life. But then it was not about Barcelona, it was about losing Germans, and Germans not usually lose in football. Gary Linecker, the famous English scorer coined the phrase, ”football is a game lasting 90 minutes, and in the end the Germans ALWAYS win’, well not ALWAYS, almost, and far too much. So, tomorrow Barcelona goes to Munich for the second leg game. Win you Catalans, win, make me happy and in the process enrich your coffers. And all this come to my mind as tomorrow they will mark ceremoniously the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel.

No, I am not celebrating, but I am accepting that we have to have full diplomatic relations with these people. Moreover, I accept that we have to have full commercial relations with them. I accept that we have to have full military relations with them. What can we do? as we have to deal today with the new antisemites of the world, the new generation of those who want to destroy us. As the Bible says,”in every generation they rise up to exterminate us”. They now are not the Germans, not the German state.Chancellor Merkel is a friend of Israel, and there is no doubt about that, nor is there any doubt, that we need almost any source of support that we can get, in our continuous struggle for national survival.Almost any source, but not from racists and antisemites and those vwho want to convert us to Christianity, while espousing support for Israel.

I, for one, distinguish between the national interest and my personal feelings, and my personal feelings are very clear and unchangeable. It was in Binyamina, in the old days when we were all in a youth movement, and mine was Beitar [not the current soccer team, with the racist fans…], where we learnt that the Germans were Amalek, and the old Herut newspaper reminded us day in, day out, to remember what Amalek did to us. Yes, let us be perfectly honest, it was an indoctrination to hate Germans. We never heard a bad word about Arabs, it was about Germans, not just Nazis.

Later, it was my late AVI MORI, coming back home from a demonstration against the first visit of a German minister in Israel, holding the banners which he himself wrote. Before, but that was in 1952, and I cannot remember that, being 2 years old, all our street, the famous NAHALAT JABOTINSKI street in Binyamina, went to Jerusalem to protest the Shilumim from Germany.

In retrospect it is clear to me that Ben Gurion was right, and we needed the German money, because it was a life-saver to the newly-established stat. In retrospect I know that we cannot deny the fruits of German assistance, but I personally never purchased anything German, nor will ever. The commercials for Folkswagen say that this is the best of German technology. Oh yes, the “car of the people”, which was the brainchild of Adolph Hitler, and the words German technology always bring to my mind the ”fruits of their collective wisdom, such as Zyklon-B, gas chambers and industrial killing of our people.

So, this is a moral, emotional issue, and it is for the individual to decide. I made my decision, and it is not to hate ALL Germans, but it is to disengage myself from them, as I never know whether or not anyone that I talk to is a direct descendant of somebody who participated in the murder of our people. I do not throw myself into an on-going debate about it all. Some will say that is is self-denial, but for me it a question of conscience, not something that can be washed away with time. Yet, being part of a collective I understand and respect those who think otherwise, and I grudgingly accept the need to be in good diplomatic relations with the German state.

I just do not want to be a part of that. How good that there are soccer games which enable me to show my true feelings… here is another reason why I like soccer so much!

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina