1933, 1972 and 2023. What do these years have in common in Germany’s history? The change of relationship of Germans with the Jewish communities and individuals in Israel and the diaspora.
In 1933, the unthinkable had occurred in the ‘democratic’ German Empire, A fascist regime had been established with Hitler at its reign. Jews were officially legally being hunted down and killed with no sort of real punishment for those looking to cause them pain and damage.
In 1972, a mere three decades after the start of the blood-drenching Second World War, Jewish individuals in the Munich Olympics were hunted down on German soil, this time by Palestinian terrorists looking to cause pain and damage. The failed rescue mission by the Bavarian police had sadly proved costly to the lives of these 12 Israelis. From that date on, the German government’s entire stance had changed towards Israelis, the Germans until then had felt that they had done their part in supporting Israel and the Jewish community by paying restitutions to the newly-founded Jewish state. Well the feeling of shattering guilt had returned: There was once again Jewish blood on German soil.
Following the terror attack and the mishandled police rescue operation, in which the German government simply ignored the Mossad’s request for support, Germany’s stance towards Israel had changed. From that date on, Germany had made Israel’s security as a German reason of state, as Chancellor Merkel remarked in 2008 in front of the Knesset. Israel is now on the crisp of damaging relationships on the brink of no-return with the Western World, with the controversial one-sided push for the judicial reform by its current 64-member coalition. 2023 might be the year Israel loses foreign and military support not only from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, but also from Germany.
Being an avid protest-goer in pro-democracy demonstrations in Berlin and reading German newspapers – both right and left leaning – I will state something as a fact: Israel is on the brink of losing one of its closest allies and damaging the well-being and safety of the diaspora Jews. In the weekly demonstrations in front of the famous and iconic Brandenburger Gate, every half-an-hour or so, there are unpleasant comments being made from the passerby. It is either “leftist-traitors” and “take your friends with you to Berlin”, or it is “Palestine will be free” and other less pleasant comments. What can be concluded: The Jewish liberals face hatred from both the Israeli right and Arabic individuals attacking Israel’s military operations and foreign policy. The current Israeli government, not only risks damaging the security of diaspora Jews, but also risks destroying the relationships of its closest allies as mentioned. On an almost weekly-basis, German newspapers, may it be Der Spiegel or Der Tagesspiegel, mention Israel’s new policies, the judicial reform and the protests, or the allies Israel is on the brink of losing. Germany’s current coalition has a green-party, a social-party, and a liberal, free-market party. This is a centrist coalition, quite similar to Germany’s past coalitions since reunification.
Israel’s security as a German reason of state? No, not anymore! As Der Spiegel has quoted in its weekly magazine, with Israel’s protest near the Knesset taking up the entire front page of its 31st weekly edition this year, “To criticize Israel? That is what most German chancellors have shied away from doing until now. But German and Israeli diplomats hold that restraint as an error: At the latest now, Germany must speak out.” The Justice Minister of Germany, Mr. Buschmann of the FDP liberal party, had sent a letter to Israel’s Justice Minister Yariv Levin through Germany’s foreign ministry. In it, he called for broad agreement on the controversial judicial reform a mere couple of days before the 2nd and 3rd Knesset votes on it. This letter, which might have not made the headlines in Israel, did make it on the front pages of German newspapers, as it was completely ignored by the Israeli government and Israeli Ministry offices.
Let’s not even start with the division in Germany’s Jewish organizations. The mostly liberal Israeli public in Berlin is not commonly seen in Orthodox or Conservative synagogues. Although both of these groups are Israelis, speak the same language, share traditions and cultures, and grew up in the same neighborhoods, they have a strained and conflicted relationship. A feeling of disagreement and unpleasantness roams the thoughts of each of these distant communities. Last year, a secular, liberal Jew was commonly spotted in an Orthodox Bet Chabbad, praying and eating with its Jewish ‘brothers and sisters’. Today, not anymore.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition are causing unimaginable and wide-reaching divisions, not only between Israel and its closest allies, but also in the Jewish communities in the diaspora. Ignoring this, only means supporting the demise of the Jewish Third Temple and encouraging renewed divisions between Jewish individuals that we, our parents, our grandparents and our early forefathers have built to overcome.