Israelis Back Measured Response to Neo-nazi Violence in Germany

Israelis, for the most part, are supporting their government’s measured response to the surge of neo-Nazi violence in Germany.

The angry demonstrations that accompanied earlier national debates on accepting German reparations and launching diplomatic relations with Bonn are this time absent from the scene.

A protest by Labor Knesset member Avi Yehezkel outside the German Embassy this week, alongside a poster with the words “Never again” remained a lonely vigil.

Close economic and security links between the two countries appear to have led to a national consensus behind a government decision earlier this week to limit action to a strong verbal condemnation of the right-wing extremist violence that has accelerated in Germany in recent weeks.

The decision overrode calls for stronger action that came from both sides of the political spectrum, ranging from a call by the opposition Likud bloc to sever diplomatic ties with Bonn to a coalition member’s proposal to urge a boycott of Germany by Israelis and Jews worldwide.

In a special parliamentary debate this week, speakers registered abhorrence at the spread of right-wing extremism in Germany and called for tougher measures by Bonn in combating it. A similar appeal was being considered by Israeli towns and villages that have “twinning” links with German municipalities.

Some calls for more vigorous Israeli action came under attack as “populist and xenophobic” by one of Israel’s best-known writers.

Amos Oz, a recent recipient of a prestigious German literary prize, opposed a proposal by Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, which she later toned down, for a Jewish boycott of Germany unless Bonn cracked down on the violence.

But Oz reserved the brunt of his attack for Isser Harel, a former chief of the Shin Bet domestic security service, who suggested Israel arrange for the “physical elimination” of neo-Nazi leaders in Germany.

Harel is associated with one of the most dramatic Israeli responses to the legacy of the Holocaust. He was instrumental in the 1960 capture and transfer to Israel for trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who was later executed.

Oz, identified with the left side of the Israeli political spectrum, said the way to combat anti-Semitic and xenophobic excesses is through education and the personal courage of individuals of good will.

On the Israeli scene, he said voices should be raised in protest at proposals made by right-wing groups for “transfer” of Arabs from Israel and the administered territories to other Arab countries.

The writer two months ago received Germany’s most important literary award, the Peace Prize, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, before an audience that included President Richard von Weizsacker.

Israelis found painful memories of the Holocaust evoked last weekend by a German television documentary that interspersed shots of Auschwitz and other concentration camps in footage of recent attacks against foreigners and Jewish memorials.

The film was shown last Friday night on Israel Television and was rerun the following night for observant Jews, who do not switch their sets on over the Sabbath.

NEXT STORY