Around the Jewish World German Jews Try to Repair Rift

Jewish leaders and activists in Germany appear to be putting aside sometimes vehement differences about how to rally support for Israel, and are moving ahead because of the importance of the cause.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, confirmed Monday that following Sunday’s controversial “I Love Israel” rally in Berlin, he congratulated its director, Leo Sucharewicz of Munich, and talked about possible cooperation in the future.

There was no disagreement with the aims of the rally, but some Jewish leaders and pro-Israel groups officially opposed its strategy. The critics cited the lack of a broad-based coalition, the inclusion of right-wing Christian groups and a controversial poster that compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler.

The Central Council had voted not to endorse the rally, but Kramer said he attended in an unofficial capacity because he wanted to support the cause. Other Israel advocates also attended despite their misgivings.

The rally, which called on politicians to take seriously Iran’s threats to destroy Israel, drew an estimated 1,500 Jews and non-Jews to Germany’s main Holocaust memorial, organizers said. Police estimates were lower; a cold, drenching rain likely played a role in limiting the crowd.

Jewish leaders and activists, who traded insults and accusations ahead of the rally, have agreed that a unified stand is urgently needed in the face of Iran’s threats. Some Muslim Web sites in Germany have reported on the disunity as a sign of weakness in the camp of “Israel friends.”

Kramer said there would have been much more support had Sucharewicz been able to bring in mainstream Protestant and Catholic leaders, as well as a broad political spectrum.

Kramer also said the Hitler comparison risked relativizing the Holocaust. The poster included an image of Ahmadinejad superimposed over the images of a nuclear power plant and the gates of Auschwitz, with the words “I want a nuclear Holocaust.”

Sucharewicz said he was looking forward to meeting with Kramer.

“Nothing is more frustrating and bitter than to be threatened from the outside and weakened from the inside,” Sucharewicz told JTA Monday by telephone.

In the end, Sucharewicz said he was disappointed only by the weather: The rain drenched participants and turned their posters to mush.

“We will try to initiate similar demonstrations, hopefully with better weather, in other cities around Europe,” Sucharewicz said. “We have to do it.”

Sucharewicz said the poster in question was circulating around the world, including among Iranian opposition groups, and had received “incredible feedback.” Some e-mails called it “the poster of the century,” he added.

Sucharewicz said he would not indulge in the “luxury” of debating “whether a comparison is allowed” between the Iranian president and Hitler.

“I don’t want to discuss if the Zyklon B Holocaust is worse than a nuclear Holocaust,” he said, referring to the poison gas used to kill victims in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. “It is a genocidal threat, so I don’t want to go into this discussion over whether a comparison is allowed.”

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