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German trade union leader opposes West Bank boycott

BERLIN (JTA) — German trade union leader Michael Sommer vowed to stand up to unionists who want to boycott goods made in West Bank Jewish settlements.

“As long as I am head of this organization, there will never be a resolution that says ‘Don’t buy from Jews,’ ” said Sommer, 61, chair of the Federation of German Trade Unions, accepting the Arno Lustiger Award at the third annual German-Israel Congress on Sunday.

The federation, which was founded in Munich in 1949, is an umbrella organization for eight German trade unions, in total representing more than 6 million people.

The pro-Israel event supported by some 200 organizations, which organizers said drew more a crowd of more than 3,000 to a congress center in the former East Berlin, took place on the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, when synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed and looted across Germany, Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia.

Co-organized by German Jewish activists Sacha Stawski and Melody Sucharewicz, the event, which in previous years was held in Frankfurt, featured a market of pro-Israel organizations and businesses, guest speakers and “labs” on Israeli culture and business, Judaism and politics.

It concluded with a concert featuring German soul singer Mic Donet and Kathleen Reiter, a Canadian-Israeli singer and the winner of the Israeli version of “The Voice.”

Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he wished there was no need for such a major pro-Israel event in Germany. But with “Israeli bashing in fashion” these days, he said the congress convinced him that “we friends of Israel are not so alone as we sometimes feel.”

“Today we are strong as an ox,” he said.

A small pro-Palestinian demonstration was held across the street from the venue.

In his remarks, Sommer said some unions are especially critical of Israel’s settlement policy, which is the target of the boycott movement. He tells them “that an honest peace means that no one should be threatened. And as long as Israeli is threatened, I stay on the side of Israel.”

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