German-Jewish leaders criticize politicians


BERLIN (JTA) — Jewish leaders criticized German politicians for condemning Israel’s Gaza operation, while the country’s chancellor called for a political solution.

German politicians failed to respond to months of Hamas rocket attacks, but jumped at the chance to condemn Israel’s response,  Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement Monday. "There are obviously first- and second-class human rights, when the national interests of the German do-gooders are concerned."

While pointing out that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and some Arab League states have blamed the violence on Hamas, "Not a single German politician has up to now been in the position to publicly condemn the vicious dealings of Hamas," Kramer added.

The German-Israel Society, said in a statement Monday that "Israel has just as much right as any other country to defend itself and its citizens." Society President Johannes Gerster noted that Israel — despite its withdrawal from Gaza — "has been and continues to be shot at from there, also during this so-called truce."

With constant threats coming from Islamic fundamentalists, including Hamas, "Israel has a right to expect solidarity in its struggle against terrorism," Gerster said.

Germany, the European Union and the United Nations "must counter one-sided, untrue and unfair assignment of guilt to Israel. The key for an end to violence is in the hands of Hamas," Gerster said. "When the Arabs lay down their arms, there will be peace. When Israel puts down its arms, there will be no more Israel."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Tuesday with Ehud Olmert, telling him she feared further escalation in the region. She urged both sides to resolve the conflict politically, with the goal of reaching a two-state solution. She also agreed with Olmert that responsibility for the latest developments lay "clearly and solely" with Hamas.

According to German government spokesperson Thomas Steg, Merkel also said that Israel had a legitimate right to defend itself and its territory, and she demanded that Hamas "immediately and permanently" cease firing rockets on Israel.

Merkel also emphasized that "everything must be done to avoid civilian casualties."

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