Religious groups in German city fighting Israel boycott


BERLIN (JTA) — Pro-Israel and Jewish organizations in a German city are fighting back against a local group that used images of bloody oranges to call for a boycott of Israeli products.

Jewish leaders in Bremen, in northwestern Germany, as well as the interfaith German-Israel Society, Christian-Jewish Society and Friends of Israel in Bremen, are proposing to work with local mainstream political and religious leaders to take a stand against the Bremen Peace Forum and its political agenda.

The Peace Forum called for a boycott of Israeli products as a protest against Israeli settlement policies, according to a news release. Anticipating that critics would accuse it of echoing the Nazi anti-Jewish boycotts of 1933, the group said such comparisons would be "absurd."

Several members took to the streets of Bremen on March 11 holding posters featuring orange slices dripping blood under the words "Boycott Israel’s fruit." Jewish leaders and local politicians reacted to the campaign with disgust and frustration.

Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told The Jerusalem Post that the campaign was clearly anti-Semitic. Julius Schoeps, director of the Moses Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam, agreed and told the Weser Kurier newspaper that the protesters were obsessed with Israel.

"It’s almost like a Pavlovian reflex," said Schoeps, an expert on modern anti-Semitism.

They ignore human rights abuses in Iran or China, and skip over the subjects of Hamas and Hezbollah, he said, but "always take a stand when the subject of Jews and the State of Israel comes up."

The campaigners said in a statement that they had the support of "many Jews throughout the world," as well as Christian denominations.

That’s not true, said Herman Kuhn, head of the local branch of the German-Israel Society. He told JTA that his group applauded Bremen Mayor Karoline Linnert and local Catholic and Protestant leaders for publicly denouncing the anti-Israel group at a Brotherhood Week event this week.

"A very large majority of people in Bremen oppose the boycott," Kuhn said. "I don’t think their action was successful, except for the fact that they got some media attention."

Meanwhile, the German pro-Israel watchdog, Honestly Concerned, launched a counter attack: In his "Buy-cott," Sacha Stawski urges consumers to "contribute to stability in the entire region, for the benefit of both Palestinians and Israelis," by purchasing Israeli products.

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