German mayor cancels exhibit critical of Israeli army


BERLIN (JTA) — The mayor of Cologne canceled an exhibit in his German city by an Israeli group of soldiers that alleges the Israel Defense Forces mistreats Palestinians.

The decision came this week following talks featuring the office of Mayor Jugen Roters with the Jewish community and Israeli Embassy, according to the Frankfurt-based pro-Israel activist Sacha Stawski, founder of the media watchdog Honestly Concerned.

The exhibit by Breaking the Silence, an NGO that includes testimonies by Israeli soldiers on the alleged abuse of Palestinians, reportedly had been billed as part of this year’s commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. However, it was not an officially approved part of the yearlong series of events and had not received permission to use the logo approved by the Israeli Embassy and German Foreign Ministry.

According to news reports, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin asked the German Foreign Ministry to remove the exhibit and other unapproved events from the calendar. The embassy also wrote to Roters and said that “as long as there was no clear distinction between legitimate projects on the theme of Israel-Germany and these other themes, we prefer not to take part in any of the events.”

Stawski, who supported the subsequent negotiations behind the scenes, told JTA that “the 50th anniversary commemorates and reflects on the relationship between Germany and Israel, and it’s not the time to demonize Israel in a one-sided manner.”

Last week, Israel complained to the Swiss government over its $16,000 in funding for a Breaking the Silence exhibit in Zurich, saying that the group’s raison d’etre was to “sully the names and reputations of IDF soldiers” in order to damage Israel’s reputation. Swiss government officials countered that they found the exhibit balanced.

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