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An Israel Lobby? The 'Iran Lobby' Wins Over Germany

October 11, 2007 By:
Benjamin Weinthal
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Germany needs an "Israel Lobby" was the thrust of Alan Posener's commentary on Deutschland Radio in late May. Posener, who is the chief columnist for the largest circulating Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag, attended the yearly Aipac conference and posits U.S pro-Israel solidarity as a proposed model for Germany, where "Israel's Lobby consists of 6 million dead Jews."

There is a tendency among a sizable number of Germans to memorialize the destruction of German (and European) Jewry, and at the same show an aversion to living Jews and the State of Israel. That helps to explain why Posener views the German infatuation with dead Jews as "no substitute for 6,000 living lobbyists in Germany -- lobbyists who would remind us that solidarity with Israel is not part of how Germany deals with its past, but is an investment in Europe's future. If Beirut and Damascus, Cairo and Gaza, would one day look like Tel Aviv, Europe's freedom would be assured."

Posener's laudable goal is a tall order in a nation where 77 percent of the population has, according to a recent BBC poll, a pejorative view of Israel, the highest percent in Europe. The German edition of The Israel Lobby book from John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt has hit the bookstores, and the cover jacket alone will contribute to inflating already existing anti-Israeli sentiments.

The chattering classes in Germany are consumed with The Israel Lobby, and every major newspaper is devoting extensive treatment to the men's arguments. The book has become an instant best seller and has remained on the influential bestseller list of Germany's most important weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

The prominent Austrian weekly Profil headlined its cover story: "Why is Israel so powerful?" Journalist Robert Misik parroted the standard leftist rhetoric in the article, namely, American Jewish organizations are waging a worldwide campaign to silence dissent on Israel. He is uninterested in combating anti-Semitism in Austria, where more than half the population believes Jews exert too much influence on world events. The recent $22 billion deal between Iran and the Austrian oil and gas company OMV is also not on Misik's radar screen.

Germany is the No. 1 trade partner of Iran within the European Union. Lufthansa planes are packed with business representatives from Volkswagen, Mercedes, Siemens, Hermés and Dillinger Steel, to name only a few of the 12,000 German firms, who are involved in an opulent trade relationship with a reactionary regime capable of utilizing German technology to advance their nuclear program.

What is prompting the silence on the German front? Why is the Christian Democratic Union politician Ruprecht Polenz, the chairman of the foreign-affairs committee, opposed to economic sanctions leveled against Iran?

The rhetoric of a dictator is met with carrots instead of sticks. This political theater of the absurd continues in the field of cultural exchanges with Iran. The Osnabrücker symphony performed -- following the public hanging in August of gay Iranians and journalists -- a concert in Tehran, and Germany's leading theater director Claus Peymann plans to stage Brecht's play, "Mother Courage and Her Children," there. Peymann is not losing sleep over Iran's aim to bring about a second Holocaust because he commemorates the deportation of Berlin's Jews during the Shoah each year in his Berliner Ensemble Theater.

How do you explain this disconnect between the pathological obsession with dead Jews and the painful indifference toward the survivors of the Holocaust, their children and grandchildren, and Israel as an oasis of security for Jews?

The German Jewish journalist Henryk M. Broder remarked recently that the inaction of a large segment of German society is a covert admiration for Iran, a kind of schadenfreude ("malicious joy"), for the Iranians will carry out the Nazi plan of eliminationary anti-Semitism, and Israel, as the permanent reminder of Auschwitz, with the concomitant emotions of guilt and shame for Germans, will disappear.

A better social-psychological explanation has yet to surface to explain German indifference to the "Iran Lobby."

Benjamin Weinthal is a writer living in Germany.

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