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For Germany’s Foreign Minister, Defaming Israel Takes Priority over Diplomacy

August 30, 2017 | Gadi Taub
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Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, had planned an official visit to the Jewish state last April on no less somber an occasion than Holocaust Memorial Day. Gabriel announced that while in Israel he would meet with representatives of Breaking the Silence and B’tselem—two “human-rights” organizations far more dedicated to defaming their country than to protecting anyone’s rights. In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to meet with Gabriel as planned unless the foreign minister canceled these meetings—a decision applauded even by many Israeli opponents of Netanyahu. Thus Gabriel came to Israel, met with the two organizations’ representatives, but not with the prime minister. Gadi Taub comments:

Before the Gabriel affair few Israelis were aware of how popular it is in Germany to compare Israel with the Nazis. But one has to admit that it does have its own perverted psychological logic. If the Jews are now victimizers, not victims, does that not partially alleviate the terrible burden of German guilt? . . . By refusing Netanyahu’s request and lending his support to organizations bent on demonizing Israel, Gabriel made many wonder whether he was not in fact engaged in exactly this kind of politico-psychological game, which may appeal to his own constituency at home. . . .

[In fact], upon his return to Germany, Gabriel said to the Frankfurter Rundschau that the Social Democrats, his own party, were, along with the Jews, among “the first victims of the Holocaust” (this was later changed on the paper’s website . . . to “the first victims of the Nazis”). So after using his state visit to look at Israel through the lens of organizations emphasizing our sins, and thus classifying us as victimizers, was he now making himself the victim (by proxy), and not just any victim, but a victim of Nazism? Where was all this heading? It brought to mind the bitterly sarcastic quip attributed to the Israeli psychiatrist Zvi Rex: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.” . . .

All this, we should note, was carried on in the guise of high-handed—and decidedly condescending—rhetoric. Gabriel, by his own account, was helping to instruct us about the dangers of nationalism—Israel’s—and the virtues of “European values” and democracy. But despite the immaculately humanitarian vocabulary, it was not hard to sense that something very sinister was afoot, since the minister’s interest in malignant nationalism and human rights seemed to be selective. He was apparently more interested in cases where Israel could be blamed. He had no plans to meet any civil-society organizations that document Palestinian abuses of human rights, and his high-minded exhortations against Jewish nationalism were not matched by any criticism of the murderous sort of xenophobic nationalism that the Palestinians habitually—and institutionally—encourage in their people, especially their young.

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