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on a “heavy” subject such as American Jewish – German relations. I would imagine that most of you are enjoying the cool ocean breezes at the beach or waiting for your tee time at the local golf course. Perhaps you’re hidden away catching up on the novels you didn’t have time to read during the busier times of the year. However, life goes on. In Germany the Chancellor is back from her vacation and the school year is beginning in parts of the Federal Republic. Significant problems and issues haven’t gone away so whether my readership drops off or not I figured I should uphold my part of the bargain and provide you with an updated report. Therefore, if you can tear yourself away from the presidential polls and the brilliant attacks your candidate is making on his unworthy opponent, let’s get on with the news… IN THIS EDITION GERMAN POLITICS – AT THE MOMENT – A thorough analysis. UNESCO HERITAGE SITES – Jewish sites this time. You can see them. A NOT SO CLEVER RUSE – When a friend may not be a friend. FROM THE OTHER DIRECTION – The right this time. A FOILED MARCH – Hurrah for Bad Nenndorf! SECURITY SHUFFLE – Heads roll! CIRCUMCISION: THE BATTLE CONTINUES – Philosophy and the U.S. Congress enter the fray. GERMAN POLITICS – AT THE MOMENT My late (and very much missed) brother, Myron DuBow, frequently said to me, “You can’t beat a man at his own game”. He explained, “If you come up against a professional card shark, don’t try to outplay him at gin rummy”. I would take it a step further. If you tried to match wits with Albert Einstein (if he was still alive) on matters
concerning the theory of relativity you’d probably lose. The same goes for political analysis. If you try to out analyze a highly rated geopolitical analyzing service such as STRATFOR, in all likelihood they’ll do a better job than you can – no matter how much of a genius you think you are. So, when a friend in Minneapolis forwarded a STRATFOR analysis of the current political situation in Germany to me, I read it, understood I couldn’t do better so I’m going to pick out some of the important points and then provide you with a link so you can read the report in its entirety. STRATFOR outshines DuBow. Here goes… Despite criticism from abroad, German Chancellor Angela Merkel enjoys high approval rates domestically. Merkel's government has benefited from the fact that Germany's economy has been largely unaffected by the European crisis. But until parliamentary elections in late 2013, Merkel has two main challenges. First, she must ensure that the European crisis does not spin out of control. This means Berlin will support further aid to struggling eurozone countries while pushing for more centralized fiscal control in Brussels. Pressure from France, Spain and Italy to take more drastic measures will increase, and traditional allies like the Netherlands and Finland will show some resistance to Merkel's strategy, which calls for further delegation of power to Brussels. Second, Merkel must maintain her popular and political support domestically. For Merkel, keeping her own party and coalition in check will be as challenging as fighting the opposition, especially if Germany's economy weakens. Apart from handling the European crisis, Merkel will be increasingly concerned with domestic elections. The regional elections in the states of Lower Saxony in January 2013 and Bavaria in September 2013 will test Merkel's current coalition. So far the opposition -- mainly the Social Democratic Party -- has not found a way to challenge Merkel's Europe policy and is struggling to find a challenger to Merkel's position as chancellor. But in recent regional elections the Social Democratic Party has done well, and should the German economy slow, the party likely will blame it on Merkel's indecisiveness in dealing with the crisis. A further weakening of Merkel's coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party and the Bavarian Christian Social Union, would aid the opposition. Polls indicate that the liberal Free Democrats would not even make it into Parliament, and the Bavarian party will be challenged in regional elections just prior to national elections. That pretty much says it all. To read it in full click here. http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?
u=74786417f9554984d314d06bd&id=1cebc4d400&e=334e680730 BTW, Stratfor is a “pay” service. To connect to them click on www.stratfor.com With Chancellor’s summer vacation over, Spiegel On-Line offered their two Pfennig’s worth and published a piece by Björn Hengst entitled “Merkel’s Five Biggest Problems”. It’s very comprehensive. You should read it. Click here to do so. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/biggest-problems-for-angela-merkel-asshe-returns-from-summer-vacation-a-849729.html UNESCO HERITAGE SITES Spiegel On-Line reports, “Germany has 37 sites currently under UNESCO protection and another 10 waiting for possible inclusion. None of them come from the country's rich Jewish history, though. Four new possible nominations may soon change this. I think it’s peculiar that considering the rich German Jewish history none of the Jewish sites have yet been previously accepted for UNESCO protection. Maybe it’s an oversight – hopefully! In any case, Spiegel On-Line goes on noting, “Four sites important to the history of German Jewry are among the over two dozen submissions. And while the list is largely just an arbitrary survey of which historical sites German states value most, the presence of the Jewish sites is something of an anomaly. After all, of the 37 sites in Germany that are already UNESCO-protected, and the 10 additional locations that the country has yet to formally propose, not a single one of them is linked to the country's pre-World War II Jewish history. "It is certainly interesting that four entrants representing Jewish history have been handed in," Cilly Kugelmann, program director for the Jewish Museum in Berlin, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It could be that the time is indeed coming when Nazi history is no longer in the foreground, but that there is new attention being paid to the rich Jewish history that existed in Germany before that time." Among the sites in question is the Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin, the largest intact Jewish cemetery in Europe, encompassing 100 acres and 115,000 graves. Hamburg submitted a cemetery of its own, the Jewish Cemetery Altona, which is unique both for its age -- it was founded in 1611 -- and for the fact that it is the oldest Portuguese Jewish cemetery in Europe. In includes graves of both Sephardic Jews from Portugal and Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe. The city of Erfurt, in the eastern German state of Thuringia, proposed the inclusion of its Old Synagogue. The structure was only rediscovered in the old city of Erfurt in the 1990s and, with construction having begun in 1094, it is thought to be the oldest intact synagogue in Central Europe.
Finally, the state of Rhineland-Palatinate put forward the so-called ShUM cities, the center of German Jewish life in medieval times. The name refers to Mainz, Speyer and Worms; the designationi ShUM is a conflation of the first letters of the cities' names in Hebrew. Kugelmann says that the high number of visitors to the Jewish Museum in Berlin would seem to indicate significant interest in Germany's Jewish history that goes beyond the country's perpetration of the Holocaust, which saw the destruction of 6 million Jews in Europe. The museum, after all, places much of its focus on preHolocaust Jewish life in the country. "Maybe the virtual attention that has focused on museums is now steering toward a real interest in actual history and historical sites," she said. It is, of course, far from certain that any of the Jewish sites that have been proposed will make it onto the UNESCO list. The somewhat cumbersomely named Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany will now appoint an independent group to evaluate the proposals. Only those that make the cut will then be added to the list of sites that Germany intends to submit at future UNESCO meetings. Competition will be fierce. The castles of Bavaria's famous King Ludwig II (think Neuschwanstein) were submitted, as was the spa town of Baden Baden, famous for being a destination resort for much of the Continent's royalty and elite in the 19th century. One other submission has raised eyebrows, though. Bavaria entered the site of the Nuremburg Trials -- where the postwar proceedings against senior Nazi leaders took place -- as the birthplace of international criminal law. "It is certainly unique that a country would confront its own past in such a way," says Kugelmann, "and propose such a site to be internationally recognized as part of its national history." The Spiegel On-line article contains some absolutely beautiful pictures of the proposed sites. You will really be missing something if you don’t click on the following link. CLICK HERE http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/germany-rediscoversits-jewish-history-fotostrecke-85592.html A NOT SO CLEVER RUSE What better way is there to attack Israel than by joining a pro-Israel organization, stating your love for the Jewish State and then starting to criticize Israel using your membership to prove to the world that you really are a friend when, indeed, you are not? A wily subterfuge? Not when it’s so obvious even if you later deny it. Budo Ramelow, A Left Party (Die Linke) politician who is a member of the GermanIsrael Friendship Society (DIG) recently wrote on his Facebook site that the Swiss
Migros supermarket chain’s labeling of Israeli products from the West Bank is a “legitimate measure.” Benjamin Weinthal reporting in The Jerusalem Post wrote, “The general secretary of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Stephan J. Kramer, called Monday on the German-Israel Friendship Society (DIG) to take concrete action against the growing anti-Israel boycott activity within its ranks. “Anyone who sees a boycott of Israeli goods as a legitimate answer to something or other has understood nothing, and should look in the mirror and leave DIG,” Kramer wrote in an email to The Jerusalem Post. “I think supporting a call for a boycott of a democratic country, which Israel is, and at the same time being a member of DIG is an insoluble contradiction and a burden on DIG and its members.[Deputy in the state government of Thuringia Bodo Ramelow is part of a long tradition of anti-Israel leftists and we can no longer whitewash this.” Ramelow has been accused in Germany of using his DIG membership to delegitimize Israel and pretend that he is a friend of Israel. In an email to the Post on Tuesday, he wrote, “I have neither called for a boycott of Israeli goods” nor “signed the Pax Christi call” to boycott Israel merchandise. The German branch of the leftwing Catholic peace organization Pax Christi has mounted an aggressive campaign to boycott Israeli products, including setting up stands in pedestrian zones to encourage people to not buy Israeli goods. When asked repeatedly by the Post to clarify his Migros statements, Ramelow wrote that “the Migros firm decided independently to demand from producers a designation of origin when they want to sell their products to Migros. I mentioned this and did not know that the mentioning of facts should be banned.” In response, Kramer, told the Post that Ramelow’s formulation regarding terming Migro’s action as a “legitimate measure” is clearly a call to boycott Israeli products. Ramelow added that when he visited Ramallah,”I saw that enough products were labeled ‘Palestine’ and I consider that a permissible origin designation.” He asked what is the problem with Migros labeling products from its suppliers. According to critics of Migros, including Swiss Jewish groups, Migros has singled out Israel for unique treatment in a pejorative sense. It is not a surprise that a leading member of the Left Party can be counted as one who seems to be anti-Israel. To a large degree the party is made up of former members of East Germany’s communist party and the extreme left wing of the West German political spectrum. Not many friends of Israel there. The DIG will have to be a little more careful about who they welcome in as members and how those people use their membership affiliation. Not everybody in Germany (or in the U.S. for that
matter) is so tuned in that this type ruse can easily be spotted. It’s a good thing that the Jewish organizations are on top of it to publicly point it out. FROM THE OTHER DIRECTION In the story above I pointed to a call for a boycott of Israel from the extreme left. In another Benjamin Weinthal piece in The Jerusalem Post he reports on the same sort of an attack, this time from the extreme right. He notes, “The local branch of the neo-Nazi party (NPD) expressed solidarity for the campaign calling for a boycott of Israeli products that is supported by the German city of Jena’s Social Democratic Mayor Albrecht Schröter and the left-wing NGO Pax Christi. The NPD branch in the state of Thuringia, where Jena is located, quickly issued accolades on Monday to Schröter on its website. The neo-Nazis wrote that he is “courageous” for his anti-Israel conduct and noted “as nationalists who have to deal every day with these Jewish/left-liberal defamation tactics, we think of Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice, who couldn’t get rid of the spirits he called.” Thuringia and the city of Jena are hotbeds of neo-Nazi activity. Kevin Zdiara, the deputy chairman of the German-Israel friendship society (DIG) in Thuringia’s capital Erfurt, told the Post that in Jena “there is a Nazi problem,” that the terrorists of the national socialist underground came from Jena and that Nazis continue to meet at the property of the “Brown House,” a local center for the far-right. There is much more to the story which you can read about by clicking here. http://www.jpost.com/international/article.aspx?id=272813 I think the most important point is that attacks on Israel, especially those calling for boycotts, come from both the extreme left and the right. Extremism, when it focuses on Israel, comes from both ends of the political spectrum. It leads one to believe that where the Jewish State is concerned the hate line is not linear but curved at both ends with a meeting in the middle. The right and the left both consider Israel as a legitimate target no matter how much they hate each other. My first inclination is to say it’s a sad state of affairs. My second is to say it’s downright upsetting. A FOILED MARCH On the subject of things that fit the term “sad state of affairs”, the fact that there are still neo-Nazi marches and rallies in Germany has to be somewhere near the top of the list. However, as I have pointed out many times, in a democracy people who have a point of view, no matter how demented, are entitled to publicly rally to express themselves.
But so are those that are in opposition. The Local.de reported, “Bad Nenndorf in Lower Saxony has been the focus of neoNazi marches every year since 2006, because it was where the British army set up an interrogation centre for Nazis after the war. Around 700 people from the area gathered to show their opposition to the march, while more than 200 left-wing activists chained themselves to the station platform, delaying the arrival of the neo-Nazis’ train by more than an hour. The bus drivers were less than cooperative, forcing many of the neo-Nazis to walk into town. Their rally was several hours late and accompanied by loud protests nearby. Sebastian Edathy of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said, "We are neither ready to hand over our streets and our squares, nor the hearts and minds of the coming generation, to these enemies of humanity." He said far-right extremism was a reality in Germany but should never be accepted as normal. At least 2,000 police officers were in the town, while a surveillance drone flew over the more than 450 neo-Nazis. Last year around 580 showed up while in 2010 the number was more than 1,000. The neo-Nazis had planned to go to Hannover, around 35 kilometres away, after their march in Bad Nenndorf – but cancelled this themselves, a police spokeswoman said. They are now planning a torch-lit march through Hannover at a later date. Maybe I shouldn’t be so downhearted. It does seem that every time the neo-Nazis in Germany gather themselves to have a rally a much greater number of local citizens raise themselves up to oppose it. I do think that most Germans have internalized democracy and understand fully what Nazism did to their country. The history and legacy is very powerful. People do learn and do change. Bravo to the counterdemonstrators and the bus drivers! SECURITY SHUFFLE Hurrah for the people in Bad Nenndorf! However, no matter how great citizen reaction to the neo-Nazis is, it’s not enough. In the last couple of issues I reported on a neo-Nazi murder gang and the fact that it has operated for 10 years without the security service knowing about it. So, a major reshuffle in their leadership was called for. It happened and happened quickly! Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich appointed new heads of the
country's domestic intelligence agency and the Federal Police Force. DW reported, “The 10 murders carried out by the neo-Nazi NSU have shown how the risks of the far right were widely underestimated. In fact, the diversity of the far right makes it a real challenge for the security services. The complete failure of the security forces has shocked Germans. The latest Verfassungsschutz [Ed. Note: The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution] report …in mid-July, assesses the development of far-right extremism in the light of the NSU murders. The agency, which is now the object of heavy criticism, describes over 80 pages a development that began in the 1990s. According to the report, "During this time, far-right extremism has become younger, more active, and more militant." Only a year ago, the agency said it had not noticed any terrorist structures in the farright scene. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich denies the charge that this means that the agency was "blind to the far-right." But even he has spoken of "failure" and "lost trust." He says reform is unavoidable. Though they have long recognized the diversity of the far-right scene, the experts have clearly underestimated the danger it represents. Friedrich now warns of possible neo-Nazi copycat killings, and he underlines that security forces are now cooperating internationally to better confront dangers. Statistically, the violent potential of far-right extremists has barely changed. The number of injuries as a result of far-right violence reported to the police in 2011 was 640 - just two more than in the year before. The number of attempted murders was five - one fewer than in 2010. By far the largest number of far-right related crimes 16,000, or 70 percent - was propaganda-related, such as displaying the swastika symbol. The Verfassungsschutz estimates that there are around 22,500 neo-Nazis in Germany, around 10 percent fewer than in 2011. But the level of organization is very different. The least organized is the third that the agency describes as "sub culturally influenced." This is a milieu that defines itself, as much as anything, through extremist music in which Jews, foreigners and leftists are vilified. These regional groups have recently begun to lose supporters - the agency reports numbers down from 8,300 to 7,600. At public events, the more loosely-organized far-right extremists come into contact with the National Democratic Party (NPD), Germany's major far-right political party. A popular joint activity is the staging of marches on the anniversaries of the bombings of German cities during World War Two. These events often erupt into violent confrontations between neo-Nazis and anti-Nazi demonstrators.
The NPD has distanced itself from the NSU murders. Party chairman Holger Apfel has described the crimes as "aberrations" that left him "stunned." The NPD's 6,300 members make no secret of their xenophobic, anti-Semitic positions, but they generally air their views ambiguously, so as to avoid prosecution. For instance, the party's election campaign in the Berlin state election went under the slogan "step on the gas," which some took as a reference to the gassing of Jews during the Third Reich. The poster even hung outside the Jewish Museum in the German capital. There’s more but I think you get the idea. The neo-Nazi scene in Germany needs a greater deal of attention than it has gotten in the last little while. Hopefully, the new appointees to these high domestic intelligence posts will move the situation forward. Minister Friedrich seems intent on doing that. However, the Minister will have to keep an eye on police willingness to deal with the neo-Nazis. DW reported, “A foundation has questioned the resolve of German police when it comes to fighting crimes committed by neo-Nazi and other far-right groups. Authorities willingly turn a blind eye to extremist violence, it claims. German authorities regularly trivialize incidents of far-right violence and play down the danger of right-wing extremism, according to a study (14.08.2012) by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a victim protection group. The group went on to say that German security forces "systematically disregard" right-wing violence. Victims are left high and dry in a nearly systematic way by public offices," said Marion Kraske, the report's author. She added that far-right violence was sometimes ignored by authorities and at other times not recognized because officials were unaware of the problem it poses.” We’ll keep an eye on the situation. Stay tuned. CIRCUMCISION: THE BATTLE CONTINUES You will recall that in the last edition I reported on the fact that a District Court in Cologne had declared male circumcision illegal. The ruling caused a great deal of public discussion and anger – plus a troubling amount of support. The Bundestag is to take up the matter when it returns from summer vacation. The public discourse has gone far beyond just the matter of circumcision itself. A national debate has ensued over not only the importance of religious values. Questions about “What sort of a nation are we?” followed closely behind. A well known journalist on cultural matters, Matthias Matussek, wrote an important article in Spiegel On-Line entitled, “Why Circumcision Is Not a Crime” which delves deeply into the issue of Germany’s values. He notes, …
A German court's outlawing of the circumcision of boys -- and the vociferous support it has received in the self-proclaimed enlightened media -- confirms a tendency that has seen religion-bashing and intolerance become the new cool. Respect, though, rather than supposed "common sense," is the true basis for social progress. By now, it's an embarrassment to almost everyone in Germany that, in the grounds for one of its decisions, a regional court in Cologne almost off-handedly declared circumcision -- a religious tradition dating back thousands of years -- to be illegal. But the incident confirms a tendency toward rampant anti-religious prejudice and growing intolerance toward believers. To be sure, the German government is rushing to re-establish peace under the law with new legislation, hoping to prevent Germany from becoming what Chancellor Angela Merkel called "a laughingstock." But elsewhere in the world, people are shaking their heads over the fact that it's the Germans, once again, who -- as Rabbi Pinchas Goldschidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said -- are trying to make it impossible for Jews to remain in their country. The sharpness of the attacks is only surpassed by the absurdity of the justifications. A procedure that is hardly more painful than a vaccination -- something for which parents also don't consult their child in advance -- is now being expanded and revamped to form a strategy of cultural anthropology. Indeed, many prejudices tend to have some element of supposedly sound common sense. The Muslim author Navid Kermani detects a vulgar rationalism in arguments [that have] lost the sense of the sacred (and 85 percent of the world's population is religious in one way or another). But this sacred zone actually exists in every human being. It is the same zone in which wonder and love and miracles exist, as do art and the spirit -- in other words, everything that goes beyond the biological functions of human beings. It's an intimate and even the most vulnerable area, and it's certainly one that everyone would like to see protected and respected. But that is precisely what aggravates a secularized environment, one that responds with growing and more aggressive intolerance to the things that are sacred to people. A commentator with the Berliner Kurier newspaper even sees the Jewish commandment of circumcision as "an absurd and perverse concept of God, one that arose in the theology of the Old Testament to ensure the ethnic uniformity of the Jews." Did Edith Stein, the Jewish girl who became a philosopher and Catholic nun before dying in a gas chamber at Auschwitz for her faith, know this? What if we were to say… Have a little respect for people with religious beliefs and be tolerant?
We have eliminated almost all taboos in our society, and we tout this as a sign of great progress. But we need taboos. Child pornography is one of them, and denying the Holocaust is another. Both are punishable offences. Since Freud, we have known how much humor draws on the violation of taboos. Jewish humor would be inconceivable without the sly or hilarious settling of accounts with the Almighty. Oddly enough, though, it is not blasphemous and never derisive. What if we rejected blasphemy -- that is, the foolish disparagement of God and faith -- out of inner conviction and respect for others? This would be a genuine step forward. I fear I butchered Matthias Matussek’s article. You really have to read the entire essay in order to fully understand his point of view and why he considers the criticism of circumcision a black mark against Germany’s current secular culture. You can access it by clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/commentary-on-why-circumcisionshould-not-be-a-crime-in-germany-a-846755.html BTW, the Cologne court decision has had international repercussions. Haaretz reported, “A U.S. bipartisan group of 20 Congressmen sent a letter to the German government expressing “deep concern” over a recent German court decision to effectively ban circumcision on young boys. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), authored the letter, which was addressed to Peter Ammon, the German ambassador to the United States. The letter by the congressmen called the June 26 court decision “an affront to religious freedom…. Circumcision, it wrote in a press release, is “a fundamental ritual and sacred rite of passage for both the Jewish and Muslim communities. Throughout history, the prohibition of Brit Milah has been tantamount to rejection of the Jewish community’s existence.” The letter to the ambassador also “applauded the strong opposition voiced by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle” and called on them to pass legislation that would safeguard religious freedom. To read the full article click here. http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-worldnews/u-s-congressmen-express-deep-concern-over-german-circumcision-ban-1.457473 We’ll keep you updated. *********************************************************************************************** See you again in September
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted by clicking here Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com Click here to connect.
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