According to a German study, “Anti-Semites as a Coalition Partner” released last month, “A power has established itself within the parliamentary spectrum of the Left Party, which tolerates anti-Semitic positions.”
In their groundbreaking investigation, Political scientists Samuel Salzborn from the University of Giessen and Sebastian Voigt from the University of Leipzig sharply criticized the entrenched left-wing anti-Israel attitudes within the Left Party.
The Left Party is Continental Europe’s best organized and largest anti-Israel party, and it has over the years promoted efforts to dismantle the Jewish state. The group’s local branches in the German cities of Duisburg and Bremen called for boycotts of the Jewish state. Hermann Dierkes, a city councilman for the Left Party in Duisburg, termed Israel’s right to exist “petty.”
Last year, Left Party city councilwoman Erika Zemaitis voted against funds to build a new Synagogue in the city of Herford, to replace one the Nazis had torched in 1938. The party’s foreign policy spokesman, MP Wolfgang Gehrcke, has participated in demonstrations in support of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
In May 2010, two Left Party parliamentarians, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, joined a group of radical Turkish Islamists aboard the Mavi Marmara vessel, to violate Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza. When they returned, along with former party foreign policy spokesman and MP Norman Paech, who came along for the ride, Left Party leaders gave them a hero’s welcome in Berlin.
Rising media pressure has forced the party to make cosmetic changes - hence its new resolution to address persistent allegations of anti-Semitism. Nonetheless, Dieter Graumann, the head of Germany’s 105,000-member Central Council of Jews, is not impressed.
As Dr. Graumann said Monday, “The old East German anti-Zionist spirit still haunts the party. Paradoxically, today it’s representatives from the west who let out their rabid, almost pathological hatred of Israel. Unfortunately, it’s these ideologues who claim responsibility for the Left Party’s policies on Israel.”
The Left Party is the successor party to the Socialist Unity Party of the former East German communist state, and has attracted a mix of East German socialists, West German leftists and trade unionists. Most members of these factions share a common hatred of Israel.
Other parties of the German Left have successfully expelled anti-Semitic members. In 2003, Christian Democratic Union MP Martin Hohmann called Jews a “race of perpetrators” and argued that their involvement in the Russian Revolution of 1917 exculpates German atrocities during the Holocaust. Following this perverse line of reasoning, both Germans and Jews committed crimes against humanity.
After some dithering, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was then in the opposition, authorized a party process to eject Hohmann. Unfortunately, top Left Party officials like Gregor Gysi, Gesine Lötzsch , Klaus Ernst, Petra Pau and Katja Kipping have made no efforts to expel Left Party politicians like MP Christine Buchholz and Hermann Dierkes who have called for violent Palestinian resistance against Israel. Sadly, the list of Left Party politicians who fan the flames of anti-Semitic anti-Israelism goes on.
Fourteen of 76 Left Party members protested the resolution and walked out of the Left Party session. Several other MPs simply did not show up for the vote. Gregor Gysi, the Left Party MP who heads the party faction in parliament, navigated the resolution to a yes vote. According to reports, Gysi, whose father was an East German Jew, threatened to resign if the Left Party rejected the resolution.
Andrej Hunko, a Left Party MP, said Gysi’s approach was “blackmail and a subjugation of the left-wing” of the party.
He is right about passion; passionate anti-Semitism. All of this helps to explain why the Left Party’s politicians and supporters get so riled up about Israel but remain awfully silent about countries where real human rights abuses are unfolding: Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, and the list continues.
If the Left Party is truly serious about improving its reputation, it should expel members whose vitriolic hatred of Israel overwhelms every other position they take.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
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