German regional governments and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration continue to ignore the federal parliament’s 2019 resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state.
The tactics of the BDS campaign “inevitably evoke associations with the Nazi slogan Kauft nicht bei Juden! (‘Don’t buy from Jews!’),” the Bundestag motion, titled “Resist the BDS Movement – Fighting Antisemitism” and approved in May 2019, declared.
Regrettably, BDS thinking and anti-Israel punitive measures remain deeply inculcated in the power politics of Germany and among great swaths of the population. The Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported just this week that BDS “propagated against Israel… is gaining in importance in Germany.” As a result, the article said, German intelligence services are monitoring BDS in the Federal Republic as an extremist movement.
The most pressing problem in Germany with respect to BDS: There is no legislative campaign acting as a countervailing force against BDS. None of the 16 German states has enacted measures that would penalize pro-BDS companies engaged in state business. In contrast, more than 30 US states have done so.
The state of Baden-Württemberg, population 11 million, furnishes a particularly egregious example. Its Baden-Württembergische Bank (BW-Bank) provides an account to one of the most potent BDS entities in Germany, the Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
Sadly, Michael Blume, the commissioner tasked with combating antisemitism in the state, fails to prioritize the fight against state-sponsored Jew-hatred. Instead, his anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity on social media has sparked outrage, including a call from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office head and chief Nazi-hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff for Blume to resign.
Blume liked a Facebook post equating Zionists with Nazis.
After new outbreaks of Blume’s anti-Israel activity on social media in July, Rabbi Abraham Cooper from the Wiesenthal Center said with respect to Blume that the “job of an antisemitism commissioner is to fight it and not spread it.”
When Blume, the state’s Governor Winifried Kretschmann and Interior Minister Thomas Strobl were asked whether they planned to take action against the BW-Bank’s enabling of the Palestine Committee Stuttgart, they refused to comment.
Baden-Württemberg is also a hot spot for violent antisemitism. Kretschmann, Strobl and Blume are embroiled in a new antisemitism scandal for failing to notify the federal government about Serkan P., who fled the state for his native Turkey, five days after allegedly torching a synagogue in Ulm on June 5.
The opposition Free Democratic Party criticized the Green Party and Christian Democratic Union coalition government for its inaction. Julia Goll, a FDP politician, told the Stuttgarter Nachrichten paper the state government seems "not to be doing anything."
At the end of the day, all layers of German government prioritize commerce—including with the genocidally anti-Semitic Islamic Republic of Iran—over combating rising Jew-hatred on German soil.
The university city of Freiburg in Baden-Württemberg continues to maintain its ties with the Iranian regime through a twin city partnership with Isfahan. The authorities in Isfahan hold annual al-Quds Day rallies promoting the elimination of the Jewish state. The municipality-sponsored lethal antisemitic demonstrations in Isfahan have not diminished the appetite of Freiburg politicians to stick with the partnership.
Sadly, Blume, who should take the lead in ending the Islamic Republic’s partnership with Freiburg, remains inactive and feeble. Iran’s regime remains the leading state-sponsor of Holocaust denial and eliminatory antisemitism.
Tehran is also deeply involved in promoting BDS activity within the territory of Germany. The Islamic Republic operates the Islamic Center of Hamburg that has transported Hezbollah members to the annual al-Quds Day rally in Berlin, where BDS is also promoted.
The city-state of Hamburg negotiated a religious cooperation agreement with Islamic Center. In January 2020, 600 pro-Iranian regime Islamists attended a memorial service at the Islamic Center to mourn the death of the EU- and U.S.-designated terrorist Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.
BDS is linked in many cases to Islamists in Germany who support the terrorism of the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hamas. German security agencies are just starting to internalize that BDS is a threat to the country’s constitutional and democratic order.
A common factor unites the strongholds of BDS and pro-Iranian activity in Hamburg and Baden-Württemberg: The role of the largely pro-Tehran Green party in their governments.
A German think tank has rewarded former Green party Bundestag deputy Kerstin Müller, who was accused of antisemitism by the Berlin Jewish community for her pro-BDS activity.
Müller is now a senior associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, with a focus on German-Israel relations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The council has declined to comment on Müller’s alleged anti-Semitic BDS activity.
Merkel, broadly speaking, does not allow a theoretical opposition to antisemitism to trump her country’s export business. Her administration pledged to stop Kuwait Airway’s anti-Semitic policy banning Israeli passengers. But her rhetoric did not mention action.
In 2016, an Israeli student in Germany filed a lawsuit against Kuwait’s state-owned airline after it canceled his ticket on a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok with a layover in Kuwait City. A year later, a German court ruled that Kuwait Airways can boycott Israel.
When Kuwait Airways engaged in the same anti-Semitic conduct against Israel in the United States in 2013 and 2014, the American authorities threatened legal action. As a consequence, Kuwait Airways in 2015 pulled the plug on all of its flights from New York to London, to dodge demands to serve Israeli passengers.
German politicians, including Merkel, never cease to declare that “anti-Semitism has no place” in the Federal Republic. If they truly wish to implement their empty pledges with concrete action, Berlin and the 16 German states should replicate the U.S. state legislation and pass enforceable laws that punish companies for pro-BDS activity.
With the swipe of her pen, Merkel could ban Kuwaiti business in Germany, evict Kuwait’s diplomatic staff from Berlin and recall her ambassador from Kuwait City, until the tiny, oil-rich state ends its national carrier’s boycott of Israeli passengers.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal
Asaf Romirowsky is executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), and a senior non-resident fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA)