The major media outlets reported this week that the German government and its fully-owned Deutsche Bahn railway company terminated participation in a long-planned Israeli rapid rail project from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because the train line will traverse a small section of disputed West Bank territory.
Succumbing to pressure from pro-Palestinian ministers of parliament, German transport minister Peter Ramsauer noted that “in recent weeks, Palestinian foreign affairs Minister Malki, members of the German Parliament and media have criticized a project in which DB International is acting as advisor to Israel’s state-run Israel Railway.”
“This Israeli railway project which runs through occupied territory is problematic from a foreign policy standpoint and is potentially against international law,” Ramsauer added.
Ramsauer fails to understand that the territory in the West Bank falls under the rubric of disputed and is part-and-parcel of a bargaining peace process between Israel's government and the Palestinian Authority. Former US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright neatly captured the disputed territory situation in March 1994: "We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 War as occupied Palestinian territory."
A letter from transportation ministry state secretary Enak Ferlemann, a member of the Christian Democratic Union party, showed how little daylight exists between Ramsauer, who is one of the top heads of the Christian Social Union party, and Left Party MP Inge Höger, known for her extreme disapproval of Israel.
Both Höger and Ramsauer claim that the rail project “potentially” violates international law in disputed West Bank territory. Last month, Höger blamed the Israeli government for the deaths of two pro-Palestinian activists because their murders could deal a “serious blow” to the slated June Gaza Flotilla.
While Hamas authorities arrested radical Salafists for the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni in the Gaza Strip on April 15, the killers of Palestinian Israeli filmmaker Juliano Mer-Khamis, who was murdered in Jenin on April 4, have not been apprehended. Höger's vile anti-Jewish and anti-Israel conspiracy theory prompted hardly any criticism from her fellow members of parliament. She was also aboard the Mavi Marmara when it violated the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.
On that occasion, too, the Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union parties found common cause with Höger’s unfailingly anti-Israel Left Party, excoriating the Jewish state in a Bundestag resolution for intercepting a ship sponsored by the known terrorist group IHH. Phillip Missfelder, an MP from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union party, declared his solidarity with Left Party MP Wolfgang Gehrcke, who has attended Hezbollah and Hamas rallies.
“Even if the impression often arises in outside portrayals that the Left Party has a fundamentally different opinion, I do believe, Mr. Gehrcke, that the statements you have made at various times leave no doubt that you find yourself on similar, common ground as us,” said Missfelder about the cross-party resolution criticizing Israel’s “violation of the principle of proportionality.”
In the wake of the decision by the Germany transportation agency and Deutsche Bahn, the boycott efforts just keep coming. In April, the German Left Party branch in the city of Duisburg posted a flyer on its website with a swastika morphing into a Star of David, and called for a boycott of Israeli products. “Confront the moral blackmail of the so-called Holocaust,” states the flyer, calling Israel a “rogue state” and “warmonger.”
In March, a group called the “Bremer Peace Forum” in the northern Germany city of Bremen - with support of the local Left Party website - staged protests in front of supermarkets urging Germans to boycott Israeli products.
In May, the mayor of Wuppertal, Christian Democratic Union member Peter Jung, agreed to rent a city-funded and owned center to Hamas-related terror groups. The cooperating sponsors of the conference included the Palestinian Return Centre - London, a group with strong ties to Hamas, according to Berlin's domestic intelligence agency (Office for the Protection of the Constitution), which lists the group under the rubric “regional violent Islamic practitioners – Hamas.”
Jung and the local city council ended up hosting an anti-Semitic hate festival, which attracted thousands of pro-Hamas activists. The head of the local Wuppertal Jewish community, Leonid Goldberg, termed Jung's conduct “shameful.”
The German government's decision to recoil from the high-speed rail project is nothing short of a shot in the arm for the haters of Israel. What is most unsettling is that German efforts to make Israel a whipping boy for all the problems of the Middle East span the country’s entire political spectrum.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
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