German intellectuals: Israel's creation made
Palestinians victims of Holocaust
By Cnaan Liphshiz

A group of visiting German intellectuals called on Berlin on Monday to
change what they termed its Holocaust-rooted blind support of Israel,
saying the creation of the State of Israel turned Palestinians into
victims of the Nazi Holocaust as well.

The four, Dr. Reiner Steinweg, Prof. Gert Krell, Prof. Georg Meggle,
and Jorg Becker, took part in a debate Monday evening at the Netanya
Academic College on the future of German-Israeli relations. They were
among 25 signatories to a petition on the issue that was circulated in
the German media following the Second Lebanon War.

According to the manifesto, German responsibility toward the
Palestinians is "one side of the consequences of the Holocaust which
receives far too little attention." The paper goes on to argue that it
was the Holocaust which Germany perpetrated that brought about "the
suffering that has persisted [in the Middle East] for the last six
decades and has at present become unbearable."

This, according to the manifesto titled "Friendship and Criticism," is
because "without the Holocaust of the Jews, Israeli policy would not
see itself as entitled - or forced to ride over the human rights of
the Palestinians and the inhabitants of Lebanon."

Without the Holocaust, the document adds, Israel would not have
enjoyed the same material and political support from the U.S. The
researchers told Haaretz this also applies to support from Germany.

"So it is not only Israel which can lay claim to special consideration
on the part of Germany. As Germans we share not only a responsibility
toward Israel's existence, but also for the living conditions of the
Palestinian People," the scholars concluded.

The four cosignatories attended the debate at the invitation of former
deputy Knesset speaker, Dov Ben-Meir, who organized the event. In
December 2006, Ben-Meir wrote what he titled "a friendly response" to
the manifesto, which he in turn circulated in the media.

In his response, Ben-Meir said the original manifesto reflected a
"simplistic" approach. One of the main reasons for the conflict and
the current state of Arabs and Palestinians, Ben-Meir said, was
intransigence on their part and their reliance on violence instead of

Conceding that Germany's attitude to Israel is part of a
Holocaust-based "special relationship," Ben-Meir said at the debate
that this relationship - which included huge reparations payments that
Germany made to Israel in the 1950s - was primarily a German interest,
more than an Israeli one.

"By agreeing to put Germany's Nazi past aside, the Jewish nation has
granted Germany an entrance pass into the family of nations after
Germany was considered a pariah nation because of its Nazi past," he said.

The debate, which drew a crowd of some 150 people, took place in the
framework of a panel discussion. Representing the German scholars were
Professor Meggle, who specializes in philosophical anthropology at the
University of Leipzig, and Dr. Steinweg, a researcher at the Linz
branch of the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Steinweg said the group came to clear up misunderstandings about the
manifesto, which according to him has been misconstrued as a call to
end Germany's longstanding friendship with Israel.

Local panelists included former Israeli ambassador to Germany Shimon
Stein, correspondent for Die Zeit, Gisela Dachs and Professor Moshe
Zimmermann, Director of the Koebner Minerva Center for German History
at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Zimmermann said the issue of the Holocaust was currently subject to
political manipulation both by Israel and in Germany. "The Israelis
try to use this issue to paint people who criticize Israel as
anti-Semites. At the same time, this manifesto is an attempt to
manipulate German feelings of guilt vis--vis the Holocaust, by
projecting them onto the Palestinians," he argued.

"If the Germans want to feel guilt about the Holocaust, they better
stick to the Poles, the Dutch and the Jews. There is no need to go as
far as to feel guilty for what happened to the Palestinians," he added.

Commenting on the heated discussion that ensued, Herman Bunz from the
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung - the private non-profit German organization
which funded the visit by the German scholars - told the panelists,
"This is the perfect chance to misunderstand each other, but I would
advise you to do the opposite."

"They are a minority, but they educate young German minds and we
cannot afford to brush their criticism aside as anti-Semitic. We must
confront it," said Ben-Meir.

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