This piece was first published on the Hebrew-language website Mida on March 26, 2017 rendered into English by Avi Woolf, and republished here with permission. The original article can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
At a time when the German government is cancelling its consultations with the Israeli government and assigning full blame to Israel for the conflict with the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas is being given the royal treatment in Berlin and even received the “Hope for Peace Award.”
Is it stupidity? Naïveté? An old ideology which has not disappeared from the world, or just a desire to advance various interests at any cost without regard for basic human values? The attitude of Germany and far too many Germans to what’s going on in the Middle East regularly leads to these questions, which only multiply with time. The more the situation and conditions in the Middle East become complicated, or one might say become clarified, the more Germany holds onto positions that are increasingly detached from reality, with no ability to carry out a sober, realistic analysis of those ideas.
This problematic approach primarily expresses itself when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict, which magnifies the inability of far too many Germans—especially decision makers and policy shapers—to use their rationality and reason. As soon as the name Israel is mentioned, too many Germans have a defensive reaction, an instinctive avoidance of being accused of past crimes, and then proceed on the principle that the best defense is a good offense. Thus has Israel automatically become in the eyes of most Germans, including senior public officials, the sole guilty party for all the problems in the Middle East—which have recently also invaded Europe and Germany.
This method of attack was primarily developed and honed by the Communist regime, which ruled East Germany until 1990. The Israelization of anti-Semitism, that is the clothing of anti-Semitism in anti-Israel and anti-Zionist garb, was an official policy in East Germany that did not disappear along with the regime. To the contrary: it became embedded within the general population of unified Germany, and became a very common mindset.
One could have expected that the disappointing developments of the Arab Spring regarding the possible democratization and liberalization of the Middle East, the collapse of the states around the region and their sinking into blood-soaked civil wars, and the arrival of Islamist terror on European soil—would seriously shake up the frozen way in which the German establishment and people think about the region and lead them to rethink their positions. But this change did not occur, and far too many Germans prefer to continue to hold on to their old and outdated view of the Middle East, in which Israel is the primary guilty party for all the region’s problems.
This is especially true in reference to right-wing Israel, which in the eyes of many Germans—who do not God forbid wish to be seen as anti-Semites—is putting itself on the road to self-destruction. Those same German are dead-set against having a serious discussion of the contents of the positions of the Israeli right. As far as they are concerned, only an Israeli withdrawal and the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of the “two-state solution” will heal the ills of the Middle East and bring world peace—perhaps much like the one they dreamed about in Communist East Germany. The fact that Israeli withdrawals, such as those done in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, did not bring brotherhood in the Middle East any closer but actually drove it away, is also seen as Israel’s fault, since it wasn’t sufficiently diplomatically daring to acquiesce to all the Arabs’ demands.
“The Hope for Peace Award”
The recent visit to Germany by the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas revealed the strangeness of German policy toward the Middle East, especially regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Germany, which sees itself as the guardian of democracy and protector of human rights, went out of its way to honor an Arab leader who was indeed chosen in free elections but who has not allowed any elections since 2005, is accused by his subjects of violating human rights and of corruption, has fled from making brave decisions to advance a peace agreement with Israel, is a Holocaust denier who continues to encourage violence against Jews under the cover of “resistance to the occupation,” has done nothing to stop the incitement to violence in the areas under his control, and refuses to recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel—even though such recognition is the official policy of the German government. Mahmoud Abbas symbolizes everything Germany opposes, and yet it still gives him honors generally reserved for the world’s great leaders.