By Dr. Ludwig Watzal – Bonn
Due to the pressure from the “Israel lobby”, events and exhibitions about Palestine can hardly take place in Germany anymore. The pro- Zionist “Israel lobby” is well organized. When an event is announced publicly, perfectly organized machinery is set in motion, which exercises massive pressure on those who provide the premises for a Palestinian event. Consequently, it has become almost impossible to have an open debate about Israel’s policy towards the Palestinian people and the Zionist colonization in Palestine.
The latest “success” of this lobby was garnered in Berlin. The cultural department of the Iranian Embassy in Berlin wanted to organize a conference entitled “Palestine – Peace based on justice” on Friday, August 16, 2013 at the educational institution “Urania”. All formalities were cleared. Speakers were committed among them the journalist Petra Wild who just published a book entitled “Apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestine: The Zionist settler colonialism in word and deed”, the film-makers Stefanie Landgraf and Johannes Gulde who’s film “We refuse to be enemies” was highly acclaimed but also defamed by the lobby in cooperation with one of the cities deputy majors in Nuremberg, Dr. Gabi Weber who runs the organization “Café Palestine” in Freiburg, Raif Hussein, the chairman of the German-Palestine society, and Dr. Yavuz Özoguz who operates the website “Muslim Market” who is also regularly defamed. Why was not Ilan Pappe or Felicia Langer invited?
Because of the pressure from the “Israel lobby”, the director of “Urania”, Dr. Ulrich Bleyer, unceremoniously pulled back from an already given commitment. Adding his voice of that to the usual suspects, the chairman of the German-Israeli Society, Reinhold Robbe (SPD), wrote a letter to Bleyer in which he not only misquoted the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rohani, but also linked this misquotation to the unspeakable crimes committed by the Nazi regime against the Jews. In this case, the “Israel lobby” restored even to lies in order to blackmail an institution to renege on its existing commitments.
Dr. Bleyer, visibly giving in to the pressure, wrote inter alia to the Iranian Embassy: “The program and the research on the speakers can clearly expect that our statutory goal of international understanding, which is also defined in the terms of our agreements as a condition of hire is not respected.” Why didn’t the director of “Urania” inform himself beforehand about the speakers? He further was afraid that the speakers could challenge “Israel’s right to exist” and legitimize terrorism as “a form of resistance against an occupying power”. Dr. Bleyer wrote that he expected a “large number of protesters”, and “that there will be clashes during the event or at the Urania.” The threats in the protest letters must have been so intimidating that he has canceled the event.
Cafe Palestine and Dr. Gabi Weber are increasingly in the crosshairs of this lobby, too. The lobby, for example, succeeded to prevent a lecture by Prof. Christophe Oberlin of the University of Paris on the topic “Plastic Surgery in Gaza” at the University of Freiburg. The lobby is always proceeding along the same pattern: Defame and put pressure on the institutions. “Café Palestine” was compelled to sue the University for bowing to the pressure to obtain cause.
Another object of attack by “Israel lobby” is the traveling exhibition “Nakba – flight and expulsion of Palestinians in 1948”, organized by the association “Refugee children in Lebanon”, and headed by Ms. Ingrid Rumpf. Organizers and local authorities are regularly subjected to by German-Jewish and Zionist organizations to prevent this exhibition. Their goal is to prevent public awareness of this crucial chapter in the history of the State of Israel. Claiming that the exhibition is one-sided, the lobby prefers to prohibit it than to engage in a rational debate regarding the subject-matter. In many cases, German institutions bow to the pressure of the “Israel lobby”.
The problem appears not so much to reside to the real power of the “Israel lobby” but rather in the submissiveness of the German side. If the lobby cannot rely on their uncritical support, they can easily refute because the lobby does not have real arguments.
Chas Freeman, a former U. S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a respected scholar, was bullied by the “Israel lobby” before he could even take a job in the Obama administration. His blunt characterization of this lobby may also hold true for the lobby’s German branch: “The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, and the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth.”
It is high time for the Germans to recognize that the commitment for freedom in Palestine has become a fight for our own freedom to inquire, know and express the truth.
– Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his blog: ‘Between the lines.’