The Berlin Jewish Museum’s Anti-Israel Problem

July 16 2019

In March, the Berlin Jewish Museum hosted an Iranian diplomat who received a private tour, met with the museum’s director, and made a pronouncement about the importance of distinguishing anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism. This is not the first time in the past few years that the museum has ignited controversy by inviting committed enemies of the Jewish state. More recently, the museum’s official Twitter account appeared to oppose recent German legislation declaring the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) the Jewish state a form of anti-Semitism. As a result of fierce criticism from the German Jewish community, the museum’s director—the distinguished scholar of ancient Judaism Peter Schäfer, who is not himself a Jew—has resigned. Manfred Gerstenfeld comments:

The position [of the museum’s director] has many complex political and managerial aspects and Schäfer, primarily a scholar, never should have accepted it. It requires an experienced manager with profound political understanding and instincts who is able to operate in what is for German Jews a highly problematic reality.

There are many topics that merit attention or even exhibitions by a Jewish museum in Berlin, but are [nowadays] taboo. For example: the mutation over the years of murderous anti-Semitism against Jews in Nazi Germany into the massive demonization of Israel in contemporary Germany. This expresses itself in the frequent comparisons of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians with those of the Nazis toward the Jews. Another exhibition could compare the modern-day Arab demonization of Israel and the Jews with that conducted by the Nazis. . . .

There are very different possible subjects of exhibitions as well, such as the role of the church in creating the infrastructure for persecution in Germany and how much of that survives in the current German Christian environment. . . . When the day comes that the Jewish Museum organizes such exhibitions, we will know the messianic age is dawning.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: German Jewry, Germany, Jewish museums

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas