[Column] Boycott, yes — but Germany before Israel

Posted on : 2024-03-18 17:03 KST Modified on : 2024-03-18 17:03 KST
The real reason for Germany’s full-throated support of Israel
A German soldier gazes at an Iris-T missile at an air base in Jagel, southern Germany, in Jun 2023. (AFP/Yonhap)
A German soldier gazes at an Iris-T missile at an air base in Jagel, southern Germany, in Jun 2023. (AFP/Yonhap)

By Slavoj Žižek, Global Eminent Scholar at Kyung Hee University

At the closing ceremony of the Berlinale, the Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra and the Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham jointly took to the stage to accept the best documentary prize for their film “No Other Land,” which charts the eradication of Palestinian villages in the West Bank. Adra said he struggled to celebrate his film’s success while people in Gaza were “being slaughtered and massacred,” and urged Germany to cease arms exports to Israel. Speaking immediately afterward, Abraham decried a “situation of apartheid” that meant that his filmmaking partner did not enjoy the same voting rights and freedom of movement even though they lived only 30 minutes apart.

The public enthusiastically clapped the two, including German Culture Minister Claudia Roth. Politicians were quick to condemn the event: Berlin’s conservative mayor, Kai Wegner, described the speeches at the Berlinale closing ceremony as an “intolerable relativization,” and wrote: “The full responsibility for the deep suffering in Israel and the Gaza strip lies with Hamas.” A delegate for the Christian Democratic Union called for Roth’s resignation, while a politician for the Free Democratic Party proposed that the film festival’s state funding be withdrawn. 

Now comes the saddest moment: Roth issued a statement where she insisted she was only clapping the Israeli but not the Palestinian half of a filmmaking duo that won one of the major awards; she called the statements at the gala “shockingly one-sided and characterized by deep hatred of Israel,” saying the lack of a mention of Hamas’ terror attack was “not acceptable.” Yet another clear case of how even the German liberals who occasionally express their “concern” with Palestinian suffering move in the terrain determined by the conservative full supporters of Israel. They immediately “clarify” a gesture considered “problematic” by the conservatives. 

Still from “No Other Land.”
Still from “No Other Land.”

When David Cameron recently indicated that the UK will perhaps one-sidedly (without the consent of Israel) recognize a Palestinian state, was he not (measured by the standards of Germany) acting as an antisemite? Even Ami Ayalon, a former leader of Shin Bet, said on Jan. 14, 2023: “We Israelis will have security only when they, Palestinians, will have hope. This is the equation.” Israel will not have security until Palestinians have their own state, and Israeli authorities should release Marwan Barghouti, jailed leader of the second intifada, to direct negotiations to create one: “Look into the Palestinian polls. He is the only leader who can lead Palestinians to a state alongside Israel. First of all, because he believes in the concept of two states, and secondly because he won his legitimacy by sitting in our jails.” Is he not “antisemitic” here by the German standards? Does he not “relativize” or contextualize the Hamas attack?

How does Germany’s full support of Israel affect the key event going on in Israel itself? Yuval Harari believes the biggest threat to his country comes not from Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran, but from the battle between Israelis for the “soul of the nation.” 

“Personally, I fear most for really the soul of my country, of my nation in Israel at the moment. There is really a battle for the soul of the Israeli nation between patriotism on the one side and ideals of Jewish supremacy on the other side,” he says. 

This brings us to the saddest fact: Germany’s full support of Israel is not neutral in the ongoing struggle for the soul of Israeli Jews. Whatever the German intentions, it puts Germany firmly on the side of Jewish supremacy which has an extremely ominous past and present. Some Rabbis teaching at the (state-financed) Eli Academy, an elite school where many army officers are educated, have been shown to say that the Holocaust was “not about killing the Jews.” 

“The Nazi logic was internally consistent. Hitler said that a certain group in society is the cause of all the evil in the world and therefore it must be exterminated.  [. . .] For years, God has been screaming that the Diaspora is over but Jews aren’t obeying. That is their disease that the Holocaust must cure. [. . .] Hitler was the most righteous. Of course he was right in every word he said. His ideology was correct. [. . .] Their [Nazis’] only error was who was on which side.” (Israel Channel 13 News; April 29, 2019)

The continuity with Nazism is here directly asserted: Hitler practiced a correct stance, his only error was that he chose Jews (instead of Arabs) as the principal enemy to be annihilated. But even the annihilation of European Jews played a positive role: it was part of God’s plan to bring Jews back from the Diaspora to their land. The conclusion is terrifying: Zionists who founded Israel are the “corrected” Nazis, they continue the Nazi politics with the only change that they apply it to a correct enemy. 

Although such an extreme stance is, of course, explicitly advocated only by a minority, it brings out the underlying premises that sustain what the state of Israel is now doing on the West Bank. Seyla Benhabib pointed out that the members of the present government of Israel are “the legatees of a long line of Judeo-fascism,” recalling what Jewish figures like Einstein and Arendt said of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut): “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”

Today the legatees of this party and movement — Likud was established by Menachem Begin — are in power in Israel and they have brought upon Israel the worst disaster since the Holocaust.

The belief in Jewish supremacy is in direct continuity with Nazism — and, to go to the end in this direction, this is the true deeper reason why Germany unconditionally supports Israel. 

So what are we to do? Owen Jones made a proper suggestion: Countries should begin to boycott not Israel (which effectively is in a difficult situation) but Germany, which is now continuing an inverted Nazi politics. “It’s increasingly clear that writers, artists and performers should boycott German events. As well as an orgy of state-sanctioned anti-Palestinian racism, it’s estimated nearly a third of those targeted by Germany for ‘antisemitism’ are Jews,” he writes.

We witness here a well-known scene again: Germans shouting at and oppressing Jews, deciding who is a bad and who a good Jew. So Germany got everything: full support of the darkest side of the Israeli soul with historical links to Nazism, and, as a surplus-enjoyment, a chance to humiliate and punish selected Jews again.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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