Three events scheduled to take place in Germany in recent weeks and aimed at raising support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel have been canceled in a sign of German efforts to stomp out what many view to be a cover for classic antisemitism.
The first event, featuring pro-BDS activist Shir Hever, who was slated to speak on “Israel’s Right-Wing Friends in Europe and in the US,” was scheduled to take place in January in the city of Bonn. The event was sponsored by the Palestinian Community of Germany, BDS Bonn and the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East.
Hever is a known critic of Israel and is a member of the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice. He wrote on the Middle East Eye website: “In April, Israeli soldiers kicked out Palestinians who were bathing in a natural pool in the West Bank, so that colonists could bathe there undisturbed. Such overt and daily acts of apartheid influence the BDS debate.”
The German-Kurdish cultural house in Bonn canceled his talk after it was criticized by Mayor Ashok Sridharan, who characterized an advertisement for the planned event as containing texts with “one-sided statements with respect to Israel that were, from the perspective of the city, hostile to Israel and in their blanket statements ultimately antisemitic.”
The next canceled event was supposed to take place in the German state of Saarland and to be held by the local pro-democracy foundation. The organization decided to disinvite pro-BDS activist Abraham Melzer, who had been slated to speak in February.
According to a statement to The Jerusalem Post by Dr. Verena Paul from the foundation, it had canceled the event due to allegations by a lawyer for the Jewish community in Vienna who “called many times for the cancellation of Mr. Melzer’s talk because he spreads antisemitic agitational tirades.” The statement said that Richard Bermann, the head of the Jewish community in Saarland, told the organization that the foundation was entering “the waters of the National Socialists of the Third Reich” if it allowed the talk to take place.
Last year, Melzer lost a lawsuit against a German Jewish leader who had labeled him as “notorious” for antisemitic remarks. The court said that Melzer’s “behavior can and may, without question, be judged as antisemitic.”
The third canceled talk was to have taken place in December, when Reverend Thomas Schalla of the Protestant Church in the city of Karlsruhe canceled an event with pro-BDS journalist Andreas Zumach.
Schalla said that the church canceled the event because “I want to avert damage to the relationship between the Protestant Church and the Jewish Community of Karlsruhe.” Karlsruhe is located in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, told the Post that Zumach has engaged “in clearly antisemitic activity” with his support of BDS. Zumach is a member of the advisory board of the pro-BDS organization Alliance to End the Israeli Occupation.
Zuroff said that Zumach has used language that is an “antisemitic trope” because “he accuses Jews of being powerful and implies Jewish control of the media and finance.” He added that Zumach’s alleged antisemitic discourse suggests “Jews run a lobby to control Germany.” Zumach refused to respond to requests for an interview and declined to answer e-mail queries about Zuroff’s criticisms.