09/05 The Jewish Advocate: Turkey's response to ADL controversy

German unions face test
By Benjamin Weinthal - Wednesday September 5 2007

Sergey Lagodinsky Organized labor's anti-Israel rhetoric called to task

When Saddam Hussein declared that he would “incinerate half of Israel with poison gas” during the Golf War in 1991, the hard-charging German Jewish journalist Henryk M. Broder proposed an Israel solidarity test for Germans who never cease to affirm their support for Israel’s “right to exist.”
Broder urged Germans to book flights to Tel-Aviv and thereby match their rhetoric with action. Yet the commercial planes in Frankfurt remained empty, and Christian Ströbele, a leading German politician from the Green party justified rocket attacks on the Jewish population as a “logical, almost compelling consequence of Israel’s politics.”
The wave of British trade union boycotts against Israeli products and academic partnerships is presenting a new solidarity test for both German labor unions and its purportedly overwhelming philo-Semitic German population. The issue is particularly sensitive for Germans in light of the National Socialist boycott of Jewish businesses beginning in 1933 (“Germans Defend Yourselves! Don’t Shop at Jewish Stores!”). That helps to explain why German unions are not initiating, or in their wildest anti-Israel fantasies would ever propose, boycotting Israel resolutions.
The run-of-the-mill anti-Israelism of a sizable number of German trade unionists involves an open letter on the world’s largest industrial union, the German labor organization IG Metall, demanding in 2002 a “nationwide solidarity campaign with the victims of Israeli aggression.” The signatories of the letter, following the ubiquitous pattern of many on the German Left who are infatuated with refuting the charge of anti-Semitism and not fighting actual anti-Semitism, argue that their protest is “legitimate” and ought not be “misused for anti-Semitic propaganda.” The protest letter predictably omitted mention of the Israeli victims of Palestinian terror attacks.
The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) in New York jumpstarted a campaign to block the British trade union boycotts of Israel. And more than 40 major unions (including the National Education Association, United Auto Workers and the Coalition of Black trade unionists) have aligned themselves with the JLC. In contrast to their American union counterparts, German unions so far have neither signed a resolution condemning the British anti-Israel boycott measures nor have they issued statements demanding that their sister unions in England discontinue the modern version of urging buyers not to shop at Jewish stores.
The president of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Michael Sommer, issued a press statement to this reporter. Sommer, who cannot formulate internal union policy for the DGB’s eight member unions, said: “Boycotts are not a proper means of advancing the urgently needed peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. They are more likely to achieve the opposite.” And on Sept. 4, an executive council meeting of the DGB and its eight unions reiterated this sentiment.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the JLC and the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Workers Union, urged “those unions in Germany and in other lands, who believe in real peace, to join us in condemning these resolutions.” And Nikolaus Simon, director of the prominent union research foundation Hans Böckler in Düsseldorf, praised the American anti-Boycott measure as “honorable” and, given the support of the two larges American labor federations (AFL-CIO and Change to Win), he sees “no reason why we should not do the same.”
The Working Group of Jewish Social Democrats, a recently-formed political group within the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany, appealed on the DGB and its affiliates to sign its statement against “the ostracism of Israel through unions and union members.” Sergey Lagodinsky, the founder of the SPD group, welcomed the position of the DGB president Sommer but added: “Only united action by all eight German unions would be adequate given the extent of the absurdity and political short-sightedness of boycott supporters. It is high time to leave behind political lip service to Israel’s right to exist and move on to concrete action. At the moment, ‘action’ means taking an explicit stand.” As of press time, the DGB and its member unions have not signed the Working Group’s statement rejecting trade union boycott initiatives against Israel.
Are German labor union leaders running scared of endorsing a statement or resolution condemning the hardcore anti-Semitism of the British unions because that would spell a confrontation with anti-Israeli attitudes or perhaps latent anti-Semitism within their memberships? Or is the indifference simply an outgrowth of failing to understand that the new aspect of modern anti-Semitism is hatred of Israel? Solidarity Forever!

Benjamin Weinthal is a journalist based in Berlin.

Source: http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/news/?content_id=3613