Is German pacifism ignorant or anti-Israeli?

German pacifists criticising Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip are missing the point, argues Israeli journalist Ze'ev Avrahmi.

Is German pacifism ignorant or anti-Israeli?
Photo: DPA

During these times of war in the Middle East, there is nothing that bothers me more than German pacifism.

Or, to put it more correctly, I look at the Germans’ pacifism with a mixture of anger and envy, because it is a luxury that we Israelis can’t afford.

If I had a choice, I would also like to end the conflict without guns. I would also self-righteously like to point out that violence only creates more violence. I would like to be leftist, pacifist and completely unaware of the daily attacks from Gaza on Israel for the past eight years.

And at the same time, here is something I want to ask these German pacifists: Would you still condemn the right to self-defence if Austria or Poland would attack Berlin and Munich with daily barrages of rockets?

I also want to ask them: Where is the preaching against violence when there are daily attacks on foreigners in Germany? Why don’t you cry out loud when your fellow German citizens beat up and attack innocent refugees and immigrants on the outskirts of Berlin or in small towns in Bavaria or Saxony?

And where is your outspoken pacifism when Jews, only 60 years after the Holocaust, have to wear baseball caps to hide their kippas when they walk in the streets of Berlin because they are, again, afraid to identify themselves as Jews in the former Nazi capital?

And why do you keep silent when German police force their way into an apartment in Duisburg to tear down Israeli flags to placate Muslim protestors who were becoming violent?

I would like to know why pacifism gains so much strength every time it is directed against Israel. How come the newspaper pictures of the war are so one-sided and pro-Palestinian? Could it be that anti-Semitism is again prevalent in Germany, only this time it conveniently disguises itself as being anti-Israel?

The answer is complex. I have met anti-Semites in this country, but I also ran into a lot of philo-Semites here. Some people here seem to feel less guilty of the German past when Jews “also” act violently. And, of course, there are also those, who reflexively root for the underdog, the Palestinians.

Then there are those, who warn that if Israel harms the Palestinians, it shouldn’t complain if they hit back in the form of suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Many left-wing Germans like to present themselves as pacifists, as the torch bearers of ethical behaviour. Many say that this is the main result of the Third Reich. But is it really so? Don’t forget, the Nazis didn’t stop killing Jews because of some ethical enlightenment; they did so because they lost the war.

Sometimes this way of thinking has unintended consequences. For the past 15 years the EU, Japan and America flooded the Palestinian territories with money and donations without controlling the distribution of this money. Instead of opening factories that will enjoy cheap work force and give its workers a reason to wake up in the morning, these donations ended up helping build the infrastructure of terror in Gaza.

I also think that it is pure ignorance to believe the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the conflict between a Western society and radical Islam, is only Israel’s problem. It is much more. It’s part of the clash of civilisations, the war between those who believe in the Western lifestyle and freedom and those who want to destroy our democracies by sacrificing their lives for the idea of Jihad.

It is a global culture war between women’s rights and “honour killings” in major German and European cities, between freedom of the press and Danish caricatures about the prophet Mohammed, between freedom of expression and death threats against someone like Dutch Islam critic Hirsi Ali.

Radical Islamists, as we saw in America in 2001, on trains and buses in London and Madrid, in the stabbing of Theo Van Gogh on an Amsterdam sidewalk and the recent failed Sauerland terror attack in Germany, aren’t just Israel’s problem.

Radical Islam is thinking globally and making its point randomly. If Israel loses its struggle against the Hamas, there will be no mercy for those European pacifists who marched for their cause.

Harvard’s political theorist Samuel Huntington died a few days before the Israeli bombardment of Gaza started. But his death didn’t bury the contents of his 1996 prophetic book, “The Clash of Civilisations.” Now, just like after the terror attacks of September 11, the bombings in Madrid and London, is a time when Germany’s pacifists need to decide which civilisation they belong to.

Ze’ev Avrahmi is a Berlin-based freelance correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. The opinions expressed above are solely his own.


Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street

A former Israeli soldier was attacked in the German capital Berlin, police said Saturday, with one or several unknown assailants spraying him with an irritant and throwing him to the ground.

Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street
Israeli soldiers on operation near the Gaza Strip. Photo: dpa | Ilia Yefimovich

The 29-year-old was wearing a top with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) logo when the attackers started harassing him on Friday about his religion, the police added, calling it “an anti-Semitic attack”.

Officers are seeking the assailants, who fled immediately after the attack, on suspicion of a politically-motivated crime.

Saturday is the second anniversary of an attack by a far-right gunman on a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle, who killed two in a rampage when he failed to break into the house of worship.

It was one of a string of incidents that led authorities to declare the far right and neo-Nazis Germany’s top security threat.

Also this week, a musician claimed he was turned away from a hotel in eastern city Leipzig for wearing a Star-of-David pendant.

While the allegations prompted a fierce response from a Jewish community unsettled by increasing anti-Semitic crimes, several investigations have been mounted into contradictory accounts of the incident.

In 2019, police recorded 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, an increase of 13 percent year-on-year.

“The threat is complex and comes from different directions” from jihadists to the far right, the federal government’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism Felix Klein said recently.