Israel critics chase Gysi into bathroom stall

The Left (Die Linke) party chief Gregor Gysi took refuge in a toilet after two activist journalists chased him down alleging that he called them anti-Semitic.

Israel critics chase Gysi into bathroom stall
A screenshot from David Sheen's video.

The incident was recorded and posted onto YouTube on Tuesday.

"When I have a hit on my life, are you going to take responsibility for that?" asks Canadian-Israeli activist David Sheen as he follows Gysi down the corridor housing the Left party's parliamentary offices on the video. "Are you going to take responsibility for the threats on my life?"

Gysi then locks himself into the bathroom, yelling "Out! Get out of here!", as Sheen continues to shout after him.

The confrontation stemmed from a talk that Sheen was supposed to give with American author Max Blumenthal, a sharp critic of the Israeli state's conduct in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, at Berlin's Volksbühne on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9.

Gysi had also sought to prevent the pair from speaking to MPs in the Linke conference room at the parliament.

Upon the urgings of Green party politician and head of the German-Israeli partliamentary friendship group Volker Beck, Left party representative Petra Pau and Reinhold Robbe, the president of the German-Israeli Society, the theatre cancelled the talk.

The three politicians expressed concern that a talk by the known Israel critics would create a forum for anti-Semitism.

"On November 9 … a very one sided discussion of the conflict  in the Middle East is being held by the Israel critics Max Blumenthal and David Sheen," Beck wrote on his Facebook page with a copy of the letter.

"The two are, on the anniversary of the beginning of the persecution, abduction and murder of more than six million European Jews, presenting a talk that serves anti-Semitic resentments and compares the reign of terror of the Nazis to the Israeli government."

Blumenthal's latest book, Goliath, quotes orthodox Jewish philosopher Yeshayahu Liebowitz's reference to Israeli soldiers as "Judaeo-Nazis".

Blumenthal has been accused of equating the religious state to Nazi Germany through provocative chapter titles in the same book, and recently compared Israel to terrorist group Islamic State.

Goliath caused the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, to name Blumenthal to their 2013 list of anti-semites

In the video, Blumenthal is seen saying that Sheen is angry because "he'll have to go to Israel, where he could be – he'll definitely be attacked for these allegations against us."

Blumenthal also says that "Stasi-ism is alive and well" after Gysi, whose political career was born out of the German Democratic Republic, refuses to speak to the pair.

Sheen and Blumenthal, who are both Jewish, say that having their talks cancelled as a precaution against anti-Semitism has branded them as racists against their own people.

They now fear that they will be persecuted because of the statement that was co-signed by Gysi's colleague, Petra Pau.

Blumenthal and Sheen also gave testimony in the German parliament regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, which they allege Gysi's party also tried to shut down. The parliamentary hearing happened as planned.

On Tuesday evening, Gysi condemned the actions of the journalists in a press statement.

"We won't cooperate with anyone who treats us or our comrades with such hostility like those on November 10," he said.

The three members who invited the two reporters have since apologized to Gysi. 

Article clarified at 1300 on 12/11/2014 to show quotes from Max Blumenthal were taken from the linked video.

Article corrected at 1800 on 12/11/2014 to show that Max Blumenthal quoted Yeshayahu Liebowitz in referring to Israeli soldiers as "Judaeo-Nazis"; that Gysi sought to prevent Blumenthal and Sheen speaking at the Bundestag; that Blumenthal has not explicitly compared Israel to the Nazi regime.

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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.