World Jewish Congress shames us

October 24, 2019 by Isi Leibler
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The World Jewish Congress purports to represent Jewish communities throughout the world. Although its president (and prime funder), Ronald Lauder, at times feels free to ignore governance on issues related to Israel, the WJC has successfully issued streams of positive statements on Jewish issues which the media frequently quotes.

Isi Leibler at home in Jerusalem

Next week, on October 28, the Executive Committee will meet in Munich and will invite all Congress constituents to participate. The highlight of the meeting, which has been widely promoted, is the award of the Theodor Herzl Prize to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This prize is awarded to recognize individuals who “work to promote Herzl’s ideals for a safer, more tolerant world for the Jewish people.” Previous recipients include Israeli President Shimon Peres, Elie and Marion Wiesel, and, posthumously, former US President Ronald Reagan and German journalist and publisher Axel Springer.

When first elected in 2005, Merkel not only condemned antisemitism but maintained that that it was Germany’s mission to atone for the Holocaust by ensuring Israel’s security and eliminating Jew-hatred at all levels. She repeatedly expressed deep shame at Germany’s Nazi past and efforts to murder European Jewry.

Alas, in recent years she has veered away from this policy. She continues verbally to condemn antisemitism but in practice her government has moved in the opposite direction. In fact, she has contributed in no small way toward making Germany and the world far more dangerous for Jews.

  • Merkel has enabled entry to over a million migrants from the Middle East, including numerous jihadists who have imported their anti-Jewish hatred and been involved in numerous antisemitic incidents. The feeling shared by most of Germany’s 120,000 Jews is that antisemitism has increased dramatically over the past few years. However, the German government tends to downplay the antisemitic motivation of the crimes, dismissing them as acts of individual anti-social behavior. Merkel continues to state that the bulk of antisemitism in Germany emanates from right-wing extremist sources or persons suffering from mental disabilities – which is manifestly false.
  • In addition to supporting the Iranian nuclear deal, Merkel’s government has refused to condemn Iran’s repeated threats to destroy the “cancer” Israel, dismissing these repeated threats as rhetoric. It has also refused to identify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and enabled marches throughout Germany calling for Israel’s destruction. In February, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a congratulatory message to Tehran praising the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The Foreign Ministry attended an event at the Iranian Embassy celebrating the anniversary. The German government has also been at the forefront of those seeking to circumvent US sanctions against the Tehran regime.
  • Germany has condemned US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pressured Eastern European countries to refrain from relocating their embassies.
  • Despite repeated protests from Israel, Merkel’s government continues to provide millions of dollars to organizations promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which is recognized as being antisemitic – a policy that is exclusively applied to Israel.
  • Germany’s voting record on Israel-related matters at the United Nations has been among the worst of the hypocritical European nations, which either support or abstain on excessively biased anti-Israel resolutions. Germany also equates Israel’s demolition of terrorist homes with Hamas rocket attacks. One could of have expected the opposite from Germany in light of its repeated pledges to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust be implemented.

For the WJC to now extend such a prestigious award to Merkel is not only surprising but nauseating. It dishonors Jewish dignity and should be canceled. Leading members of the German Jewish community have condemned the WJC for granting her the award. Dr. Rafael Korenzecher, a German Jewish leader and publisher, sarcastically noted that Merkel deserved a Herzl award for promoting aliyah to Israel and “thanks to her current policy, Germany will be Judenrein [free of Jews].”

Honoring Merkel in this manner makes a mockery of Jewish leadership and conveys the message that the Jews will not react adversely or protest, irrespective of the disgusting acts of their government.

In light of the flow of objections, Lauder will presumably try to overcome the criticism by making remarks expressing hopes for a better future. But this is insufficient. Unless Merkel is going to formally announce a change in Germany’s negative policies toward Israel, he should cancel the award.

He can inform Merkel that he is doing so because of pressure which has been exerted on him by Jews all over the world.

In so doing, he would be conveying an appropriate message to Merkel. He would also be setting a standard for Jewish communities all over the world, encouraging them to protest when their governments pursue immoral policies against Jews or Israel. If he would act in this manner, the WJC as a global Jewish leadership organization would be worthy of its name.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

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