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Berlin: Senator Apologizes for Anti-Israeli Statements Displayed at Anniversary

The conflict triggered by anti-Israel statements displayed on stage at the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall celebration on Saturday is continuing. While Berlin’s Culture Senator Klaus Lederer has apologized, the conservative opposition wants to discuss the matter at the House of Representatives.

During the fall of the Wall anniversary, tens of thousands experienced the big celebration at Brandenburg Gate on site. Many more watched it on ZDF television, which broadcast the big event live. Mainly Israeli spectators, German Jews and the very few others who speak Hebrew understood the political messages in Hebrew which were displayed on a big balloon on stage during a musical performance.

Directed at those who Understood

They said “End the occupation” and “Land without walls”. These messages were obviously directed at those who understood them, and they were shown on the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, which coincided with that of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On November 9th, 1938, the Nazis, including many civilians, murdered 400 Jews, burned synagogues in all of Germany and destroyed countless Jewish-owned businesses. That night was the beginning of the Nazis’ mass murder of Jews in Germany and all over Europe.

A total of 100,000 spectators experienced the fall of the Wall anniversary celebration. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The Hebrew messages displayed during the celebrations are problematic in several ways:

  • One of them indirectly compares the former Berlin Wall to the walls and fences which separate Israel from Gaza and other Palestinian areas. But while the Berlin Wall was built to keep GDR citizens in their communist country, the wall in Israel was built to keep terrorists out and save Israeli lives.
  • The occupation of Gaza ended in 2005, meaning Israel pulled out that year, in part because of international pressure. But since, Gaza has been taken over by the organization Hamas which has turned the strip into an even worse terror haven than it was before. Also the situation of the Arab inhabitants has deteriorated. Several wars against Israel were started from there.
  • Generally, the ‘occupation’ serves the security of Israel and its citizens, including the 20 percent of the population who are Arabs. Since its foundation, Israel has been attacked by its neighbors countless times. New missile attacks on Israeli civilians were started from Gaza just as this article was written on Monday morning, after Israel reportedly killed a commander of Islamic Jihad, yet another terrorist organization.
  • Including those anti-Israeli messages during the fall of the Wall celebration is antisemitic. To be precise: Singling out the only predominantly Jewish state in the world and directly or indirectly calling its legitimacy into question constitutes Israel-related antisemitism.
  • Especially on German soil, and especially on the anniversary of the so-called Night of Broken Glass, displaying this kind of message to Jews is like saying “You should not be anywhere. Israel should disappear.”

Amassador Issacharoff’s Criticism

The Israeli Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, said it was a disgrace that some people had thought it had been fitting to abuse that event for political messages directed against Israel. The conservative party CDU in the city state of Berlin now wants to discuss the matter in the House of Representatives.

Berlin’s Culture Senator Klaus Lederer from the party ‘The Left’ was responsible for the festivities. He said he deeply regretted that an anti-Israeli message had been displayed during the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall celebration. Lederer commissioned the company ‘Kulturprojekte Berlin’ to organize the cultural part.

One of the anti-Israeli messages displayed during the fall of the Wall anniversary.

After the German blog ‘Ruhrbarone’ broke the story on Sunday, The Berlin Spectator officially asked ‘Kulturprojekte’ who had been responsible for those political messages. While other media received answers to their inquiries on Sunday, this one received an e-mail on Monday afternoon. It referred to a post on the company’s Facebook page.

‘Misunderstandable Interpretation’

That post said a “mistakable” image had been included in an “artistic video sequence about peaceful protests”. The latter had shown protests of the organization ‘Women in Black’ which had been awarded with numerous peace prizes. The fact that some groups involved support the anti-Israeli BDS movement was not mentioned.

But ‘Kulturprojekte’, a state-owned company, did say that the organizers of the Berlin celebration did not share that opinion. The company apologized for any “misunderstandable interpretation”, even though others were the ones who “interpreted” the anti-Israeli statements, and in spite of the fact that the interpretation was not misunderstandable at all.

In the meantime, the ZDF TV network has removed the anti-Israeli statements from the video footage of the fall of the Wall anniversary celebrations, which can still be watched on the channel’s website.