Germany’s ‘anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools’ enters a third century

The Social Democrats need to reverse their pro-Iranian regime and pro-Palestinian terrorism policies, or it will be business as usual.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Credit: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.
Benjamin Weinthal
Benjamin Weinthal is a Jerusalem-based journalist who covers the Middle East and is a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, the largely pro-Iranian regime Social Democratic Party, is polling even with her Christian Democratic Union ahead of the Sept. 26 federal election.

A profound insight about left-wing Jew-hatred—namely, that “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools”—is frequently attributed to the German Social Democrat August Bebel (1840-1913). It still rings true regarding great swaths of German left-wingers.

Over the last four years of Merkel’s fourth and last term (she is not running for re-election), the Social Democrats have contributed to the rise of German anti-Semitism and delivered repeated shots in the arm to the world’s worst sponsor of terrorism, Holocaust denial, and lethal anti-Jewish, anti-Israel sentiment and action: the Islamic Republic of Iran.

If the Social Democrats secure representation in the next federal government, then it will be business as usual, continuing the trajectory of a party that was born in the ideas of the enlightenment and reform but has degenerated into a force hostile to Israel and Jews.

Let us consider one of the most egregious examples. Germany’s Social Democratic foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has consistently sent high-level diplomats to Tehran’s embassy in Berlin to celebrate the Islamic Revolution that ushered in the radical clerical regime in 1979.

That a politician like Maas, who said he went into “politics because of Auschwitz,” is mainstreaming a regime that denies the Holocaust while all the time issuing genocidal statements about bringing about a second one is telling.

The Social Democratic president Frank-Walter Steinmeier infamously sent a telegram on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution to Iran’s then-President Hassan Rouhani, congratulating the mullah regime “in the name” of the German people.

It should be noted that Merkel objected neither to Steinmeier’s telegram nor to Maas’s foreign ministry participating in an event celebrating the clerical regime.

Merkel’s chief priority was to preserve her coalition and not to pick fights with the Social Democrats. Her other main priority was to advance Germany’s commercial interests, even at the expense of her pledge to Israel that the security of the Jewish state is “non-negotiable.”

Germany remains the Islamic Republic’s most important European trade partner. In 2019, Maas sent a top diplomat to a seminar designed to help companies bypass U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s regime.

Björn Stritzel, a security and foreign-affairs journalist for the Berlin-based Bild, Europe’s best-selling newspaper, wrote at the time about the seminar that the business with Iran takes place “with the blessing of the German Foreign Ministry. This is not only shameful but a slap in the face of all freedom-loving Iranians.”

Last week, the German journalist Wolfram Weimer described Maas as “the worst foreign minister since 1945.”

Maas’s record on delegitimizing Israel and endangering Jewish security certainly justifies Weimer’s blistering critique.

He did not object when his Ambassador to the United Nations Christoph Heusgen likened Israel to the jihadi terrorist movement Hamas at the U.N. Security Council. Heusgen’s appalling parallel earned him a spot on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s worst outbreaks of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in 2019.

A year later, another foreign minister employee, Andreas Görgen, the director-general for cultural affairs and communication, was included in the 2020 list for his advocacy of the BDS campaign targeting Israel.

Jusos, the Social Democratic Party’s youth movement, also earned a spot on the Wiesenthal list for its resolution declaring solidarity with the youth wing of Fatah, the main faction of the PLO, as a “sister organization.” Fatah Youth seeks the dissolution of Israel. In one instance at a demonstration in 2018 in the disputed West Bank, Fatah Youth members wore fake explosive belts and chanted slogans calling for Israel’s destruction.

When I asked Michaela Engelmeier, a Social Democratic politician who became the general secretary of the German-Israeli Friendship Society (DIG), about the anti-Semitic bill of particulars regarding her party, she refused to comment and blocked me on Twitter.

When Social Democrats like Engelmeier, who plays a leading role in a moderately pro-Israel group that is financed by Germany’s government, remain silent, it only sets the stage for more Social Democratic-animated anti-Semitism.

To be fair, Engelmeier—a former member of the German National Judo Team—has done some decent work in criticizing Muslim-majority countries like the Islamic Republic that engage in anti-Semitism by refusing to compete against Israeli athletes.

Sadly, there are no robust countervailing forces within Engelmeier’s party to undercut its growing anti-Jewish problem.

The Social Democrats need—to borrow a phrase from the founder of modern socialism, Karl Marx—to engage in “ruthless criticism” of their promotion of intense anti-Semitism with a view of reversing their pro-Iranian regime and pro-Palestinian terrorism policies. Regrettably, the perversely modernized version of “the socialism of fools” has carried on into a third century in Germany.

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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