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Lip Service is Not Enough

Pro-Israel conference in Frankfurt seeks to change the Merkel administration’s Iran policies.

Benjamin Weinthal
30th October 2011 - The Jerusalem Post

The Iranian threat to the security of the Jewish state played a front and center role last week at Europe’s largest ever pro-Israel conference in Frankfurt.

The two-day event attracted 3,000 participants from across Germany, Austria, Belgium, Hungary and Israel.

“We are demanding that if Israel’s security truly is part of the German raison d’etat, that there be actions to follow up on these words,” Sacha Stawski, the principal organizer of the second annual Israel Congress event, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “This includes outlawing the Hezbollah movement in Germany and implementing tough Iran-sanctions, to name just two immediate tasks on hand.”

When Stawski invokes the plural “we” during his talks with the Post, he was referring to the “unprecedented 200 or so organizations – Christian, Jewish, nondenominational – that attended the conference “to openly express their support and solidarity for the State of Israel.”

The conference’s political goals were ambitious, largely because the Merkel administration and Germany’s business class have fought tooth-and-nail to oppose robust EU and US sanctions clamping down on trade relations with the Islamic Republic.

The Federal Republic, which is Iran’s largest EU trade partner, permits Iran’s main foreign militia and political proxy, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, to operate in its backyard. According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, there are an estimated 900 active members of Hezbollah in the Federal Republic and the radical Islamic political party remains a legal entity.

The conference devoted a blue chip panel to Israel’s security and Iran’s jingoistic policies. Veteran Israeli journalists Yossi Melman from Haaretz and the Post’s Herb Keinon spoke at the panel. They were joined by Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and author of a new book, The Pasdaran: Inside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

This writer, representing the Post as a correspondent and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as a research fellow, spoke at the workshop titled “The role of the media and new media (Social Networks) in connection with the Middle East conflict.”

Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons and to foment genocidal anti-Semitism weaved its way through the speech of Dr. Dieter Graumann, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to the 3,000 listeners.”

Israel is still fighting for its existence, and our values bind us to Israel, but it’s not enough to say so. Germany should cut off diplomatic and economic relations with the Iranian regime,” said Graumann. “Iran is responsible for the terror attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel. It is unconscionable to continue carrying on business with this regime.”

Germany’s annual business with Iran hovers each year around 4 billion euros. During the first half of 2011, German imports of Iranian goods increased to 453 million euros, from 382 million euros in the same period a year earlier. Also during the first six months of 2011, German consumption of Iranian gas and oil rose to 280 million euros, from 197 million euros in the first half of 2010.

While changing Berlin’s pro-Tehran trade policies and its cordial – many critics deem it appeasement – relations with Iran’s lawmakers remain an uphill struggle for the pro-Israel groups at the conference, Stawski’s activities have commanded growing grassroots and media attention.

The first Israel event organized by Stawski and Claudia Korenke attracted 1,100 visitors in 2010. Korenke, who ran public relations for this year’s congress and is head of the German- Israeli Friendship Society in Frankfurt, traveled to Israel with Hesse state Interior Minister Boris Rhein after the conference. Rhein delivered an opening speech at the Frankfurt parley.

When asked about the extensive German media coverage, Stawski told the Post, “We had a big mix of press coverage about the conference. I am happy to note that we finally succeeded in bringing our demand that Hezbollah should be outlawed in Germany to the attention of the media, something that many of us have unsuccessfully tried to do for a long time.”

Stawski said there was a “major increase in the press coverage compared to last year,” including print reports in the large circulation Frankfurt dailies FAZ and Rundschau. The mass circulation Bild devoted a large story to the event.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the Son of Hamas author, spoke at the event. Yousef, who now lives in the United States and converted to Christianity, provided valuable intelligence information to Israeli security agencies on the inner workings of Hamas.

Stawski said that Yousef was “unfortunately totally misrepresented by [German-language] 3sat television, which called him a traitor and which played on stereotypical pictures of Jews, as if they were the only supporters of the State of Israel,” in its coverage of the event.

The prominent author and journalist Burkhard Müller- Ullrich reported on the Israel Congress for Deutschland Radio in the station’s popular “culture” segment, reaching large numbers of listeners.

“Despite political lip service” to support of Israel, Germany’s remains the “most important trade partner of Israel’s most dangerous enemy, Iran,” he said.

Writing about the Israel Congress, the Berlin-based JTA correspondent termed Stawski the “driving force” behind the pro-Israel advocacy organization Honestly Concerned, which monitors anti-Semitism in the German media. Stawski also serves as the head of the I Like Israel German-wide association that sponsors pro-Israel festivals across German cities each year celebrating the birth of the Jewish state.

Tags

germany, iran, irgc, israel