The German Green Party’s Antisemitism Problem
With German federal elections set for September 26, the center-left German Green Party is polling well, and has a solid chance to be part of the next government.
For many German Jews and Israel, and for all those concerned with the sustainability of democracy in the Federal Republic, the Green Party remains stained by a significant blemish: It has failed to confront the growing antisemitism within its ranks.
Just last month, German author and journalist Carolin Emcke delivered a speech at the Green Party Congress, in which she likened the persecution of “Jews and cosmopolitans” to the treatment of climate researchers.
The co-leaders of the Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, the Green chancellor candidate, and Robert Habeck, sat through the presentation and did not object to the belittling of antisemitism and the Holocaust.
The scandal prompted Daniel Botman, the director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to declare that Emcke is not “beyond reproach” and that one should recall her opposition to the non-binding anti-BDS resolution passed by the Bundestag in 2019, which describes BDS as an expression of antisemitism reminiscent of the boycotts against Jews in the Nazi period, and more.
While the German Green Party is not a bottomless pit of antisemitism and Israel-bashing like Canada’s Green Party, where a convicted Holocaust-denier was a two-time candidate for the House of Commons — as J.J. McCullough, the Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist, wrote in June, the German Greens have embraced Iranian Holocaust deniers.
Take the example of Claudia Roth, the Green Party’s vice president in the Bundestag, who enthusiastically embraced the then-speaker of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, in 2019. This is the same Larijani who denied the Holocaust at the Munich Security Conference in 2009.
Dr. Kazem Moussavi, an Iranian dissident living in Germany, wrote on Twitter at the time: “Roth presents herself as a feminist but courts representatives of the Islamic regime that represses women in Iran and wants [sic] to destroy Israel.”
It was not the first time that Roth courted the Iranian hard-liner. In 2015, she met with Larijani in Iran.
The reactions to Roth’s largely pro-Iranian regime policy by members in her party ranged from robust defense to utter silence.
Roth’s mainstreaming of the state-sponsored Iranian antisemitism came shortly after a far-right antisemite sought to massacre Jews in a synagogue in Halle in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt in October 2019. The neo-Nazi Stephen Balliet, who tried to storm the Halle synagogue, shares an outlook similar to the Iranian regime, writing about the “Zionist occupied government.”
The German journalist Antje Schippmann wrote of Roth, “Fortunately, it is unimaginable that she would warmly greet representatives of Nazi gangs in a similar fashion” and asked, “Where does this insufferable double moral standard come from?”
The origins of the Green Party’s double standards probably stem from the party’s failure to confront its Nazi past and its opposition to the Jewish state.
A number of Nazis played roles in the formative phases of the Green Party, including Werner Vorgel, a former member of the Nazi Party and its SA brownshirt storm troopers, whom the Greens elected to the Bundestag in 1983. August Haussleiter, a co-founder of the Greens in 1979, played a role in Hitler’s Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.
Disturbingly, Germany’s main neo-Nazi party and the German Green Party both pushed to apply a double-standard punitive system to Israeli products from the disputed West Bank, Golan Heights, and eastern Jerusalem, as early as 2012 for the Nazi party (NPD) and 2013 for the Greens.
The Green Party has not advocated a system to demarcate products concerning any other territory under dispute in the world, including Turkish-occupied North Cyprus or Chinese-occupied Tibet.
Henryk M. Broder, a well-known German-Jewish journalist who has testified in the Bundestag about contemporary antisemitism, termed the legislative measures of the Greens and the neo-Nazi NPD “Two Souls, One Thought,” writing that their advocated measures are “at their core identical.”
To the credit of the German Green Party, it did oppose BDS in a non-binding resolution along with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, which is composed of the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democratic Party. However, the Greens did not implement the anti-BDS resolution. And the Green Bundestag deputy Omid Nouripour served on the advisory board of the German Palestinian Society, which advocates BDS and the destruction of the Jewish state. German-Iranians and German-Jews urged Nouripour to resign. He refused.
One more telling example of the Green Party’s failure to address antisemitism was the Green Party MP Juergen Trittin, who praised Dieter Kunzelman on Twitter after he passed away. The far-left radical Kunzelmann trained with Fatah terrorists in Jordan who were hell-bent on killing Israelis. Kunzelmann is believed to have played a role in the attempted bombing of the Jewish community center in Berlin in 1969. The bomb was designed to detonate during a commemoration of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom.
All of this goes to show that the Greens are not serious about matching their anti-antisemitism rhetoric with concrete actions.
For the Green Party to combat and reverse its pro-Iranian regime policies and rising levels of antisemitism, the rare figures in the party — Volker Beck, Sergey Lagodinsky, and Cem Özdemir — who speak out against antisemitism need to get off the sidelines and fight the Jew-hatred within their ranks.
Benjamin Weinthal is fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.