benjamin weinthal, jpost correspondent in berlin , THE JERUSALEM POST
Pressure is rising on Germany’s Social Democrat-controlled Foreign Ministry to walk away from the so-called Durban II meeting – the UN’s World Conference Against Racism – which opens in Geneva on April 20.
When asked about Rome’s decision to pull out of Durban II because, as Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, the preparatory document and negotiations are filled with “aggressive and anti-Semitic statements,” a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman toldÂ The Jerusalem Poston Friday that Germany had not changed its position and would participate in “the text negotiations.”
Germany remained undecided on whether it would take part in Durban II itself, the spokeswoman said.
“Germany must boycott this anti-Semitic and anti-Western spectacle. Either together with its EU partners, or if necessary alone. We are not the fig leaf for Iran’s Islamist and anti-Semitic activities,” Christian Democratic Union MP Kristina KÃ¶hler said in a statement on Wednesday.
KÃ¶hler’s statement represents an unusually sharp break with a unified German position to stick with Durban II. According to the spokeswoman, the Foreign Ministry “took notice” of KÃ¶hler’s statement but did not want to “assess” the MP’s remarks.
Responding to the draft Durban II final document, KÃ¶hler said, “These passages exude the spirit of Teheran, not the spirit of freedom and human rights. Anti-racism is to be misused in the fight against Israel, the fight against the West, and not least the fight against freedom of opinion and the press.
“The United Nations is to be misused to give universal validity to the Islamic anti-blasphemy concepts in countries like Iran. That is unacceptable.”
The German Foreign Ministry is run by the Social Democratic Party, considered more amenable toward the Iranian regime than its coalition partners, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union.
Dr. Johannes Gerster, a former CDU MP who heads the German-Israeli Friendship Society in Germany, said in a statement on Thursday, “Anyone who permits states – like the Islamic Republic of Iran – in which violations of human rights are an everyday occurrence to set themselves up as judges of democratic states – like Israel – on the international stage mocks the religious minorities and oppressed women in Iran and encourages those for whom human rights violations are routine to continue practicing their ugly craft.”
Observers in Israel, Germany, and the US view Germany’s position to not pull the plug on its Durban II involvement as politically embarrassing in light of the German-Israeli “special-relationship.”
“The German government is even more obliged than the governments of Canada, the US and Israel that are boycotting so far, for historical, political, and moral reasons, to boycott the nasty looming spectacle of Durban II,” said Gerster, who was director of the CDU’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Jerusalem between 1997 and 2006.
“If Israel’s right to exist is part of Germany’s national interest, the period of testing, thinking and deciding should have been enough,” he said, in a clear reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech in the Knesset last March, in which she declared Israel’s security to be an overriding priority of her administration.
The head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, praised Italy’s decision to boycott Durban II on Friday and urged Germany, France and Britain to follow Italy’s example.
“The EU countries have promised to give an unambiguous and united response on this issue. We hope that it will soon be forthcoming,” he said.
“We will continue to try and convince governments that a lackluster response to the looming repeat of the 2001 Durban anti-Israel forum would seriously undermine their impartiality and credibility in fighting human rights abuses in the world.
“The World Jewish Congress will continue to urge world leaders not to send delegations to the Durban Review Conference, because they would lend credibility to the efforts by some states to single out Israel for criticism, restrict freedom of expression and distract from the very real problems of state-sponsored racism in their own countries,” Lauder said, mirroring the concerns of many German critics of Durban II.