No parliamentary group in the German Bundestag is raising its voice against the devastation of the Gaza Strip and the continuation of mass killings
Fabian Scheidler is a writer based in Berlin and author of “The End of the Megamachine. A Brief History of a Failing Civilization“
Cross-posted from Scheerpost
Photo: Wafa (Q2915969)/Wikimedia Commons
Over the past two weekends, more than a million people in Germany have risen up in demonstrations against racist, inhumane positions advocated by the right-wing AfD party – the largest mobilization against the far right in recent German history. The demonstrations followed revelations about plans for forced resettlements of migrants that some AfD-officials endorsed. Members of the government – a coalition of social-democrats (SPD), Greens and liberals (FDP) –, and the conservative CDU/CSU parties have used this opportunity to present themselves as defenders of humanity. But how credible is this moral claim in reality?
When we turn our gaze to the Gaza Strip, which the Israeli army has now largely reduced to rubble, we see that completely different ethical standards obviously apply there. The German government is still supporting Israel’s brutal military campaign, which has by now claimed the lives of about 27,000 people, the majority of them women and children. 66,000 people have been injured, countless severely traumatized, 1.7 million have been driven from their – largely destroyed – homes. As Israel is also bombing hospitals and blocking access to sufficient humanitarian aid, many children are having their limbs amputated without anesthesia. Anyone who sees these images and reports – which are rarely shown in the German media – can only be stunned that the much-vaunted “international community”, including the German government, can allow these atrocities to take place.
The UN and leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly pointed out that Israel’s actions are in massive violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel has also signed, prohibits the collective punishment of populations and stipulates the active protection of civilian facilities, in particular hospitals. According to the convention, violations of this are considered war crimes.
On December 29, 2023, South Africa sued Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for violations of the Genocide Convention, since then supported by numerous other states, including Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Namibia, Turkey and the Arab League, to which 22 states belong. In its preliminary ruling, the United Nations Supreme Court found that this complaint was “plausible” in view of the facts presented and called on Israel in an urgent decision to ensure the protection of civilians and allow unhindered access for humanitarian aid. Israel, itself a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention, has so far largely ignored this decision.
The German government, in turn, has intervened at the ICJ to take Israel’s side, claiming that South Africa’s accusation was “without any foundation” and that Israel was merely “defending itself” against the Hamas attacks. The German government, however, did not say a word about how the killing of tens of thousands of defenseless civilians and the bombing of schools, hospitals and cultural institutions can be described as self-defense.
This positioning is in line with the previous behavior of the governing coalition. Since the start of the Israeli offensive, the German government has increased arms deliveries to Israel tenfold. It is also verbally backing the Israeli government for its actions, which violate international law. Olaf Scholz, for example, declared in mid-November last year that the Netanyahu government was complying with international law and human rights. He called accusations that Israel was violating these rights in Gaza “absurd” – at a time when human rights organizations and the UN had long been sounding the alarm in the face of strong suspicions of massive war crimes. Although Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock occasionally calls for civilians to be spared, military, legal and political support for Israel’s actions remains de facto unbroken. In the EU, for example, Germany has blocked a declaration calling for a ceasefire.
No parliamentary group in the German Bundestag is raising its voice against the devastation of the Gaza Strip and the continuation of mass killings. Only the two small splinter groups that are left after the split of the Left Party, including the BSW, led by Sahra Wagenknecht, are calling for a ceasefire – in line with the overwhelming majority of 153 countries in the UN General Assembly.
What does all this tell us about the ethical sanity of those parties – from the Greens to the SPD and FDP to the CDU/CSU – who like to loudly present themselves as guardians of morality and higher values? What credibility can the fight against right-wing extremism at home claim if the political leadership supports a government in Israel that is itself largely right-wing extremist and began tearing down the cornerstones of Israeli democracy in the summer of 2023, starting with the independence of the courts? What lessons has the German political leadership learned from its history when it supports a government whose members refer to Palestinians as “animals” and have indulged in a blind campaign of revenge in Gaza?
The world is increasingly shaking its head at Germany. The President of Namibia, Hage Geingob, for example, accused Germany for its “inability to learn lessons from its horrific history” and called on the German government to reconsider its decision to side with Israel at the ICJ. In the face of a rampant cancel culture towards events critical of Israel, international artists and intellectuals are also increasingly turning their backs on Germany. French Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux, for example, has joined an initiative calling for a boycott of state-run German cultural institutions because Germany is pursuing a “McCarthyist” policies that suppress the freedom of expression. Germany is increasingly isolating itself internationally with its positioning in the Gaza conflict. The double standards are simply too obvious: while the German government has repeatedly insisted on international law with regard to the Ukraine war, this no longer seems to play a role when it comes to an ally like Israel.
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