DIE LINKE: BETWEEN ANTI-ZIONISM AND SOLIDARITY WITH ISRAEL

By stfn • Feb 8th, 2011 • Category: Sonstiges

Stefan Kunath [1]

The position of the German left vis-à-vis Israel and the Middle East conflict has been in a state of flux in recent years. This is a consequence of the transformation undergone by the German left itself, which culminated in the foundation of a new party, Die Linke (The Left), in June 2008. Formerly a parliamentary faction since September 2005, Die Linke consists of a conglomeration of several radical left organizations and former Social Democrats from West Germany, as well as members of the former ruling party of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).[2] The result of such a disparate grouping is disunity on several issues. The position toward Israel is one of the most debated issues in the new party and its youth movement. The “Free Gaza” flotilla in May 2010 and Israel’s reaction to it[3] added fuel to the fire, especially since three Die Linke activists were onboard: Bundestag members Annette Groth and Inge Höger, and Norman Paech (member of the Bundestag until 2009). Their participation prompted questions about the ideology of the German radical left, especially after political scientist Samuel Salzborn from the University of Gießen accused the party of cultivating antisemitism in Germany.[4]

Prior to the flotilla incident, a number of disputes arose within Die Linke regarding the approach that should be taken toward the Middle East conflict. Three examples are keys to understanding the situation in Die Linke today: 1) the discussion surrounding an invitation extended to senior Hamas official Dr. Ghazi Hamad to a Middle East conference organized by Die Linke’s parliamentary faction in 2007; 2) the working group BAK Shalom, which has become a leading advocate for pro-Israel positions within the party’s youth movement; and 3) Gregor Gysi, a leading party activist who works to combat anti-Zionist attitudes. A brief analysis of these subjects will be followed by an elaboration of the debate over the flotilla. In the last section, possible future developments in the party will be discussed.

Read the whole article. (*pdf)

[1] Student activist and one of the founders of BAK Shalom (2007).
[2] Prior to September 2005, neither the PDS in East Germany nor the former Social Democrats, who had left the SPD party in West Germany, had been strong enough to gain 5 percent of the national vote in order to be represented in parliament. The common ground for unification was opposition to the SPD and the Green Party, which governed Germany at the time. Among others, the new Die Linke criticized the government’s social reforms, as well as Germany’s participation in ISAF, the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan.
[3] On May 31, 2010, a flotilla of six ships attempting to break the siege of Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli navy. In the ensuing violent clashes aboard the MV Mavi Marmara, eight Turkish nationals and a Turkish American were killed and several Israeli commandos were wounded. The flotilla, allegedly carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, was organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH).
[4] Samuel Salzborn, “Ist die Linke antisemitisch?” 19/7/2010, http://www.ksta.de/html/artikel/1279196557629.shtml.

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