BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has come under fire for suggesting that Israel pursues an “apartheid” policy.
During a meeting with Muslim representatives in mid-December, Gabriel mentioned that he had visited Hebron several years ago and said that what he saw “reminded him of apartheid,” the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported.
In an open letter to Gabriel, a Jewish woman has demanded an apology for “providing further ammunition to youths who were fed anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk,” according to a report in the German Jewish weekly, the Juedische Allgemeine.
Gabriel had been addressing the issue of anti-Semitism among Muslims in Germany with a group of Muslim communal representatives. The event event was hosted by the Kreuzberg Initiative Against Anti-Semitism, a non-governmental organization that works in schools with children of migrant background, trying to combat anti-Semitic attitudes from an early age.
Instead of helping fight anti-Semitism, Gabriel fed the flames, the letter from Malca Goldstein-Wolf said.
In her open letter to Gabriel, published on the Israel advocacy website “Honestly Concerned” on December 21, Goldstein-Wolf applauded the idea of meeting with Muslim leaders. “But if you use this occasion to repeat your defamation of Israel as an apartheid state, then it is not only counterproductive but must be vehemently condemned.”
Responding to a query from the German Jewish weekly, Gabriel’s office said he had emphasized at the meeting that there was no place for anti-Semitism in Germany.
His comments, which referred to 2012 visit to the region, mirrored a post he published on Facebook at the time accusing Israel of running an “apartheid regime.”
“I was just in Hebron. There’s a legal vacuum there for Palestinians. This is an apartheid regime, for which there is no justification,” Gabriel, who was then chairman of Germany’s main opposition party, wrote. The post quickly drew hundreds of responses, mostly from pro-Israel surfers, some of whom threatened to cancel their memberships in the SPD.
Since becoming foreign minister, Gabriel has publicly clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In April, Netanyahu canceled a planned meeting with the Gabriel after the latter refused to cancel a sit-down with Breaking the Silence, an NGO that collects anonymous testimonies from IDF soldiers on alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Gabriel also met with B’Tselem, another group that deals with human rights issues and campaigns against Israeli settlement building.