German chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet visited Israel last week for a joint consultation between the German and Israeli governments. Despite manifold human rights violations by Tel Aviv, Merkel largely failed to voice any criticism of the Israeli government during her trip.
While the German chancellor appears to be liberal on many issues, when it comes to Palestine/Israel, Merkel has subscribed to traditional concepts deeply entrenched in German political culture. Understanding Israel’s security as Germany’s raison d’être, Berlin has consistently ignored Israel’s dehumanizing policies towards Palestinians and Africans. Conflating Judaism with Zionism, Merkel has categorically dismissed anti-Zionist positions.
Last week’s diplomatic exchange took place against the backdrop of Israel’s attempted destruction of the West Bank village of Khan Al Ahmar. Authorized by the Israeli High Court, the village’s 400 Bedouin inhabitants were ordered by Israeli officials to demolish their own homes and leave the area by October 1. The forcible transfer of an occupied population is a war crime and has been part and parcel of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians for over seventy years.
As Mondoweiss reported, children from the village appealed to Merkel prior to her trip, holding up photographs of the German chancellor with the words “Save our school” and “Save Khan al Ahmar.” “This is an Israeli decision,” Merkel briefly commented, when she met with university students in Jerusalem. Such statements are at the core of her diplomacy. While Israel transparently continues to violate the human rights of Palestinians and Africans, Merkel refuses to show any concern.
During her trip, Merkel indulged in indifferent euphemisms. Relativizing international law, she called the settlement policy something “one can disagree on,” as reported by the Jerusalem Post. She added that as two “democracies,” Israel and Germany could exchange different political opinions. When asked about Israel’s recent nation-state bill, Merkel said she was only “somewhat worried” about the democratic rights of the country’s non-Jewish minority, according to the Times of Israel.
Merkel’s ignorance of human rights violations was amplified by her engagement with Zionist tropes. Supporting Israel’s colonial discourse, Merkel asked Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, during a press conference on October 4. It seems highly unlikely that the German chancellor is unaware of the fact that Palestinians have long recognized Israel.
Merkel also backed Netanyahu’s strategic fear-mongering in the greater Middle East region. As Merkel stated during the trip, Germany is “very convinced and strongly share[s] Israel’s position that everything must be done to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” While it is Israel that has long been threatening Lebanon, Merkel assured her Israeli counterpart that “Germany will also act to combat threats on Israel emanating from Lebanon.”
Palestine is but one example of how the policies of Merkel’s government have extended Germany’s catastrophic role in the Middle East, for the past thirteen years. Earlier this year, Berlin banned the sale of weapons to countries involved in the Yemen war only to approve eighty-seven new arms deals with Saudi Arabia worth 295$ million, as was revealed last week.
Merkel’s message to Israel is simple: Berlin will not criticize its human rights violations and may even sponsor them instead.