Michael Groys: "There are double standards in relation to Israel"
A member of the board of the council on migration of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Berlin's Charlottenburg district, Michael Groys, a publicist who is also one of the active members of the Jewish community in Germany, spoke with Vestnik Kavkaza about his vision of the problems of anti-Semitism in Germany, glorification of Nazi collaborators in the post-Soviet space, as well as about the role of the Israeli factor in German politics.
- Today, when the whole of Germany is in football euphoria, some politicians, for example from the 'Green' party, warn about the other side of the coin – the rise of nationalism under football slogans. Can the Jewish community in Germany feel it?
- It is true that during Euro 2016, nationalist sentiments in Germany significantly increased. Such periods are usually accompanied by a growth in anti-Semitism. Today the Jewish community of Germany should be more careful. And it is probably better not to show up with Israeli flags [not so long ago, Tagesspiegel publication journalists carried out a social experiment, they went to a public display of a German football game with an Israeli flag, and were attacked by aggressive fans - VK].
- On July 2, the center of Berlin once again hosted a demonstration dedicated to the day of 'Al-Quds'. The Jewish community actively speaks against it. What is the position of the German authorities on this issue?
- The position of the German authorities is that there is freedom of assembly, people have the right to express their opinion, even if this opinion is of an anti-Semitic nature. During demonstrations, the word "Jew" is replaced by "Zionist", which de jure has no criminal connotation. Of course the police should closely watch what slogans are voiced during the demonstrations and not allow the flags of banned organizations to be demonstrated. They should also monitor them because of the fact that these demonstrations are held near three synagogues during the Jewish holy day of Shabbat – people should be able to safely visit synagogues on this day, without fear for their safety. There is an aggressive atmosphere at these demonstrations, there were cases of clashes, which were prevented only thanks to the German police.
In response, hundreds of people gather for an anti-demonstration each year. However it is sad and wrong that it happens in Germany – a country that has a special responsibility to the Jewish people. Only a few hundred people protest against several thousand anti-Semitic participants of 'Al-Quds'. Meanwhile, people are brought by buses from all over Germany to demonstrate on the occasion of 'Al-Quds' with financial support from Iran.
- Today official reconciliation between Ankara and Tel Aviv was announced. How is this event viewed by the Jewish community in Germany and your party in particular?
- I would single out two main positions on this process. According to one, any form of rapprochement with Erdogan, taking into account his authoritarian rule, is wrong. But personally, I believe that Israel has no other choice but to cooperate with Turkey and to put an end to the current diplomatic "cold war" between the two countries. I support the restoration of relations between Tel Aviv and Ankara, since both countries will ultimately benefit from this.
Social Democrats view Erdogan critically, though it is mainly caused not by the Israeli factor – the famous "Davos" speech of the Turkish leader, directed against Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, was almost ignored by Social Democrats at that time. The SPD starts to criticize Turkey only when German interests are affected, which is very frustrating for me personally, because it is clear evidence of double standards.
- Does the Israeli factor play any role in German-Iranian relations, which are actively developing right now?
- As you know, Israel is very critical of the West's rapprochement with Iran. I'm very upset that our German friends and partners, who scream at every corner how the security of Israel is important to them, are currently either preferring to stay silent or claiming that Israeli-Iranian relations will benefit from this process. I believe that this is a completely wrong opinion, as is the Western policy of concessions to Iran. And when the head of my party Sigmar Gabriel stated about the inadmissibility of denial of the Holocaust, in the context of Germany's Iranian policy it causes only laughter through tears.
- What do you think about the prospect of the creation of a political coalition between the Social Democrats, and the "Left" and "Green" parties, which was announced by Sigmar Gabriel?
- Overall, there is no doubt that it is necessary to use the left majority in Germany in order to form a democratic leftist policy in the country. However, there is one big "but" – the foreign policy of the "Left" party, which is problematic in many points, including in relation to Israel. They demand to stop supplying weapons to Israel and insist on a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian conflict only – it is mostly right, but unfortunately, does not correspond to the objective realities of the region.
- How would you comment on the policy of the glorification of Nazi collaborators in countries of the former Soviet Union – particularly the grand opening of the monument to Nazi criminal Nzhdeh in the center of Yerevan by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan?
- I am disappointed and upset by the fact that such thing is happening in Armenia. Especially in the context of the latest discussions about the Armenian Genocide. Such a position of Armenia and the honoring of the people who were involved in the extermination of Jewish people is completely confusing. It would be interesting to hear an explanation from the Armenian side.