Growing Anti-German Feelings In Israel Over Missile Attacks
JERUSALEM (AP) _ With each Iraqi missile attack, Israelis grow angrier with Germany for helping Saddam Hussein build his war machine. Many feel the Germans never learned the lesson of the Holocaust.
″When we sit at night with our gas masks on, and think that Germany is again involved in an attempt to kill Jews with gas, we feel very bitter,″ said Labor Party lawmaker Chaim Ramon, who lost relatives in the Holocaust.
The first missile attack on Israel Jan. 18 ignited anti-German passions, and they have been further inflamed by reports that German scientists extended the range of Iraq’s Scud missiles and helped make the chemicals Iraq has threatened to fire at Israel.
But the angry mood has created a dilemma for Israel. It can’t afford to go against public opinion, but it also can’t afford to reject the millions of dollars in military and economic aid Germany has offered in a belated attempt to patch up relations.
″Everything German is touchy in the eyes of the public here, especially right now,″ a government official said Thursday on condition of anonymity.
Israel gave refuge to tens of thousands of Nazi Holocaust survivors after World War II, and the trauma of the genocide of 6 million Jews - many in gas chambers - has shaped the lives of Israelis.
The government dilemma surfaced last week when German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher visited Israel, bringing with him a pledge of $166 million in emergency aid.
When an Israeli journalist asked Foreign Minister David Levy whether the Germans bought themselves a clear conscience, Levy got angry.
″We don’t want favors from anyone and our honor is not sold for any price. We are a proud nation,″ Levy replied.
Still, Germany and Israel negotiated an aid package, and the first part of a weapons shipment worth about $670 million was en route to Israel on Thursday.
The deal includes a battery of the U.S.-made Patriot missiles, used to block some of the eight barrages of Scuds fired at Israel in the past two weeks. Israeli soldiers also will get anti-chemical training in Germany.
Many Israelis say they don’t want German help. Nearly all draw parallels to the Holocaust, saying the Germans haven’t learned from their terrible past.
″Enough 3/8 No to the Deutschmarks you’ve brought. Enough of the gas you’ve produced and sold ... Let us live in this land,″ said a newspaper advertisement purchased by a group that teaches young Jews about the Holocaust.
″We’ve had 620 calls in response to the ad, and 98 percent supported our position,″ said Avi Dickstein, a spokesman for the group, the Center for the Heritage of Jewish Heroism.
Earlier this month, about 30 Israelis wearing gas masks and death camp uniforms staged an anti-German protest in Jerusalem. ″We are wearing gas masks because once again, Jews are threatened with asphyxiation. Once again the Germans are profiteering from gas,″ said a flyer from the group.
The mass peace demonstrations in Germany are an especially sore point. They are perceived as a refusal to recognize Israel’s ordeal during the past two weeks.
″When we hear demonstrators shouting ‘No blood for oil’ we can hear undertones of ’No blood for Jews,‴ said Asher Ben-Nathan, Israel’s first ambassador to Germany and chairman of the Israel-Germany Association.
A scathing editorial in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily referred to ″masses of demonstrators, some of them drunk and drugged, some of them naive and lost.″
Israeli and German government officials maintain that bilateral relations have not suffered. The Germans say they did everything possible to stop illegal sales of weaponry to Iraq, and Israel officially accepts the claim.
But some Israelis say the lost trust will be hard to restore.
″No money will cause the Israelis to forget the anger and bitterness they feel toward Germany today,″ Ramon said.