A German Jew speaks out against the carnage

August 13, 2006

In News

This week, several German newspapers reported that the president of the Jewish Community in Schleswig-Holstein who also serves on the board of directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Rolf Verleger, protested the Council’s support for Israel’s criminal policies vis-á-vis both the Lebanese and the Palestinians. The Council’s president Charlotte Knobloch is reported to have vehemently denounced the criticism, while the Council’s secretary-general Stephan Kramer claimed that Verleger was “parroting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic clichés and stereotypes.”

For reporting as well as documentation of the original letter, see Christopher Stolzenberg, “‘Zehn Libanesen für einen toten Israeli'” (8 August 2006) at

English translation of protest letter
(translation: Maren Hackmann)


Prof. Dr. Rolf Verleger
Member of the board of directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany

phone: ++49 451 500 2916
fax ++49 451 7071450

23 July 2006

To the Executive Committee of the
Central Council of Jews in Germany

via email
cc: the members of the board of directors

Dear President Knobloch,
Dear Prof. Dr. Korn, dear Dr. Graumann,

Over the past several days, you have publicly endorsed the Israeli government’s military actions against Lebanon. I cannot remain silent on this, nor do I wish to keep silent.

I am, of course, aware that you were expressing the opinion of the majority of Jews in Germany. However, I had expected you to do a little more than that, knowing as I do that you love Israel, have political experience, and care about Jewish tradition.

(1) You love Israel. How can anyone who truly cares about the fate of the State of Israel approve of this military action? In the years to come, our friends and relatives over there will face a bigger rather than smaller risk. This will affect, among others, both of my siblings, who left Germany for Israel in their youth, as well as their children and grandchildren. This military action does not enhance Israeli security, it diminishes it. In the neighboring states, the fury, anger, and violence are being multiplied. The conflict is spreading, it is not being contained.

(2) You have political experience. That means you know just as well as everybody else that what triggered Hezbollah’s terror against Israel is the unresolved Palestine conflict, and that Hezbollah has now kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers apparently in order to be able to present itself as defending the inhabitants of Gaza, whom Israel is besieging.

Everybody knows that, with regard to the Palestine conflict, Syria, Iran, and Russia are all pursuing their own dubious political ends, but the same can be said of the United States who, after the Iraq debacle, is now using the Israeli army as its own military tool.

Everybody knows then, that the alternative to this tangle of interests – and therefore to war – is for the Israeli and Palestinian (and then also the Lebanese) governments to negotiate and reach mutual agreements. This is what the friends of Israel should commit themselves to, instead of demonizing the elected Palestinian government.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany knows what it is like to negotiate with a government which legally succeeded a gang of murderers. These talks proved to be a success, and we were right to hold them.

(3) You care about Jewish tradition. That means you know as well as I do that there has always been a conflict between Jewish religion and nationalism. In ancient times, this was the vehement conflict between our prophets and the kings of Judah and Israel; with the emergence of Zionism, it was the conflict between Zionists and Aguda, a conflict in which both parties had good arguments on their side.

Regrettably, today many Jews have lost such a means of orientation and believe that the more fiercely they support Israel’s policy of violence, the better Jews they become.

But what kind of “Judaism” is this? Is it still the same Judaism whose essence our most influential teacher Hillel has defined as “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others”? Is it still the same Judaism whose most important commandment was defined by our Rabbi Akiva as “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself”? When I say that this is the “real” Judaism, nobody believes me anymore, because we live in an age in which the Jewish State discriminates against other people, metes out collective punishment, pursues a policy of extrajudicial targeted killings, orders ten Lebanese killed for each of its own countrymen, and reduces whole neighborhoods to rubble. The least thing I expect the Central Council of Jews in Germany to do, is to view this as a problem.

I am, of course, aware that I am arguing against solid, decades-old positions. I am not the first to do so, however, nor will I be the last. Together with thoughtful people in and outside of Israel we can change things for the better.

The Israeli government needs our solidarity. Since it is on the wrong path, what the Israeli government needs from friends by way of solidarity is neither more weapons, nor more money, nor more public relations, but more criticism.

With kind regards, and concern,

R. Verleger