Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Germany: Henryk M. Broder next Central Council of Jews President ?

Source: article by Benjamin Weinthal in The Jerusalem Post

The German Jewish author and journalist Henryk M. Broder's announcement last week that he plans to run for the presidency of the 120,000-member Central Council of Jews has riveted German society, provoking a nationwide media debate about the political direction of the council.

Broder cited among the reasons for his candidacy that Germany takes quite casually "what Iran's President Ahmadinejad might intend for Israel."

He added, "Our problem is not the last Holocaust, the truth of which is not in question, but the genocide taking place before our eyes in Sudan. We don't need more Holocaust memorials, but an active policy in the service of human rights, without political consideration of economic interests."

"He throws his kippa in the ring" was the headline of Broder's article last week in the daily Der Tagesspiegel, in which he argued for a radical shift away from a "fixation on the past" and issued unusually sharp criticism of the central council's leadership. Broder, who writes for Der Spiegel and enjoys celebrity status because of his best-selling book about Europe's capitulation to political Islam and witty commentaries dissecting German society, said the central council finds itself in a "pitiful condition."

He called the present leader of the council, Charlotte Knobloch, "overwhelmed" and "unfit" for the role of president. Broder cited Knobloch's reaction to go on vacation instead of promptly criticizing German President Horst Köhler's decision to award the Federal Cross of Merit,the country's highest honor, to Felicia Langer, an "anti-Semite" and hater of Israel. He also lampooned Knobloch's refusal to attend a Shoah remembrance event in the Bundestag because she was not seated in the first row. Broder's outlined his principal criticism as "the central council acts as a remorse-receiving body and issues certificates of respectability, about which it has no inhibitions in any direction."

Knobloch told the Münchner Merkur newspaper that "criticism is good, but it should be constructive and not serve self-interest... In contrast to all previous central council presidents, Broder has no experience working in the community."

The prominent historian Michael Wolffsohn, who recently served along with Knobloch on the executive committee of the Munich Jewish community, resigned his post and said, Broder's "criticism is based on facts." Wolffsohn told NDR Info radio, "Ms. Knobloch is visibly not visible and rarely argues intellectually. And that is, of course, in a situation in which German Jewry needs a intellectual orientation, and that is more necessary than ever."

Broder has received a respectable wave of endorsements. He has secured the support of two local Jewish communities for his candidacy, and Lala Süsskind, head of the largest regional community, the 12,000-member Berlin Jewish community, welcomed Broder's campaign. "That is an exciting thing. Broder is a very pleasant conversation partner. He is smart and amusing," Süsskind said.

However, Michel Friedman, a television talk show host and a former vice president of the central council, expressed doubt that Broder has the necessary diplomatic skills for the presidency. Reached on his mobile telephone in the Netherlands, Broder told The Jerusalem Post that he definitively plans to campaign for head of the council.

One of the more controversial aspects of Broder's platform is to abolish the section of German law that outlaws the denial of the Holocaust. He argues that while the law initially had good intentions, it now simply advances the martyr status of a few crackpots such as David Irving and neo-Nazi Horst Mahler, who deny the Holocaust. Broder is a one of a handful of intellectuals in Germany who has drawn attention to the genocidal threats facing the Baha'is in Iran, whom the Iranian regime has systematically targeted.

He also cited the German society's neglect of the Baha'is as an additional reason for tossing his kippa into the ring.

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