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July 2011, Week 1

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Sat, 2 Jul 2011 13:18:17 -0400
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Bulletin No. 28

The German Left Party Modifies Its Position                          

By Victor Grossman,

Berlin         

The debate within the Left party, and outside it too,
was hot and heavy. It took a dramatic turn on June 28th
when its Bundestag members, in caucus, modified their
controversial position of June 7th.

Ever since its formation in 2007 this party has been
under savage attack from all four other major parties.
But nasty charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel
policies rose recently to a crescendo. A few minor,
controversial incidents (see Bulletin 27), one of them
undoubtedly the work of an internet provocateur, were
employed in an attempt to again disparage and
disqualify the party. Indeed, there have long been
sharp disagreements within the party on these
questions, partly along lines matching a more general
controversy between its left-wing and a "reformer" wing
which hopes to join coalition governments with Social
Democrats and Greens and does not want to be
ostracized.  This latter group won a victory on June
7th. After a raucous, day-long attack in the Bundestag
by the other parties, with only a very brief chance to
respond, the Left caucus, reacting to the pressure,
approved a resolution condemning any calls for a one-
state solution to the

Palestine-Israel conflict, rejecting all participation
in the boycott of Israeli products currently promoted
in various countries (with one variant boycotting only
products made in the West Bank settlements but wrongly
labeled "Made in Israel"), and disapproving the
flotilla currently moving to break the Israeli blockade
of Gaza. The resolution also obligated party delegates
in the Bundestag and their staff to conform to these
decisions.

This created a storm of controversy. Two Bundestag
members had taken part in last year's flotilla, one
local leader had approved the boycott and another group
had rejected total condemnation of it, though stating
that such a campaign was wrong in Germany because of
the Nazi calls in the 1930's to boycott Jewish shops.
Some were angered most by the demand for conformity,
which was seen as a gag rule and therefore contrary to
party practice.

There was also opposition, often angry, from groups
outside the party which support Palestinian
independence and civil rights or demand equal treatment
of both sides, among them the pacifist Catholic NGO Pax
Christi and a group of over 100 Israeli opponents of
Netanyahu policies.

On Tuesday, June 28th, the caucus held another meeting,
this time with 62 of the 76 members present and voting
(the previous decision, though announced as unanimous,
was attended by only about two thirds of the caucus,
and fourteen members agreed to leave before the count
so there would be no negative votes).

The resolution, "Criticism of Israeli Government Policy
Is Not Anti-Semitism", stated that the delegates from
the Left party could and would indeed criticize Israeli
policies toward Palestinians "whenever this is
necessary because of their violation of international
law and human rights".  This was in reference to
Israeli occupation policy, the blockade of Gaza, and
violation of international law with its settlement
policy in the occupied areas as well as the refusal of
the Israeli government "to cooperate constructively on
a two-state solution".

It was deemed unacceptable for criticism of this kind
to be denigrated as anti-Semitism. "We will not accept
public denunciation of members of our delegation and
our party as anti-Semites when they criticize such
policies of the Israeli government."

Gregor Gysi, chair of the caucus, stressed in a press
conference that the Left is not anti-Semitic, but
"anti-fascist to the core" and criticized the
"inflationary use of the term anti-Semitism" in
connection with the struggle against it. Others,
including a lone Green delegate, recalled the very
large number of former Nazis in the present coalition
parties.

Of the 62 delegates present at the meeting, 45 voted
for the new resolution, six opposed it and eleven
abstained, some because they wanted a more precise
definition of what was meant by "anti-Semitic
criticism" and others because they wanted the party to
engage in a longer period of discussion before passing
any resolution.

Some of those opposing the resolution called for
explicit support of Israel's right of existence. Party
co-chair Gesine Loetzsch responded that this had long
been the clear position of the party - but should
certainly be adopted officially during the debate on
the party program in October.

Aside from this statement, The Left has also introduced
a resolution for debate in the Bundestag calling for
both sides in the Israeli-Palestine conflict to refrain
from violence, for Hamas to recognize Israel's right to
existence, for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank
and East Jerusalem and for both sides to come to a
peaceful agreement, and for Germany to join well over a
hundred other countries in plans to recognize an
independent Palestinian state if it is declared in the
autumn. It can hardly be expected that this will get
many votes aside from those in the Left party, or even
be permitted to come up for debate and a vote.

Of course the controversy within the party, though now
on a different level, has not been ended by any means.
But many grass roots members and groups have demanded
that the party come to some agreement on this issue and
move on actively to matters of more immediate interest
to the German people, especially in view of the
important state elections due in September in
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and, most critically, in
the city-state of Berlin.

___________________________________________

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