Pro-BDS protest in Germany. Photo: EFE.

Letter from Israel Pressures Merkel to Revoke Funding for Berlin’s Jewish Museum

An unsigned letter sent directly to the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Federal Development Ministry urged Germany to defund Berlin’s Jewish Museum, among other institutions deemed to be “anti-Israel.” While the authors of the letter have not been identified, it is widely suspected that they are Israeli government officials. 

The letter cites the “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition at the Jewish Museum as having a “Muslim-Palestinian” slant and holding “regularly occurring events and discussions with prominent supports of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement.” The Berlinale International Film Festival, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Women Wage for Peace, and the Catholic Relief Services were also named as some of the offending organizations, reports Die Tageszeitung.

“The German promotion of non-governmental organizations that intervene in Israel’s internal affairs or promote anti-Israel activities is unique,” reads the seven-page letter, which also cites +972 magazine, funded in part by the left-leaning think tank the Heinrich Böll Foundation (associated with Germany’s Green Party), as featuring writers who, they say, repeatedly accuse Israel of apartheid. “We would like to see the federal government tie its further financial support to the complete stop of such activities,” the letter reads.

Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO established by former soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces critical of human rights violations in Palestinian territories, and the human rights organization B’TSelem, which seeks to “end the Israeli occupation,” are listed as further examples of anti-Israel groups. Last year, when German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met with representatives of the organizations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a scheduled meeting with Gabriel.

Though the Israeli prime minister’s office has not confirmed that it sent the letter, it told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday: “The prime minister has pointed out to various world leaders the issue of funding Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, which portray Israeli soldiers as war criminals, support Palestinian terrorism and call for the boycott of the State of Israel. Israel will continue fighting these organizations.”

Some believe the Jerusalem-based conservative-nationalist organization NGO Monitor is behind the letter, which carries no sender information. NGO Monitor often targets left-wing groups and operates “in close coordination and cooperation with the Israeli government,” according to the Policy Working Group, an association of Israeli academics and former diplomats.

The Science and Politics Foundation (SWP), a Berlin-based foundation with legal capacities that advises the German government, came to a similar assessment of NGO Monitor, which opposes liberal organizations and uses tactics of “attacking Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations; accusing them of providing false information with regard to Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories; and associating them with either BDS activities, anti-Semitic activities, or even terrorist organizations.” The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs denied having written the letter.