Yesterday, German Politician and candidate for German Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel declared Israel to be an “Apartheid Regime” on his Facebook account.
Gabriel, who is a member and chairman of the German Social Democratic Party (SDP), is the Germany Minister for the Environment and a potential candidate for the Chancellorship. He currently is in Israel trying to restart the peace-process by meeting with Hamas leadership, PA leadership and members of the Israeli government. While he has met with Israeli and PA leaders, he did not meet with Hamas representatives because of the Palestinian rocket attacks on Southern Israel and IDF bombing of Gaza. His comments on Facebook came after visiting Hebron which he declared to be a “lawless territory”. That same post declared Israel to be an “apartheid regime with no justification”.
The comments caused a firestorm inside German politicians stating that Gabriel has forgotten his position as a representative of Germany. The ruling Christian Democratic Party has demanded that Gabriel apologize for his comments and said that Gabriel is ignorant of Middle Eastern politics, as shown by his meeting with Hamas officials, whom Germany considers to be a terrorist group. Gabriel has insisted that Hamas be included in any peace settlement, even though most of the Western World considers Hamas to be a terrorist group, not a legitimate political party.
Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League were also outraged, and said that Gabriel should “apologize to South Africans, Israelis and Germans for his lack of knowledge of history”. In addition, the ADL said that Gabriel’s party is known for associating with anti-Israel groups and groups with extreme views. The American Jewish Committee also condemned Gabriel’s statements, saying they amount to “delegitimization of Israel”.
The German Jewish Community has largely been silent although a few groups said Gabriel’s comments were “sloppy” and “unbecoming for the chairman of the SDP.
Earlier this morning, Gabriel posted on Facebook that he would not retract his comments nor apologize, although he did admit his language was harsh. In a press conference this morning, he defended his statements and called upon Israeli leaders to meet with Hamas as well as allow the Palestinians to be considered a nation in the UN.