Elif Kayi, Z Word's European press reviewer, reports on Gregor Gysi's declaration of solidarity with Israel.
There is a common perception that the European left is uniformly hostile to Israel. In that respect, Germany appears to have bucked the trend.
Last week, Gregor Gysi, who jointly heads the party Linkspartei with Oskar Lafontaine, delivered a speech about Israel that was, by the prevailing standards of the European left, quite startling. Speaking at a conference organized by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Gysi warmly congratulated Israel on its 60th anniversary and called on his party to "show solidarity" with the Jewish state.
Critically, Gysi defined such solidarity as an integral part of Germany's "raison d'etat." In so doing, Gysi harshly criticized the historic position of the PDS - the direct descendant of the communist party which ran the totalitarian East German state and now one of the constituent elements of Linkspartei - for its faithful reflection of Moscow's line of implacable hostility towards Israel.
"The leadership of the DDR (German Democratic Republic) did not only lack understanding of Israel's security interests," said Gysi. "It also did not understand the specific responsibility towards Jews that emerged from the eternal warning of the Shoah." Gysi also counselled against classic left-wing anti-Zionism. "The concept of imperialism does not apply to Israel," he said. Israeli democracy, he added, "is a really great achievement, that deserves admiration."
In an op-ed published in the daily Tageszeitung, journalist Stefan Reinecke described the importance of Gysi''s speech: "Maybe more important than the criticism of the traditional leftist opposition to Israel is the commitment to the raison d'etat itself. This is a concept Linkspartei have always avoided. Gysi interprets this concept not as authoritarian, but as rational - and the course is clear. If the party recognizes Israel as part of the German raison d'etat, it shows that it has finally accepted the western value system."
An editorial published in the daily Tagesspiegel also underscored the significance of the speech: "The speech brings to an end a chapter in the party's history: its often unclear position on the terror of extremist Palestinians. Not so long ago, during a visit in Teheran, Oskar Lafontaine tried to curry favour with the rulers of Iran, who are hostile to Israel. Hopefully, Gysi has set standards within his party that Lafontaine cannot pretend to ignore."
The head of the German Young Socialists (JuSo), Franziska Drohsel, also warned against antisemitism from the left and denounced the identification of some leftist groups with the Islamists: "The goals of the Islamist organizations are not compatible with the leftist concept of emancipation Antisemitism is evil and has to be fought against, no matter who expresses and defends it".