February 16, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post

German mayor opposes 10,000 euro award to anti-Semitic group Code Pink

The mayor of the German city of Bayreuth, Brigitte Merk-Erbe, said on Thursday that she rejects awarding the city’s tolerance prize to the radical US NGO Code Pink because of its ties with alleged deniers of the Holocaust.

“I consider it correct to refrain from awarding the prize out of a sense of [historical responsibility, and out of respect for the victims of National Socialism,“said Merk-Erbe.

Merk-Erbe recommended to the city council that the award and prize money be rescinded. The city council will address the row next week.

Bayreuth, which is located in the German state of Bavaria, is slated to award 10,000 euros in April to the anti-Israel and pro-BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) group Code Pink. The decision to award the Wilhelmine-von-Bayreuth-Preis to Code Pink – an organization that participated in an Iranian regime run conference with Holocaust deniers in 2014 – prompted sharp criticism in Germany, Israel and the United States.

In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Felix Gothart, the head of Bayreuth’s 500 member Jewish community, said he agrees with Merk-Erbe’s decision and believes the city council will pull the plug on the honor to Code Pink. He said “they (Code Pink) are anti-Semites.”

Speaking from Los Angeles, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post, “We think this is a positive development. We await the vote of the city council. This is a victory for humanity. This is not a matter of left or right politics. And it is not about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is a matter of what is deserving of honor.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told the Post that Code Pink “is an organization that should not be awarded any prize, particularly in Germany.”

Steinberg’s organization produced a study on Code Pink’s anti-Israel activities. He said the group engages in “a vicious targeting of Israel with false allegations of war crimes.”

NGO Monitor’s report noted: “In 2011, a Code Pink delegation participated in 'Freedom Flotillas,' aimed at breaching Israel’s borders and the blockade on Gaza, and initiating confrontations with Israeli naval forces.“

He said Code Pink has “so much money and no one did their due diligence” to vet the group. 

Code Pink activists called for the elimination of Israel at 2015 protest at an AIPAC conference. The activists chanted “The State of Israel has to go” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Michael Weiser reported on Thursday in the Nordbayerischer Kurier that Israel’s consulate in Munich termed Code Pink “a very provocative group” and said it does not meet the standards for a tolerance award. The article noted the decision to award the prize to Code Bink was made by the University of Bayreuth. The US folk singer Joan Baez was considered a candidate for the 2016 prize, said the article.

The German-Iranian actress Jasmin Tabatabai is slated to deliver the key note speech at the Code Pink prize ceremony.

Elsa Rassbach, the Code Pink representative in Germany, told the Post via telephone that she is sending a press release to the mayor of Bayreuth on Thursday.

“We disagree with some of the policies of the State of Israel,” Rassbach said.

She said the participation of Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin in the Iran conference in 2014 was different than “the conference in 2006, which was sharply criticized around the world for Holocaust denial.“

Rassbach said Benjamin was invited to speak about drones as an author. According to the conference agenda, Benjamin spoke on the panel titled “Israel Lobby vs. The US National Interest (especially as it relates to Middle East policy).” The conference was founded by former Iranian president and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rassbach, who said she had not seen the agenda for the 2014 conference, declined to provide her statement to the mayor to the Post on Thursday.

Benjamin Weithal is a Berlin-based fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal