November 1, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post

German mayor rejects BDS activity of ‘antisemitic’ teacher

The mayor of the German city of Oldenburg announced his opposition on Wednesday to the anti-Israel BDS activity of a public school teacher, Christoph Glantz, in the town of nearly 164,000 people in the state of Lower Saxony.

“With his [Glanz’s] statements to a comprehensive boycott of Israel, he clearly went too far, in my view,“ said Jürgen Krogmann, the social democratic mayor, in an email to The Jerusalem Post.

Krogmann added that he “in no way adopts the BDS demands and does not support a partial boycott of Israel.”

The fulfillment of Glanz’s­­ demands, and those of a renegade group of teachers from the leadership of the labor union GEW Oldenburg, would, for example, mean the end of Oldenburg’s partnership with the regional council Mateh Asher in the western Galilee. Krogmann visited Mateh Asher in September to strengthen educational ties between the governments.

A growing coalition of civil society organizations, German political parties and teachers unions in both Israel and the federal republic began efforts to blunt the antisemitism and BDS activity of Glanz and his fellow teachers at the GEW in Oldenburg.

The NWZ paper in Oldenburg reported on Wednesday that the city’s Left Party councilman, Jonas Christopher Höpken, said: “In our debates, it was clear that many comrades, which I explicitly belong to, condemn the BDS campaign and absolutely reject a boycott of Israel.” 

A Left Party group called National Working Circle of Just Peace in the Middle East of the Left said it supports Glanz. Some of the group’s members, including MP Inge Höger, have been listed on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual list of top ten antisemitc/anti-Israel incidents and statements.

A group of nine teachers from the Education and Science workers union in Oldenburg said that the teachers’ local leadership “does not speak in our name,” because of its solidarity with Glanz and the publication of his call for a total boycott of Israel in its magazine.

The teachers accused the local union leadership of fecklessness in confronting hate against Israel. “That has nothing to do with a political debate. Such demagogic and hate-filled demands should, where it is possible, be prohibited and have no place in a labor union publication,” wrote the teachers. The teachers accused the union’s leadership of organizing an event with Glanz in 2014 titled “The Psychology of Israeli Settler Colonialism.”

The teachers who signed the protest letter against the anti-Israel direction of their union were Rolf Jordan, Hanne Boyn, Guido Frühauf, Barbara Hallerbach, Raimund Hethey, Christian Katz, Jan-Ole Kliem, Lisa Scheremet and Martin Vialon.

The nine teachers, along with the GEW national union’s president, Marlis Tepe, said the GEW Oldenburg damaged the union’s reputation. According to the GEW’s by-laws, union members can lose their membership status for causing damage to the labor union’s reputation. It is unclear whether the GEW’s leadership plans to take action against the pro-BDS leaders of the GEW Oldenburg. Tepe apologized to her Israeli counterpart, Yossi Wassermann, the secretary-general of the Israeli Teachers Union.

“As president of the GEW, I would like to expressly emphasize that our union does not support any kind of BDS or anti-Israeli initiatives. On the contrary, for many years, we have been supporting the cooperation between Israel and Germany, particularly youth exchanges, and we are committed to Holocaust education,” wrote Tepe.

Lala Süsskind, the head of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and against antisemitism, told thePost: “Glanz must be suspended immediately. People like him stoke antisemitism! He provokes small fires, which can spread into a large fire. Unfortunately, the reaction in this country is too slow.” Süsskind was the former chairwoman of the more than 10,000 member Jewish community in Berlin from 2008 until 2012.

Glanz declined to answer Post queries. In August, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Deri announced a crackdown on foreign BDS activists who plan to enter the country. It is unclear whether Glanz’s apparent support for Palestinian violence against Jewish Israelis and his BDS activity would trigger a rejection of his visa.

Deidre Berger, the head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, on Friday asked in a public letter to the governor of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil: “Is Israel-hate on the advance in Lower Saxony?” Lower Saxony, where Glanz teaches, has been engulfed by a number of academic and education scandals involving the spread of hatred of Jews and Israel. Glanz is currently under investigation by the school authorities for promoting antisemitism and for violating the state’s civil service law requiring political neutrality. 

Benjamin Weinthal is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.