October 12, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

Post Exposé causes German city to remove BDS advertisement

When the Post clicked on the link to the now-defunct Palestine Committee entry, the page reads "Page not found."

The spokesman for the German city of Stuttgart told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the municipality has removed the promotional page for a hardcore boycott Israel group.

“BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] propagates the goal of an Israel boycott. Therefore we have removed the address entry of the association of Palestine Committee Stuttgart from the website stuttgart.de,” Sven Matis, a spokesman for the city’s Green Party mayor Fritz Kuhn, wrote the Post by email.

When the Post clicked on the link to the now-defunct Palestine Committee entry, the page reads “Page not found.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry raised alarm bells about the pro-BDS promotion from the city of Stuttgart on Wednesday.

“We are committed to combat BDS as a top priority, in Germany and elsewhere. We will address the Stuttgart authorities on the issue,” ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told the Post.

After the Post revealed on Sunday that Stuttgart – the capital of the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg and the headquarters of automobile manufacturer Mercedes Benz – promotes an entry for the pro-BDS group Palestinian Committee, financed by taxpayers in the city, Kuhn’s administration continued to defend the anti-Israel entry.

Germany’s best-selling newspaper Bild reported on Wednesday on the Post story that Kuhn allows a boycott-Israel entry on the city’s website. The Bild story analyzed antisemitism within all German parties represented in the Bundestag, including the Green Party. The example of Stuttgart’s Green Party advertising the Palestine Committee on the city website was cited as an example of modern antisemitism within the Green Party.

Kuhn’s spokesman on Friday told the Post that additional research led to new conclusions that Palestine Committee lists “boycott measures against Israel” on its website and draws a parallel between Israel and an “apartheid state.” As a result, the city of Stuttgart initiated what is believed to be its first anti-BDS action against the committee. Stuttgart – in contrast to Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt – does not have a law or policy barring the use of city funds and space for BDS activity.

Matis told the Post that the Palestine Committee also informs the public about the BDS campaign with a flyer.

The German-Israel Friendship Society in Stuttgart (DIG) informed the Post about the pro-BDS entry on the city’s website last week. Bärbel Illi, the chairwoman of DIG-Stuttgart, said in a DIG statement that the pro-Israel group “protested already in vain in November 2011 to the previous mayor Dr. Wolfgang Schuster to cancel an event with the Palestine Committee that led a boycott call against Israel.” The DIG-Stuttgart has led the fight over the years to combat the alleged BDS-animated antisemitism from the Palestine Committee.

Prior to the removal of the pro-BDS advertisement, Deidre Berger, the head of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, told the Post: “It is incomprehensible why the city of Stuttgart lists an organization in its online data bank that is an active supporter of the BDS campaign. In February, the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg censured the BDS campaign in a clearly worded resolution. Stuttgart should respect the rejection by its state parliament of the BDS movement and take appropriate action. All actions that prevent the spread of BDS must be taken, if the resolution is taken seriously. This would be an important contribution to German-Israeli relations, particularly in this 70th anniversary year of the founding of Israel.”

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem-based office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post last week that Stuttgart’s Green Party needs to match its declared pro-Israel rhetoric with pro-Jewish state action against the BDS group.

Volker Beck, a Green Party politician, told the Post on Thursday: “It is good when the city comes to the insight to remove the entry. Better late than never.” Beck, a lecturer in the Center for Religious Studies at Ruhr University in the city of Bochum, is one of the most outspoken politicians against the BDS campaign in the federal republic.

In May, the Post reported that the Baden-Württemberg intelligence report said propaganda by the neo-Nazi party Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way) to boycott Israeli products “roughly recalls similar measures against German Jews by the National Socialists, for example, on April 1, 1933 (the slogan: ‘Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews!’).”

The intelligence agency referred to the BDS movement as a “new variation of antisemitism” in its report. Post media queries to the Palestine Committee (Palästinakomitee-Stuttgart) were not returned.