Germany’s Protestant Church said on Monday it is sticking with its appointment of an accused anti-Israel cleric who has allegedly written in a Hamas style to serve as the interim provost for the landmark Redeemer’s Church.
Last year, the virulently anti-Israel cleric Rainer Stuhlmann wrote in a German Protestant Church document on the 70th anniversary of the re-founding of Israel that the creation of the State of Israel was for the Palestinians a “reason for mourning” because Israel engaged in “expulsion, destruction, coercion and injustice.“
Stuhlmann continued his alleged tirade against Israel, stating: “In recent years, military superiority has led Israel to brutally enforce its interests against Palestine. With an aggressive settlement policy, facts are created that narrow the scope of Palestine more and more.”
Last year, the editor-in-chief of the Westdeutsche Zeitung, Uli Tückmantel, wrote that Stuhlmann’s writing is, “one-sided finger-pointing against Israel in the propaganda style of Fatah and Hamas.”
When asked by The Jerusalem Post if he is anti-Israel or antisemitic, Stuhlmann, who is presently in Jerusalem, wrote by email: “I have been a friend of Israel for decades. For decades I have been engaged in the fight against all forms of antisemitism, including antisemitism related to Israel.”
Stuhlmann said there is a Wikipedia article that contains a section in which he is “defamed.”
He said: “[The] attacks against me are based on an article from which he quotes only two out of four sections [and] tears quotes out of context.”
Stuhlmann added that “I say nothing other than what the federal government says. Israel’s right to exist and the security of Israel are ‘non-negotiable’ and ‘part of the German state of reason.’ Like the federal government, I criticize Israel’s occupation and settlement policies, but my criticism is always in solidarity with Israel.”
When asked about the allegations of hardcore anti-Israel views against Stuhlmann, Jens Peter Iven, a spokesman for the German Protestant Church, told the Post: “You will see for yourself that this is not the case if you are dealing with the original text and not the media coverage about the text.”
Iven said the church will not dismiss Stuhlmann.
The US, Germany and the EU classify Hamas a terrorist organization. Wolfgang Schmidt, the current German cleric who oversees the Redeemer Church, is slated to depart Israel for Germany in September.
Stuhlmann’s reported diatribe against Israel prompted the state’s German Jewish Association in the Nordrhein to cancel a joint trip with the Protestant Church of Rhineland to Israel last year. German media reported that Oded Horowitz, the head of the German Jewish association for Nordrhein, said Stuhlmann’s article smacks of “anti-Zionist stereotypes.”
Antisemitism experts define anti-Zionism – the rejection of the Jewish state or efforts to delegitimize it – as a form of contemporary antisemitism.
Iven said Stuhlmann’s essay contains “different perspectives” and “Israel is described as unique… especially as a sanctuary for the Jewish people.” Iven also referred to sections that pledge “unswerving solidarity with Judaism” and the “obligation to fight every form of antisemitism.”
Stuhlmann previously served a student leader in the northern Israeli village of Ness Amim. Jerusalem-based German journalist Ulrich Sahm, an expert on Christian antisemitism, wrote in June on Audiatur-Online’s website that Stuhlmann negates the existence of Israeli-Arabs and his writings “border on racism.”
“Here the occupiers, the Jewish-Israelis, there the occupied, the Palestinian-Arabs. He does not differentiate between Palestinians in Jericho and Gaza and Arab citizens of Israel. For him, all the local Arabs are Palestinians. The differentiated reality does not seem to interest him. With this outrageous claim, Stuhlmann seems to deny Israeli citizenship to any Israeli-Arab.”
Sahm wrote that Stuhlmann conveys “Palestinian propaganda, with the goal [being] to delegitimize Israel and Judaism.”
“It is therefore unlikely that the inter-religious dialogue under Stuhlmann will undergo a positive renewal,” Sahm said. “The early Christians, the Christian Aramaeans, who attach particular importance to not being called Palestinians, can no longer feel welcome in the main German church of Jerusalem.”
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.