By Benjamin Weinthal
Stuttgart, July 30, 2021
Political leaders in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg have shown no desire to end their promotion of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign that targets Israel) and support for the clerical regime in Tehran.
The New York University political theorist Bertell Ollman advised his students in the late 1980s to first read the business section of the New York Times, so they will know what happens before the news later appears on the front page as political events.
Plainly put, economics plays a decisive role in political events. This is certainly the case in Germany.
Human rights concerns, the fight to combat Jew-hatred, and Western values have never been front and centre in animating Germany’s domestic and foreign policies.
The business of Germany is exports, which explains why an approach aimed at German business is required if one wishes to affect the country’s political superstructure. Working the other way around has proven to be largely futile.
Political leaders in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg have shown no desire to end their promotion of BDS and support for the clerical regime in Tehran. To change this state-sponsored antisemitism, the focus needs to be on the international automobile giant Mercedes-Benz, whose headquarters is in the state’s capital city, Stuttgart.
According to the resolutions passed by the German and Austrian federal parliaments, BDS is an antisemitic movement.
The state government and city of Stuttgart furnish a bank account, via their near 50% ownership in the Baden-Württembergische Bank (BW-Bank), to an organisation devoted to destroying the Jewish state, the pro-BDS Palestine Committee Stuttgart.
Michael Blume, the commissioner tasked with combating antisemitism in Baden-Württemberg, along with the state’s Governor Winifried Kretschmann and Interior Minister Thomas Strobl, have refused to take actions against the BDS account.
In fact, Blume, who has faced accusations over the years of trafficking in antisemitism, liked a Facebook post equating Zionists with Nazis.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said regarding the BW-Bank: “They should follow the decisions by some of Germany’s most prominent banks to end any relationship with the antisemitic BDS movement. In 2021, everyone knows what BDS’s goal is: The elimination of the Jewish state.”
Blume has also made no effort to encourage Germans not to buy Ben and Jerry’s ice cream due to the company’s BDS activity.
The university city of Freiburg retains its twin city partnership with the Iranian city of Isfahan. The clerical regime in Isfahan holds an annual al-Quds Day rally promoting the destruction of the Jewish state. The eliminatory antisemitism of the authorities in Isfahan has not fazed Blume or municipal leaders in Freiburg.
As for the German automaker, “Leading managers of Daimler-Benz lent valuable assistance to the National Socialists before Hitler became Chancellor in 1933,” Bernard P. Bellon writes in “Mercedes in Peace and War: German Automobile Workers, 1903-1945.”
“The corporation even claimed that it was responsible for ‘helping to motorize the [Nazi] movement.’”
“On a massive scale, Daimler-Benz threw tens of thousands of men and women, including foreign workers and concentration camp inmates, into the battle to produce engines for the German air force,” Bellon writes.
According to the New York Times, “Daimler-Benz used Jewish women from the concentration camps at Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen as worker-slaves. One group of female inmates working at Daimler-Benz was moved back to Sachsenhausen in the final weeks of the war, apparently to be gassed. They survived to tell the tale when the camp’s gas chamber failed to function.”
What can Mercedes-Benz do? It could announce it will relocate all production work to a state that does not sponsor (BDS) Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign that targets Israel and help to mainstream Iranian regime’s lethal antisemitism.
In 1944, Mercedes-Benz employed about 46,000 forced laborers, about 15 percent of whom were Jews. In 1988, the company announced it would pay nearly $12 million in compensation (about $260 per employee).
If Mercedes-Benz seeks to internalize the lessons of its role in the obliteration of European Jewry, it can use its leverage to influence change in the recalcitrant positions of its host state’s leaders.
What can the automobile giant do? First, it can announce it will relocate all its production operations, or some of them, to a German state that does not sponsor BDS and help to mainstream the Iranian regime’s lethal antisemitism against Israel.
Thanks to US sanctions and the efforts of former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, in 2018 Mercedes-Benz announced a freeze of its operations in Iran.
If Mercedes-Benz decides to remain inactive against the antisemitism and pro-Iranian regime policies of its headquarters state, consumers should take this into account when purchasing cars.
Baden-Württemberg is a dangerous place for Jews to live and has become arguably the most antisemitic state in Germany. Kretschmann, Strobl and Blume remained largely indifferent to the case of Serkan P., who fled to Turkey in June after allegedly torching a synagogue in the city of Ulm. The state authorities failed to notify the federal government, and thereby damaged the chances to apprehend Serkan P., the Stuttgarter Nachrichten paper reported.
Michael Rubin, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an article for the National Interest titled “Germany is a bad ally.”
“Since the time of German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, Berlin has consistently allowed the promise of commercial contracts to undermine consensus with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme and Iran’s horrendous abuse of human rights,” Rubin wrote.He continued, “Both [former German Chancellor Gerhard] Schröder and [his successor, Angela] Merkel have consistently turned a blind-eye or even sought to bury intelligence showing Iranian cheating on its nuclear commitments in order to augment Germany’s own commercial relations.”
A WikiLeaks diplomatic dispatch revealed the widespread truth that dare not speak its name, but was cited as a reason for Merkel’s refusal to shut down the Hamburg-based European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH): “The German business community is very powerful.” This despite the bank being sanctioned by the US for financing the Iranian regime’s illicit nuclear and missile programs.
The key takeaway is that economics takes priority over power politics and the fight should focus on getting German corporations to influence their state and federal governments.
Germany’s government has reversed a few of its pro-Iranian regime policies, but only when the cost-benefit analysis showed that sticking with Tehran would entail greater damage to its economic interests.
The time is long overdue for Mercedes-Benz and other businesses in Baden-Württemberg to pressure state and municipal political leaders to end their support of BDS and Iran’s clerical regime.
Courtesy note: Foundation For Defense of Democracies first published this opinion article on July 29, 2021. www.jewishjournal.com too published this.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.