May 26, 2018
PARIS — America is run by a carpet seller. Donald Trump negotiates on the international stage the way he did with building contractors and local communities back when he was a developer: fiercely, stingily, and with only his interests in mind. His goal then was to increase his financial capital. Now, he looks to consolidate political capital — by snatching concessions from other countries, those where he has no voters.
It is a radical novelty, but at the same time the continuation of a shift that began half-a-century ago, and the perpetuation of an old American tradition. A radical novelty because never has a leader of a great power acted in such fashion. The continuation of an already old movement because this policy characterizes a nation whose domination has been declining since the 1960s. And a tradition because isolationism has punctuated the history of the United States since George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.
Either way, America is turning its back on the world. It is time for the world to act accordingly, before the seeds of discord planted by the president of the United States germinate and grow.
Actually, that is already the case. In the international institutions where the president withdrew the American pillar to cause their collapse and thus prove to his electorate that he is a man of his word and a man of action, the leaders of the other countries have (for the time being) managed to safeguard the building, sometimes leading Trump to revise his position. And other world institutions are springing up, far from the United States.
It is time for the world to act accordingly, before the seeds of discord germinate and grow.
Let's begin with the first decision made by the new White House occupant. The day after his inauguration, he withdrew his country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was intended to bring together countries from the Americas and Asia, not including China. But that withdrawal didn't kill the TPP. The other countries continued to negotiate as if nothing had happened. So much so, in fact, that later, Trump let it be known — first in January in Davos, then in April — that the United States could end up rejoining the agreement, even though it was designed by his abhorred predecessor, Barack Obama, and his despised rival, Hillary Clinton.
International bodies and geopolitics
Trump's offensive against the mechanics of trade goes well beyond the TPP. The American president dreams of breaking up the World Trade Organization (WTO) and replacing it with bilateral power struggles. He's now decided to block the appointment of new judges to the WTO court that settles disputes between countries. "We will need to get used to a multi-speed WTO," says Pascal Lamy, who was its director-general for almost a decade.
The idea seems far-fetched given how the United States has played a driving role in the history of the organization. But WTO member countries are quietly considering ways to get around the U.S. obstructionism. The example could come, for once, from UNESCO. When Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, he withdrew the country from this UN agency that wants to bring people together through education and culture. UNESCO survived. So much so that the United States rejoined the institution in 2003, before announcing a new withdrawal at the end of 2017.
We will need to get used to a multi-speed WTO.
The other international institutions forged in Bretton Woods in 1944 under American tutelage could also suffer the Trumpian wrath — starting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But many countries have learned the lessons from the 1997-1998 Asian crisis and from the eurozone crisis of 2011-2012. They are trying to limit their current account deficits, the crisis management of which is the IMF's real raison d"être. And Europe has formed the embryo of a European Monetary Fund with the European Stability Mechanism, although much remains to be done.There's also the World Bank, which aims to finance the development of poor countries. In this case, it was China that offered an alternative with the launch, in 2014, of its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Fifty-seven countries have joined the initiative, a third of them Europeans. And unlike the United States with the World Bank, China does not have a right of veto.
Donald Trump has also taken Washington out of another international field: the fight against global warming. This did not prevent the other countries from trying to implement the Paris Agreement. There is also disagreement within the United States. Cities like New York, big companies like Google and Facebook, and states like California have ignored the presidential decision by saying loud and clear that they will pursue their efforts.
Still, it is difficult to imagine a new international order without the United States. Washington remains active on the world geopolitical stage, both in the UN Security Council and on the ground (as the recent airstrikes in Syria have shown). After the withdrawal of the United States from the Iranian nuclear agreement, the five other signatory countries (China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) have indeed decided to continue. But the measures Trump decided against Iran will hit companies doing business in these countries, particularly European companies.
Like it or not, the situation we now face is this: To exist without America, the world will have to act against America. The storm is approaching.
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A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
Eva Marie Kogel
October 24, 2021
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
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