Is Germany’s Left Party Harboring Anti-Semites?

A report by a pair of German academics accuses the Left Party of becoming increasingly anti-Semitic. While the party’s top leadership dismisses the yet-unpublished study as “nonsense,” others within the Left say there may be some truth to the allegations.

Left Party leader Gregor Gysi
Left Party leader Gregor Gysi
M. Hollstein and P. Kuhn

BERLIN - Gregor Gysi, leader of Germany's Die Linke (The Left), has one word to describe recent allegations that there is widespread anti-Semitism within his party: "Nonsense."

Though at times openly critical of Israel, the party neither espouses nor accepts anti-Semitism, insist Gysi and other Left leaders. "We need no lectures from outside parties," Die Linke veteran Klaus Ernst told the newspaper Westfälische Rundschau. "We have shown our position several times, and very clearly, we do not tolerate anti-Semitism in the Left party."

A highly anticipated (though still unpublished) report written recently by social scientist Samuel Salzborn and anti-Semitism expert Sebastian Voigt of the University of Leipzig suggests otherwise. The study, entitled "Anti-Semites as a Coalition Partner?" argues that "anti-Zionist anti-Semitism" has become a largely consensus position within the Left in recent years. It is even gaining force, the authors conclude.

Voigt and Salzborn were especially struck by critical attitudes towards Israel within Germany's western states. "Anti-Semitism has been nourished there within an anti-imperialist tradition that originated in the 1970s," said Salzborn in an interview with Die Welt.

In Herford, Left politician Erika Semaitis was the only member of the City Council to deny a grant to a synagogue – allegedly for financial reasons. In Bremen, members of the Left Party called for a boycott of Israeli fruit.

Anti-Israel attitudes by members of the Left reached a peak after the storming of the "Gaza flotilla" by Israeli soldiers in May 2010, which killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists. Annette Groth, Inge Hoeger and Norman Paech, two deputies and a former deputy of the Left Party, participated in the flotilla, alongside several radical Islamic groups. The Left publicly appluaded their efforts. "We are very proud," said party-leader Gesine Lötzsch at the time.

Voigt and Salzborn found that this incident was used as propaganda at some party meetings, including during a panel discussion in Hamburg led by Jan van Aken. One listener suggested, to great applause, that the next convoy should be protected by the Turkish army so as to stick it to the "fascist regime in Israel."

Only about a month before the Israeli commando operation against the "Mavi Marmara," the party had solidified its anti-Zionist stance in a resolution on the Middle East conflict. In it, the Left party recognized Israel's right to exist, but insisted at the same time that the Palestinian group Hamas – which has committed itself to the destruction of Israel – should be involved in future discussions.

Gregor Gysi blasted the report's claims, saying that criticisms of Israeli government policy and anti-Semitism are by no means the same thing.

Other members of the Left admit there are "problems," but point out that the party's leadership has been careful to distance itself in cases – such as the proposed fruit boycott – where junior members have taken particularly divisive stances. "These are by no means majority positions in the Left," said parliamentary secretary Dagmar Enkelmann

In some cases, however, allegations of anti-Semitism have come from within the party's own ranks. In recent years, there has been an "increase" in anti-Semitic incidents in the Left, says Benjamin-Christopher Krueger, founding member of BAK Shalom, a working group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, anti-zionism, and anti-Americanism within the Left party. According to Krueger, party leadership has distanced itself from anti-Semitism, but not done enough to actively combat it.

A case in point is Hermann Dierkes, the leader of the Left in Duisburg. In an interview conducted in early May, he compared Israeli policy towards the Palesinians with the Nazi regime. Dierkes said the Israelis are using methods against Palestinians that look "damn close to what the Nazis did in the 30s." The month before, a pamphlet mentioning the "so-called Holocaust" was briefly available on the Duisburg District Association website.

The BAK Shalom is increasingly attacked from within its own party. A Facebook group called "Stop the BAK Shalom" has already emerged as a reaction against the working group. "Anti-Germans, get lost from the Left ... you are whores of imperialism," has been written on the page. The Facebook page was founded by Christian Sedlak, who was in the running to be a Left candidate representing Dachau, Bavaria in the general election two years ago.

Salzborn has been surprised by the initial reaction to the still unpublished study. "We haven't heard the usual complaints yet." Many supporters of the Left have reacted positively to the paper, he says, glad someone has finally said what's been on their minds for awhile.

Read the original article in German

photo - linksfraktion

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Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.

"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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