Germany, Iran, and Hezbollah
An Interview with Ben Weinthal
by Jerry Gordon and Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant (September 2019)
US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel
The G-7 Biarritz Summit in southwestern France over the weekend of August 23- 26, 2019 had a surprise guest: the unannounced arrival of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He was the guest of the host country French President Emanuel Macron. Zarif met with Macron on the sidelines. Cheerleading Zarif’s arrival was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who expressed the view that it might lead to “progress” on Iran in hopes of a breakthrough over the impasse of tough US sanctions. Both France and Germany had perfected, but never implemented a special financing facility to maintain trade links that would ostensibly enable the Islamic Republic to evade the US re-imposed devastating economic sanctions. President Trump, at his news conference with President Macron at the conclusion of the G-7 Summit, suggested, following the Zarif appearance, that there might be a meeting with Iran’s self-styled ‘moderate’ President Rouhani. He even offered the possibility of alleviating the economic burdens on Iran imposed by tough US sanctions by offering loans guaranteed by Iran’s oil. The President’s suggestion of a meeting was rejected by Rouhani as premature unless and until all sanctions were lifted. Those comments from Trump sent shudders through some in official Israeli circles, while the Jewish nation was engaged in an intensifying wide-ranging “shadow war” with Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Syria and, notably Hezbollah in Lebanon. Merkel’s tolerance of Israel and US enemies Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, may stem from her shift to the dominant center left and adoption of Social Democratic and Green Parties’ positions that espouses “radical pacifism.”
Merkel has not turned Iran’s Islamic Republic into a “pariah” because of economic trade and refusal to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, despite the internal dangers to Germany. Germany is Iran’s largest trading partner in Europe at $3.2 Billion. Recently the German Ambassador in charge of trade with Iran resigned after links to a holocaust denier were found. All this seems to question whether Chancellor Merkel’s 2008 Knesset speech that Israel’s security was “not negotiable” is the current policy towards the Jewish nation.
The reality is that Merkel’s Foreign Ministry, led by Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat in her cabinet, has “courted Iran”. Ben Weinthal, Jerusalem Post European Correspondent and Research Fellow of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies thinks this is reflective of Merkel’s “uber appeasement of the Islamic Republic.” One example he cites was the early release from prison, before the terms of their sentences were up, of Iranian and Hezbollah assassins of Kurdish dissidents at a Berlin Greek restaurant in 1992.
The leader of US efforts to combat Germany’s romance with the Islamic Republic is US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who has threatened to sanction German companies engaged in trade with Iran. Grenell led the successful fight to prevent the Bundesbank from transferring $400 million to a Frankfurt Iranian trade finance bank. Germany’s trade with Iran dropped 50% in the first six months of 2019, no doubt occasioned by the tough US sanctions. US Ambassador Grenfell had blasted German Foreign Ministry representatives attending a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution at the Berlin Embassy in February 2019, while the German President sent a telegram honoring the event.
Openly gay US Ambassador Grenell is also concerned about decriminalizing the Islamic Republic’s “lethal homophobic” policy, ill treatment of women’s rights and suppression of the Christian minority. Weinthal noted that over the period from 1979 to 2008, 4,000 to 6,000 members of Iran’s Gay/LGBT community were executed, according to a British Wikileaks cable. When a Bild reporter confronted Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif about the Islamic Republic’s suppression of gays, he responded by saying “don’t question our moral principles”.
killed 12, injuring 49, including one Israeli. The rise of the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany political party may secure an electoral win in the Brandenburg State.
cite “negative, loathsome” views that “despise Israel as not being legitimate”—the New Antisemitism. Weinthal considers that finding “significantly understated”. As Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex said, in a flash of biting historical sarcasm, “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”
Against this background, Jerry Gordon and Rod Bryant interviewed Ben Weinthal, Jerusalem Post European correspondent and Research Fellow of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Jerry: The who is Benjamin Weinthal. He is the European Correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and he is also a research fellow at the Washington D.C.- based Foundation for The Defense of Democracies. He looks at Iran sanctions, the Islamic regime’s suppression of minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere. The most fascinating part of the program is his discussion of a major respected journalist in Germany who contends that Germans love Iran because it might be carrying out what Hitler didn’t.
Rod: That is the shocking revelation. I have never read this before. However, when he quotes this author, he says the purpose is to get the German people to think. If there is any level of truth, whether it is a conscious or subconscious thought within the German society, it is very disturbing. We are going to be talking about a lot of things about what is going on inside Germany in this interview with Ben Weinthal. He is the European Correspondent for Jerusalem Post and most of his research focuses on the nation of Germany.
Rod: Ben, thank you so much for taking time to come onto the show and we really appreciate it. Why is Germany the center of your European reporting for the Jerusalem Post?
Rod: Very good point. I think that sometimes we must realize that silence on an issue is like agreeing. They may not be saying anything overtly about some of their ideological views about Iran. But their silence on these issues seems to be support for these disturbing views. You mentioned U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell and leaders of the German Jewish community have taken up a cause of anti-BDS and anti-Semitism in German publications. How extensive is BDS support and anti-Semitism in Germany?
Ben: Contemporary anti-Semitism, namely the loathing of the State of Israel, hatred of the Jewish state—that form of anti-Semitism—unfortunately is widespread in Germany. The classical anti-Semitism, depicting Jews as money-grubbing individuals, is not respectable, thankfully. However, turning Israel into a human punching bag and projecting some of these classical anti-Semitic concepts onto the State of Israel is already widespread.
Jerry: Ben, you have been investigating German banks engaged in BDS group transactions. What have been some of the findings of those investigations that you have been conducting?
Rod: What do you think of the probability of that happening?
Jerry: Ben, we were talking about Chancellor Merkel’s virtual refusal to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. What are those connections in Germany between Hezbollah and some political parties and, even worse, Palestinian groups in Europe?
Ben: Yes, you are right, Rod. In 1992, Hezbollah and Iran conducted a joint operation to assassinate Kurdish dissidents in a Greek restaurant in West Berlin. Recently, Merkel allowed their killers to be released short of their prison sentence term. The German government reportedly worked out a quid pro quo where Hezbollah and Iran can operate on German soil in exchange for not conducting any terrorist attacks. What does that mean? That means they could spread their ideology, they can raise funds, they can engage in terror finance. So, it is a very unsavory business and it has been going on for decades.
Rod: From your perspective, what do you think is stoking this tolerance from Merkel’s side of the politics further left?
Ben: I think there is clearly a very potent streak of lethal anti-Semitism at work especially among left wing political parties and Islamic organizations. There is the toxic mix of the radical left, radical Islam and neo-Nazi extremist groups in Germany. You see these three disparate groups unifying for example at the Al-Quds Demonstrations in Berlin. Members from these different groups appeared at those demonstrations to call for the destruction of Israel. That is the form of contemporary anti-Semitism. Then there is the wide-spread indifference among the German public. It is not anything more intellectually complex than most Germans are indifferent to anti-Semitism. It is worth noting that a Bundestag study commissioned by the federal parliament found that 40 percent of Germans are infected with a modern anti-Semitic view. That was a study that was commissioned by the government and I believe that number is very low.
Rod: If this is the case—that anti-Semitism makes strange bedfellows in politics in Germany—it also has had a systemic effect in the overall society. Is that what you are saying?
Jerry: We noticed that a recent survey in Germany found that half the respondents viewed Islam as a threat. Is that a product of the country’s immigration policies, lack of assimilation of migrants and the reaction of right-wing political groups like Alternative for Germany?
Jerry: Does Germany still contribute to underwriting or financing certain aspects of armaments for Israel. Here, I refer to the Dolphin Submarines.
Ben: Germany provides these sophisticated submarines that can be converted into nuclear armed underwater vessels. There is a dispute in Israel now about whether the purchase of these submarines is still necessary. Israel received some subsidies for a lower price on many of these submarines. That helped Israel, but at the same time, of course, it helped the German economy and Thyssen Krupp, the manufacturer of the submarines. It provided jobs. So, it was a win-win situation for both countries.
Jerry: You have published articles regarding the status regarding gays, women and Christian minorities under oppressive Middle East regimes, especially in Iran. What is their status?
Jerry: That brings us circling back to the question of why Germany is so pro-Iranian. You have nailed it. What is most impressive in this discussion has really been the revelations about Ambassador Grenell, both in terms of going after anti-Israel as well as anti-minority and anti- gay situations in the Middle East. Why is Germany so predisposed to deal with Iran? Is it really because of the money?
Ben: That is a big statement. He is being somewhat provocative. But one wonders what else could explain this romance between Merkel, Supreme Ruler Ali Khamenei and the rest of the Iranian regime.
Rod: That is why I asked earlier what was fueling the flames of this lethal attraction. You have nailed it. But what other explanation as you said could be there?
Ben: I am a Research Fellow at the FDD where I analyze European-Iranian relations, investigate sanctions violations, contemporary anti-Semitism, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign against Israel and do a lot of investigative journalism. The FDD is a non-partisan institution that is devoted to combatting terrorism ideology, whether, Islamic, extreme right wing and left wing.
Rod: Do you have a website that people can go to read some of the information you have published?
Ben: Yes, we have a website, The Foundation for Defense of Democracies. You could just type that, and my articles are posted on the website.
Rod: Benjamin it has been a real delight having you on the show. I hope this is not the last time that we can bring you on. We wish you the best and safe travels back and forth from Berlin to Jerusalem. Until next time, you have been listening to Beyond the Matrix here on Israel News Talk Radio. Jerry and I say shalom.
Ben: Thank you.
Listen to this Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix interview with Benjamin Weinthal, Research Fellow of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and European correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.
Jerome B Gordon is a Senior Vice President of the New English Review, author of The West Speaks, NER Press 2012, and co-author of Genocide in Sudan: Caliphate Threatens Africa and the World, JAD Publishing, 2017. Mr. Gordon is a former US Army intelligence officer who served during the Viet Nam era. He is producer and co-host of Israel News Talk Radio – Beyond the Matrix. He was the co-host and co-producer of weekly The Lisa Benson Show for National Security that aired out of KKNT960 in Phoenix Arizona from 2013 to 2016 and co-host and co-producer of the Middle East Round Table periodic series on 1330amWEBY, Northwest Florida Talk Radio, Pensacola, Florida from 2007 to 2017.
Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant is creator and host of Israel News Talk Radio-Beyond the Matrix.
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