TEL AVIV – The Simon Wiesenthal Center accused city officials in the northern German city of Bremen of being complicit in boycotts against Israel that recall Nazi-era boycotts of Jews, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“Our members are most concerned by the inaction of your municipality against a reportedly increasingly violent anti-Semitic campaign, otherwise known as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), reminiscent of the 1930s ‘Kauf nicht bei Juden’ (“Do Not Buy From Jews”) assaults in Nazi Germany,” Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for International Relations for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote in a scathing letter to Carsten Sieling, Bremen’s Social Democratic mayor.
Federally-funded, city-owned buildings and facilities are being used as hotbeds for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel campaigning.
“Apparently, the German BDS movement operates from Villa Ichon, owned by the City of Bremen and seat of the ‘Bremen Peace Forum,’ ostensibly leased as a place to meet for associations, especially for cultural and social life.” Samuels wrote in his letter.
The Bremen Peace Forum organizes local protests to urge Bremen residents not to buy Israeli products, holding placards showing “bleeding” oranges. The anti-Israel group calls for boycotting merchandise imported from all of Israel and not just those manufactured in the settlements.
Samuels added: “We urge you to invoke your municipal integrity to publicly condemn BDS and take measures for the rapid eviction of these hooligans from Villa Ichon.”
Spokeswoman for Bremen’s cultural department, Alexandra Albrecht, told the Post that the city councilor for culture, Carmen Emigholz, “called at an institutional meeting a year ago for those present to not allow events in their buildings that agitate against Israel.”
Even though, according to Albrecht, Emigholz opposes the boycott of Israel, she was criticized for not doing more to prevent using public facilities for anti-Israel activity.
“I find it incomprehensible that Bremen’s culture minister [Emigholz], who can play a positive role in preventing the use of public buildings for BDS, is refraining from taking action. It should now be quite clear to everyone, particularly Germany, that BDS is another form of anti-Semitism,” Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, told the Post.
Samuels, from the Wiesenthal Center, wrote: “Mr. Mayor, if you are proud to see BDS as a ‘cultural and social’ phenomenon, the image of Bremen is sadly tarnished.”
In addition to the Villa Ichon, other cultural centers in Bremen, including the Überseemuseum natural history and ethnographic museum, the municipal library, and the Weserterrassen community center provided space to BDS advocates.
Klaus Hübotter, the head of Villa Ichon’s management organization, told the Post, “The Peace Forum is not an anti-Semitic organization. We don’t tolerate anti-Semitic organizations in our Villa Ichon.”