Baden-Württemberg is embroiled in a series of anti-Semitism scandals: The German state’s commissioner tasked with combating anti-Semitism, Michael Blume, has failed to take action against funding for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state and has refused to urge the city of Freiburg to end its partnership with the genocidally anti-Semitic Iranian regime.
If Baden-Württemberg and Freiburg are serious about combating anti-Semitism, the state should immediately fire Blume, close the pro-BDS Palestine Committee Stuttgart’s bank account, and terminate Freiburg’s twin city partnership with Iran’s regime in Isfahan. Freiburg is the only city in Germany that has a city partnership with the Iranian regime.
One of the most powerful of BDS entities, the Palestine Committee Stuttgart, is based in the capital of Baden-Württemberg and maintains an account with the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW), a state-backed bank. The committee hosted an international conference that brought together a who’s who of the BDS campaign, with over 300 participants.
Blume’s contention suggesting that banks cannot close accounts of BDS groups is demonstrably false. The following German banks have terminated accounts for BDS groups for support of terrorism or of anti-Semitism, or both: Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Postbank, DAB Bank Munich and Die Bank für Sozialwirtschaft.
Under German law incitement against Jews is illicit. The Bundestag passed a resolution in 2019 defining BDS as anti-Semitic. It is worth noting that the Bank für Sozialwirtschaft terminated the account of the pro-BDS extremist entity Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East following the implementation of the anti-BDS resolution.
This writer’s investigative series led to the closure of more than 20 BDS accounts in such countries as France, Germany, Austria, the US, Ireland, and the UK due to violations of anti-discrimination laws against Israel, incitement targeting Jews, and terrorism links.
The city of Stuttgart and the state government together own nearly half of the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg. Sadly, Baden-Württemberg’s governor, Winfried Kretschmann of the Green party, and interior minister, Thomas Strobl of the Christian Democratic Union, have shown no appetite to end the state’s tolerance of BDS and Blume’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on social media and in his articles.
Blume claimed in a convoluted blog article that “As a trained financial assistant, I know that banks in the savings bank association fulfill a basic service mandate and that account closings are therefore subject to strict legal requirements.” His lack of knowledge concerning laws against terror finance and the scores of closures of BDS bank accounts in Germany, Austria and across Europe is shocking.
Blume’s refusal to urge the LBBW to close the BDS account comes in rejection of public appeals to the financial institutions enabling boycott groups from the Central Council of Jews in Germany; the Israeli government, specifically Ambassador to the UN and the US Gilad Erdan; the head of the German-Israeli Friendship Society, Uwe Becker; and the federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and the fight against anti-Semitism, Felix Klein.
Becker, as deputy mayor of Frankfurt, declared that the municipality will not conduct business with banks that provide accounts to BDS organizations.
Blume has an unsavory record of standing on the wrong side of history in the fight against contemporary anti-Semitism.
In a rambling blog entry in 2019 titled “Eichmann, Brevik, Spencer and the terror attack at Christchurch – Ethno-nationalism as a connection from anti-Semitism and racism,” Blume compared the prominent German-Jewish anti-BDS activist Malca Goldstein-Wolf to organizer of the Holocaust Adolf Eichmann.
In reaction, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem-based top Nazi-hunter, said Blume should “first tender his resignation and then apologize to Ms. Goldstein-Wolf.”
After renewed anti-Israel activity by Blume on social media this past July, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that the “job of an anti-Semitism commissioner is to fight it and not spread it.” Blume, during exchanges with a Twitter account, did not object for instance, when it denigrated the Israeli flag in a cartoon as the “worst of all.” Moreover, Blume liked and retweeted posts from Twitter accounts that stoke Jew-hatred.
In the meantime, Blume continued with his anti-Israel tirades on his private Twitter account.
This month, monitors of anti-Semitism revealed on social media that Blume expressed support for the German anti-Israel journalist Nemi El-Hassan, who participated in the pro-Iranian regime al-Quds Day demonstration where participants called for the “gassing of Jews.” The annual rally urges the destruction of the Jewish state.
And according to Germany’s largest paper, Bild, El-Hassan “liked” anti-Semitic social media content this past summer that glorified terrorism against Israel.
El-Hassan is seeking employment as a host with WDR television and Blume declared his support for her. Blume argued that “people can overcome anti-Semitism” and urged that she be “given a chance” as a moderator. After complaints from the Central Council of Jews and others, WDR opted not to allow El-Hassan to work on screen as a host, instead hiring her as a writer.
This reporter sent press queries to Blume about his support for El-Hassan, and he declared via Twitter that he would be taking a temporary break from using his private Twitter account.
Unfortunately, Blume is a serial anti-Israel and anti-Jewish user of social media. In 2019, he “liked” a Facebook post likening Zionists to Nazis—a clear expression of contemporary anti-Semitism according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, which has been adopted by the German government.
Blume’s inaction regarding the Iranian regime’s twin city partnership with Freiburg is unsettling. In 2020, the JUPI political party in the Freiburg City Council called for the end to the partnership because Iran’s regime engages in “Holocaust denial and the persecution of homosexuals, which cannot be the basis for a friendship.”
The JUPI city council member Sergio Pax said there “can be no dialogue” with Iran because it “does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
Freiburg’s partnership with Isfahan serves no other purpose than to mainstream the Islamic Republic’s lethal anti-Semitism, global terrorism and Holocaust denial.
The US government under both Democratic and Republican administrations has recognized Iran’s regime as the world’s biggest state-sponsor of terrorism. The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt testified to Congress that the Islamic Republic is the leading international state-sponsor of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The Iranian regime-controlled Metropolises News Agency (formerly called the Isfahan Municipality News Agency) reported in May on Isfahan celebrating al-Quds Day 2021. Mashregh News, a website close to the security and intelligence organizations in Iran, stressed when discussing the al-Quds Day rally in Isfahan in May “the necessity of liberating occupied Jerusalem.”
In short, the abolition of Israel.
Blume claimed regarding the twin city relationship that he cannot intervene, or even voice his opinion, regarding a municipal government’s decision. This is patently false. Note that the German city-state of Hamburg’s commissioner to combat anti-Semitism, Stefan Hensel, recently called on the municipal government to close the Islamic Republic of Iran-controlled Islamic Center in Hamburg. The center stokes anti-Semitism and promotes radical and terrorist ideologies.
Blume used a bogus excuse to avoid confronting Tehran’s deadly anti-Semitic ideology in Baden-Württemberg.
Anti-Semitism is deeply entrenched in the culture and power politics of Baden-Württemberg. The state first elected the former Nazi naval judge Hans Filbinger as governor in 1966, and he won re-election, holding the post through 1978 and enjoying enormous popularity as a patriarchal figure. Filbinger later defended his Nazi-era work imposing executions on deserters, saying: “What was right then cannot be wrong now.”
-Blume declined to say in response to my press query whether, during his speech in September celebrating “democracy” in Lörrach, he criticized the Baden-Württemberg town. Blume appears to have, at best, ignored Lörrach’s Nazi history and its honoring of its former Nazi mayor Reinhard Boos until as recently 2016.
-A spokeswoman for Lörrach, Susanne Baldus-Spingler, and the town’s mayor, Jörg Lutz, refused to respond to my press queries about the city ignoring its Nazi past during its “Day of Democracy” celebration.
-Blume and Baldus-Spingler refused to provide this reporter with a copy of his speech.
Chaim Noll, a German-Israeli author, called out Blume for “latent anti-Semitism,” writing in a piercing article about Blume’s severe incompetence and anti-Semitism on the popular website Die Achse des Guten—“the Axis of Good.” The “latent antisemitism” allegation against Blume helps to partially explain his attacks against German Jews, the Israeli media and Israelis on social media and in his bizarre blogs.
If Baden-Württemberg’s politicians and leaders continue with business as usual, their state’s anti-Semitism problem will only continue to grow.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal