After the German government was faced with accusations that the federal republic uses taxpayer money to fund anti-Israel NGOs, BDS, and terrorism activities, German officials used allegedly harsh and undiplomatic language in internal messages about an expose launched by the Israeli organization Im Tirtzu Building the Zionist Deam, Israel National News can reveal.
Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu, on Monday told Israel National News: "We've always said that the German government is in a state of self-denial, where on the one hand it purports to work to resolve the conflict, and on the other hand it funds anti-Zionist propaganda groups that profit from the conflict and work to escalate it.”
He added that “Now, after seeing their internal correspondence between the various divisions at their Foreign Ministry, it turns out that they are simply lying to each other.
The German government can either let this deception continue, or it can stop funding organizations that profit from the conflict and from human suffering such as B'Tselem, which is on the top level of disgracefulness."
In a complex back and forth email exchange between the German foreign ministry and former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chancellery, a text email was ostensibly mistakenly sent to Im Tirtzu as part of the German government's authorized response. The message reveals a rare look into the inner workings of top German diplomats and officials who deal with Israel.
The German officials seemed to express nervousness about the importance and “range of the organization [Im Tirtzu] in Israel” and expected that part of the government’s formal response to Im Tirzu’s letter would be published in the media.
The background email was sent by an official in the foreign ministry. Israel National News sent a press query to the official.
In the internal dialogue, which was seemingly unintentionally included in the email by the official, the following quote appeared: “In addition, the organization [Im Tirzu] does not shy away from polemical exaggeration (‘these propaganda organizations thrive off conflict and need it to survive, and Germany has turned the conflict into a business’) nor from proven false claims.”
The German foreign ministry’s note referenced sections of Peleg’s October letter to Merkel that triggered the row.
Peleg wrote that “The government of Germany is working subversively and undemocratically to change the character of another democratic state – a state that provides more human rights than any other in the Middle East – by funding domestic organizations that openly work to undermine it.”
Germany casted doubt on Im Tirtzu’s contention that “On September, 28, 2021, a B’Tselem activist was caught setting fire to an Arab building in a Hebron in order to frame Jews.”
In a December letter obtained by Israel National News, Peleg wrote that the official, “in her response to Mrs.[Nina] Bernhard and other German officials denied that a member of B'Tselem was caught in September setting fire to an Arab building in the Herbon region in order to incriminate Jews, despite the fact that the incident was widely publicized in Israeli media (as was reported on Channel 12 News).”
Israel National News sent press queries to the German foreign ministry and Bernhard.
The spat between Im Tirtzu and the German foreign ministry started in October when the Israeli NGO charged Germany with “both direct funding (via the German Foreign Ministry) and indirect funding (via governmental foundations), Germany provides extensive funding to Israeli political organizations that promote the BDS movement, work to exert international pressure on Israel, work to change Israel's immigrations policies, and even work to change Israel's policy against terrorism by means of legal and international pressure.”
BDS is an abbreviation for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting the Jewish state. The German Bundestag labelled BDS antisemitic in a 2019 resolution.
According to Im Tirtzu, “Over the past several years, Germany alone has funded 34 political organizations in Israel, all of whom are affiliated with the far-left. From 2012 – 2021, Germany has provided NIS 84, 204, 316 (22.5 million euro) – a tremendous sum, especially by Israeli standards.”
Im Tirtzu wrote that “Seventeen percent of the 22.5 million euro funded by Germany to these radical groups has gone toward organizations that provide legal protection to murderous terrorists and their family members in Israeli courts".
In their letter, Im Tirtzu, mentioned as an example that one of these organizations, has provided in recent years legal protection for 81 terrorists and their families. "These terrorists are responsible for the murder of 77 people.” they wrote.
The NGO also took B'Tselem to task for its allegedly anti-Israel conduct. “ Germany also substantially funds the B'Tselem organization, which received 9,107,706 euro from Germany from 2012 – 2021.”
The German government wrote in its response to Im Tirtzu that “The Federal Government does not cooperate with partners that promote or engage in violence or deny Israel’s right to exist. We do not fund projects that actively promote BDS. German political foundations are not state entities and engage independently of the Federal Government. In this sense too, we do not necessarily endorse all views expressed by civil society partners or independent organizations, whose fundamental right to freedom of expression is part of democratic and pluralistic societies like Israel and Germany.?
The Federal government statement added that “Allegations of any involvement with sanctioned individuals or entities as well as misconduct are taken very seriously are and are investigated diligently. Our partner organizations are obliged by law to submit detailed spending and activity reports. In the same vein, we stand by human rights defenders and civil society organizations who face false accusations and disinformation campaigns.”
Peleg said “The hard-earned tax money of German citizens would be better spent on their own welfare, not on fueling the flames of the conflict in another country. Just as Israel does not fund political organizations in Germany that seek to change Germany's immigration or economic policy, or that provide legal protection to murderous terrorists and their families, so too Germany should not be funding such organizations in Israel.”
He added that “ it is important to note that we will continue using our wide influence in Israel to prevent Germany's undemocratic intervention in our affairs. With all due respect, Israel is not a German colony.”
The Press department of the Federal Foreign Office of German responded: "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on internal correspondence or consultation processes."
"The work of the German political foundations is not undertaken at the behest of the Government. The foundations select their own projects and are responsible for their implementation."
Benjamin Weinthal is a Jerusalem-based Journalist