Sunday, August 9, 2020

Daniel Marwecki's "Germany and Israel"

Daniel Marwecki is a (senior) teaching fellow in Politics & International Studies at SOAS University of London. He also teaches at the University of Leeds School of History, and is a co-editor of ldis:orient, a German-language magazine on Europe and the Middle East. He formerly taught at the University of Leipzig and worked for a German NGO in Jerusalem.

Marwecki applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and Statebuilding, and reported the following:
The title of my book gives away the main argument. I argue that we need to understand the origin of German-Israeli relations as a deal between whitewashing and statebuilding and that this deal continues to shape the relationship until today. By whitewashing, I mean that postwar West Germany decided to support Israel in order to blur the fact that Nazis continued to serve in high places and that society, overall, did not confront the crimes it had so shortly before committed. By statebuilding, I mean that we need to rethink the German role in the Middle East. I show that Germany, especially before the crucial year of 1967, has been the most important supporter of the Jewish state, more important even than the U.S.

I am happy to report that page 99 of my book precisely illustrates this argument. The test works! As there is a chapter transition on that page, it is divided into two parts, illustrating both parts of the argument.

The first half of the page closes a discussion on how West Germany reimagined its Jewish Other along lines that continued to be antisemitic. I show how German officials perceived of their Israeli counterparts during the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem and how these officials lauded what they saw as the “Prussian” or even “Aryan” qualitites of the “new” Israeli Jews. The subchapter that then starts on page 99 discusses the question of whether German financial support for Israel was actually used to help Israel build its nuclear arsenal.

To give a taste of the book, here is page 99 almost in full. Please note that in the beginning, I refer to an especially outlandish quote on the previous page by a German observer of the famous Eichmann trial in Jerusalem.
Here, Jews seem to have finally become German. This perhaps rather astonishing type of openly racist German over-identification with Israeli Jews starkly illustrates how continuities of German antisemitism can express themselves in a pro-Israeli attitude. In this case, Israel is represented in terms of German self-descriptions of a distinctly pre-1945 era, whereby Israel becomes Aryan. The German identification with Israeli military capacity in terms such as these is a corollary to the fact that in their formative phase under consideration in this chapter, German politics towards Israel served not to confront the past but to whitewash its continuities, a rationale accepted by Israel in return for the means to build the state.

Business friends: Did the FRG finance Israel’s nuclear project?

In 2015, Hans Rühle, an expert on nuclear proliferation who had held high positions in the BMVg and NATO, published an article in the conservative newspaper Die Welt, known for its staunch support of Israel. The article claimed that the FRG had financed Israel’s nuclear project with the ‘Operation Business Friend’ loan in the 1960s, promised to Ben-Gurion at the Waldorf Astoria and paid out after the Eichmann trial. Rühle argues that while the French technical help for the construction of the nuclear power plant at Dimona is well-known, the question of who paid for the project had remained a riddle, as the costs far exceeded Israel’s budget at the time. Contrary to normal development loans, ‘Operation Business Friend’ was never explicitly tied to any specific projects; in fact, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, the state-owned German development bank in charge of the loan, has not disclosed its files on the topic to this day.
Learn more about Germany and Israel at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue