BERLIN – A German foundation that seeks to combat Jew-hatred and carry forward the memories of the victims of the Nazi period has enabled teenage students to draw crude pictures of Israeli Jewish pupils as part of a German and Israeli Arab high-school exchange program.
The revelation that a Holocaust foundation funneled public money to hardcore anti-Israel educational activities unleashed criticism last week from the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor group and German experts on academic anti- Semitism.
The foundation – Remembrance, Responsibility, Future (EVZ) — provided funds to partner agencies to produce a 31-page brochure depicting Orthodox Jewish students wearing yarmulkes and bearing sidelocks while seated in a well-kept classroom with a sign over a world map stating “Jewish School.”
The adjacent drawing shows a dilapidated, overcrowded schoolroom with Palestinian pupils seated below a giant cobweb and a beat-up map lacking countries. A collapsing sign above the students reads “Palestine School.”
A second cartoon apparently shows a light-skinned Israeli asking a dark-skinned Palestinian if he wants to be friends. An imposing tank is positioned behind both students, suggesting that the Israeli student is compelling the Palestinian student to shake his hand.
Anne Herzberg, legal adviser for NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday, “The reported use of German government funding for a student project that produced anti-Semitic images is deplorable, and shows a complete lack of judgment and oversight.”
Herzberg added, “Instead of utilizing the funding to compensate victims of the Nazis and educate about the horrors of the regime, as it was intended, money was redirected to a project for Arab and German students that both presented and fostered a distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Students from Nazareth and the Gerhart Hauptmann school in Wernigerode, a small town in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, participated in the exchange program, whose purpose was to examine the “Right to Education.”
The exchange program took place during the 2010- 2011 school year. Dr. Ralf Possekel, head of programs for EVZ, wrote the Post on Thursday, “The German students, to my knowledge, do not want to speak with journalists after this incident, because they do not trust that the reporting will be correct.”
The brochure features articles in English, Arabic and German. Dr. Martin Salm, the chairman of the Holocaust foundation, said that “500 copies were produced at a cost of 2,130 euros.”
Salm told the Post that the brochure is “problematic” and promotes “stereotypes” because it shows male Israelis with sidelocks and yarmulkes. He said that EVZ funded the exchange program in the context of a partnership program with other NGOs, and that he would not allow the brochures into the foundation’s offices.
Salm backtracked from a one-page unsigned letter that had been sent to the Post by his foundation, which rejected “the formulation that the criticisms of the students is an attitudinal expression of anti-Semitism.”
Katja Wegner, a spokeswoman for the foundation, sent the letter to the Post last week. A separate media report attributed the letter to Salm.
Asked about experts who view the material as anti- Semitic, Salm said he “agrees” with that characterization, adding that “every second [German] TV program” on Israel depicts images of ultra-Orthodox Jews. He insisted that EVZ does not want to transmit pejorative images of Jews and “there will no longer be any more cooperation work with this [the Gerhart Hauptmann] school.”
He faulted the educators for failing to properly guide the 17- and 18-year-old students. Salm claimed to have not previously seen the booklets.
Herzberg, from NGO Monitor, said, “When the German students visited Nazareth, for example, they learned ‘about the lands that the Palestinians no longer possess due to the Jewish occupation.’ The same student who wrote this account also makes comparisons about the suffering of ‘both the Arabs and the Germans.’
“It is the height of absurdity that the German government would allow this funding to continue. The funding should stop immediately and a complete evaluation of all committee members and funding mechanisms should begin,” Herzberg said.