The Ministry of Economic Affairs for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia started an investigation on Tuesday of an employee and Social Democratic Party official who said Israel supporters undermine the Federal Republic, sparking accusations of antisemitism.
Stefan Grönebaum – division head covering work and social policies, demography and integration – labeled pro-Israel members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and other supporters of the Jewish state , an “organized, good networked ‘fifth column’ in the interests of Israel’s policies.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday: “These types of comments are clearly antisemitic and should be examined by the SPD. Their expert is antisemitic and is disseminating an antisemitic view.”
Zuroff, the organization’s chief Nazi-hunter, added, “We are happy this investigation is being launched. Zuroff said Grönebaum’s rhetoric meets the official definition of contemporary antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Matthias Kietzmann, a spokesman for the Economy Ministry, told the Post by phone on Tuesday that the ministry takes the matter “very seriously” and has started an investigation.
On Monday, Kietzmann wrote in an email to the Post: “The statements from Mr. Grönebaum on his Facebook account give entirely his private views, which the Economy Ministry expressly does not share.”
Grönebaum was first reported on by the German-language Ruhrbarone website, which has exposed a number of antisemitic scandals over the years.
Volker Beck, a Green Party Bundestag deputy who is chairman of the German-Israel parliamentary group, asked Grönebaum on Facebook why he does “not respect the decision of the UN that the Jewish people have a right to their own state.”
Beck urged the Economy Ministry to ask Grönebaum about his anti-Zionism and decide if he needs an education program regarding Israeli history and German responsibility.
On Facebook, in a rambling tirade against the legitimacy of the Jewish state, Grönebaum wrote “Zionists are attached to a colonialist doctrine… They mean that the land of the others belongs to them.”
Grönebaum’s written assaults on Israel were triggered by a comment from Sercan Aydilek, an activist who campaigns against modern antisemitism in Germany and who described himself as a Zionist.
Dr. Elvira U. Groezinger, head of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post,” It is remarkable indeed that a member of the Social Democratic Party and an employee in a ministry of a German federal state publicly dares to delegitimize Israel in a language which is directly taken over from the Nazi vocabulary and to use it in an openly antisemitic way in his polemics against the Jewish state which is a democratic one, contrary to the totalitarian regimes in the Arab countries.”
Tanya Aliza, who said she was a German-Israeli Social Democrat, thanked the people involved in the Facebook conversation for their criticism of Grönebaum.
Efforts by the Post to reach Grönebaum were not successful.