Israel tells Germany to stop funding Jewish museum

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding that Germany defund organizations perceived as critical of Israel, including the Jewish Museum Berlin, which has educated millions about the Jewish culture that the Nazis tried to destroy. (via Facebook)

Israel is demanding that Germany stop funding the Jewish Museum Berlin, an institution that has educated millions of people about the Jewish culture that the Nazis tried to exterminate.

The museum is one of dozens of cultural and human rights organizations Israel wants defunded because they allow free discussion of Palestine or criticism of Israel’s human rights record.

Israel wants the organizations muzzled as a condition of any future German funding.

In a letter to the German government, Israel also demanded that human rights organizations including B’Tselem, the Coalition of Women for Peace and Breaking the Silence receive no German funds.

Israel also wants funding stopped to the renowned Berlinale film festival and the Israeli publication +972 Magazine.

A copy of the seven-page letter was obtained by the German newspaper taz last month.

The letter accuses the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Berlinale of “anti-Israel activities.”

Although it had no letterhead, no addressee and was not signed, a German government spokesperson told taz that the Israeli government handed over information to German officials when they discussed support for nongovernmental organizations.

Writing at the World Socialist Web Site late last month, Sybille Fuchs cited reports that the letter was “personally handed over” to German officials by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The letter “bears the hallmark” of NGO Monitor, a right-wing organization that works with the Israeli government to smear human rights organizations, taz notes.

But Gerald Steinberg, the head of NGO Monitor, denied having anything to do with the letter, according to taz.


In an open letter published by taz, dozens of Israeli artists urge the German government and parliament to reject the Israeli demands.

“We are shocked to hear that our prime minister and his government have demanded that the German government stop its support for the Jewish Museum in Berlin because of the latter’s special exhibition about Jerusalem,” the artists state. “This exhibition has been insincerely and incorrectly alleged to reflect a mainly Muslim-Palestinian narrative.”

“In recent years, we in Israel have witnessed myriad attempts by the government, in cooperation with populist and ultra-rightwing parties, to shrink the spaces of cultural expression and limit pluralist, critical discourse,” the Israeli artists add.

The Israeli government claims, according to taz, that the Jewish Museum Berlin only reflects a “Palestinian-Muslim view of Jerusalem” in its exhibition Welcome to Jerusalem.

Israel also accuses the museum of hosting supporters of BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – as speakers.

“We believe that an open discussion involving sometimes controversial views is essential to enable our visitors to form their own, differentiated judgment,” a museum spokesperson told taz.

Among the signatories are Micha Ullman, the artist who designed the Berlin memorial on the spot where in May 1933 Nazis burned 20,000 books.


The Israeli government letter characterizes German funding for civil society and human rights groups as unwarranted interference in Israel’s internal affairs.

For example the letter attacks +972 Magazine, which is funded through the Green Party-linked Heinrich Böll Foundation, because its writers “regularly accuse Israel of apartheid.”

The Böll foundation, which itself publishes propaganda promoting Israel as a “start-up nation” and disseminates “progressiveattacks on the nonviolent BDS movement for Palestinian rights, dismissed the claims in the Israeli government’s letter as “absurd.”

The Israeli government letter also takes aim at medical charity Medico International, Catholic charity Miserior and the Protestant churches’ relief agency Bread for the World.

Targeting BDS

Israel also criticizes the Berlinale film festival for its alleged relationship with the BDS movement. It wants the German government to make future support conditional on the exclusion of BDS supporters.

The Israeli government may be irritated that British filmmaker Ken Loach was in 2014 awarded the Berlinale’s lifetime achievement award, the Golden Bear, and his films are often screened at the festival.

Loach is an outspoken supporter of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

The premiere of Palestinian director Raed Andoni’s documentary Ghost Hunting at the Berlinale in 2017 may also have caused annoyance.

The film shows how Israel tries to break the spirit of Palestinian prisoners with abuse and torture.

And Israeli director Udi Aloni, who won a top audience award at the 2016 Berlinale, called the Israeli government “fascist” before the screening of his movie Junction 48.

He also urged Germany to stop arming Israel.

But Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick is not giving in to Israeli pressure.

“The views can be controversial, but our job is to work for the freedom of art within the framework of democratic order,” Kosslick said.

The organizations under Israeli attack can draw some hope from a German federal government spokesperson who told taz that the “promotion of a vibrant civil society is a goal of German foreign and development policy.”

Protection of human rights and freedom of expression are basic principles, the spokesperson added.

Nonetheless, the Israeli government’s escalating demands for censorship come against a background of official intolerance and repression in Germany of free expression in support of full Palestinian rights.

As long as the German government “sticks to its principles” of nominal support for freedom of speech, the pressure from Israel “is likely to continue,” taz predicts.




It's almost as if there's an Israeli governmental strategy, by such blatant meddling in European society, to boost European antisemitism. For true motives of any Israel act, follow (not the money, but) Israeli domestic politics. A growing world antisemitism, benefits Israel's hardliners, at the ballotbox.


Indeed, Israel without antisemitism is inconceivable. Hatred and persecution of Jews form the raison d'être of the Zionist movement. Israel is a nation state which requires the permanent threat of antisemitism to justify its existence. Without antisemitism, the entire Zionist project makes no sense. And because antisemitism is so necessary for the existence and continuance of the state, attributing racist motives is a natural if cynical response to principled criticism of Israel. In fact, so vital and embedded is antisemitism in the discourse justifying the state and its blatant crimes, that antisemitic forms of verbal abuse have become commonplace in Israel and the diaspora, with charges leveled against fellow Jews which echo the caricatures employed by history's worst bigots.

And yes, the Israeli government welcomes violent attacks against Jews anywhere in the world, as an opportunity to reassert the claim that whatever its faults (assuming any are admitted) Israel exists as a final bulwark against the outbreak of a new holocaust.


So - His Excellency Proudly Captain Dreadful Bibi Netanyahu is not pleased with Mutti Merkel.
Oh, dear !!
Poor old Mutti Merkel looks all the worst for wear.
I wonder if it isn't a case of Captain Dreadful not being able to stop talking incessantly ??
It's the sound of his voice he is fascinated with - obviously.
It just goes on & on & on - perhaps it is a tongue wagging problem ??

Happy New Year to Everyone.


Is Germany this deeply in thrall to the State of Israel in its frantic attempt to demonstrate that it hasn't learned the true lesson of its Holocaust against the Jewish people and others? when will the government of Germany understand that racism and genocide are ALWAYS wrong and can never be supported to make up for its own sordid past?


The contemporary exhibit at the Jewish Museum looks most interesting for anyone who wants to understand Jerusalem's ancient and complicated history as well as the present-day situation. Ms Nieuwhof describes an apparent desire on the part of the Israeli government (Who ? - no letterhead!) to form and not inform public opinion. It is totally astounding that it has actually asked the German government (Who ? - no addressee) to stifle the organizations she cites, among them the Berline film festival and the Böll Foundation's. Israeli lawyer Michel Sfard, speaking to an audience at la Maison de la Paix in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of February 2018, told us to read 972 mag and Haaretz in order to understand what is at stake in Israel and Palestine now. An Israeli expert on Einstein in Haifa recently wrote me to read 972 mag for the very best information. The Israeli government (Who - unsigned !) really has some nerve ! Will it next go after Haaretz ?!


Looking at the Jewish Museum's current exhibit, it seems to inform very well on Jerusalem's rich past and present. Ms Nieuwhof cites several organizations which the Israeli government (Who, exactly ? - no letterhead, no signature) would like to see defunded (By whom ? - no addressee), including no less than the Berlinale ! A doubt is cast on private charities.
What nerve ! Israeli lawyer Michel Sfard, in a talk at la Maison de la Paix in Geneva, Switzerland, in late February 2018, urged his audience to read + 972 mag and Haaretz in order to understand what is at stake in Israel and Palestine. An Israeli expert on Albert Einstein who emigrated from Germany also wrote me from Haifa to please keep up with the situation by reading + 972 mag.
This anonymous letter raises serious questions : how could Israel think that such a demand for financial censorship be even considered ? How could Israel imagine that the German government might possibly kowtow to such an insulting initiative ? Hopefully, this anonymous letter will not be acknowledged. At the very best, it merits a trip to the waste paper basket.

Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh