BERLIN (JTA) — German trade union leader Michael Sommer has vowed to stand up to unionists who want to boycott goods made in West Bank Settlements.
“As long as I am head of this organization, there will never be aresolution that says ‘Don’t buy from Jews,’” said Sommer, 61, chair of the Federation of German Trade Unions, accepting the Arno Lustiger Award at the 3rd annual German-Israel Congress on Sunday.
The federation founded in 1949 is an umbrella organization for eight German trade unions, in total representing more than 6 million people. It was founded in Munich in 1949.
The pro-Israel event, which drew more than 1,500 people to a congress center in the former East Berlin, took place on the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, when synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed and looted across Germany, Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia.
Co-organized by German Jewish activists Sacha Stawski and Melody Sucharewicz, the event, which in previous years was held in Frankfurt, featured a market of pro-Israel organizations andbusinesses, guest speakers and “labs” on Israeli culture and business, Judaism and politics. It concluded with a concert featuring Mic Donet, ”the voice of Germany,” and Kathleen Reiter, winner of “The Voice of Israel.”
Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he wished there was no need for such a major pro-Israel event in Germany. But with “Israeli bashing in fashion” these days, he said the congress convinced him that “we friends of Israel are not so alone as we sometimes feel. Today, we are strong as an ox,” he said.
Other speakers included David Harris, executive director of American Jewish Committee; Frank Henkel, Berlin Mayor and Senator for Internal Affairs, Culture and Sport; Efi Stenzler, world chair of the Jewish National Fund; Israeli Knesset member David Tsur; and Jochen Feilcke, head of the Berlin branch of the German-Israel Society.
A small pro-Palestinian demonstration was held across the street from the venue, attended by, among others, Jewish Voices for Peace in the Middle East.
In his remarks, Sommer said some unions are especially critical of Israel’s settlement policy, which is the target of the boycott movement. He tells them “that an honest peace means that no one should be threatened. And as long as Israeli is threatened, I stay on the side of Israel.”