An Award Without Merit

bypassing constructive criticism of Israel in favor of seething attacks toward the Jewish State.


Jewish and Israeli leaders are clearly in the right as they “expressed dismay,” according to the JTA, at Germany’s decision (that’s right, Germany!) to honor attorney Felicia Langer with the nation’s “Order of Merit, First Class.”

In other circumstances, it might be a wonderful thing for a Jew to receive such an honor in Germany. The problem here is that Langer is known for bypassing constructive criticism of Israel in favor of seething attacks toward the Jewish State.

Langer has “reserved extra vitriol for the country calling it an apartheid state.” She has suggested that Israeli leaders be tried for war crimes at the International Court in The Hague. And she praised the anti-Semitic speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban II conference in Geneva in April and has actually suggested that the “official translation” of Ahmadinejad’s statement that Israel should be “wiped off the map” did not actually call for the obliteration of Israel.

Dieter Graumann, Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying that while criticism of Israel is certainly acceptable, and even common in Israel itself, Langer is a “militant and fanatic Israel hater.” Honoring Langer, says Graumann, sends a “fatal signal, legitimizing her one-sided agitation against Israel.”

To make matters worse, Langer used the forum of her acceptance speech to assail conditions for the Palestinians, stating that her experience with the Holocaust — she was born in 1930 in Poland, and her family fled to Russia and later moved to Israel in 1950 — had taught her to feel empathy with the victims and to reject injustice. Interestingly, her speech did not express similar “empathy” for the residents of Sderot and Ashkelon who endured over 6,000 indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Hamas from Gaza.

Langer was nominated for the German Order of Merit by her adopted hometown of Tubingen in recognition of her humanitarian work. Undersecretary of State of Baden-Wurttemberg, Hubert Wicker, in presenting the award, praised Langer for her “tireless efforts to reach her goal of building a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Langer certainly uses curious methods to build that bridge. She apparently excuses acts of terrorism by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, while excoriating Israel in the harshest possible terms. How does accusing Israel of war crimes and branding it an “apartheid state” contribute to understanding and peace? Once one has used the power of language to brand Israel as an evil power, then any retaliation is of course justified.

Nor does Langer dwell on some of the most important facts available when she hurls her preposterous claims of “apartheid.” Israel’s Arab citizens possess equal rights with Jewish citizens; Arabic is an official language alongside Hebrew; and the press and commentary in Israel is as free and open to diverse viewpoints as in the U.S.

We would challenge Langer to find anything resembling the breadth of opinion and perspectives within the Palestinian territories as is available in Israel. The nation’s strong, independent newspapers and other media contain some of the strongest criticism of Israeli actions and decisions from across the political spectrum. Similarly, at major Israeli universities and colleges there are tenured professors who are among Israel’s strongest critics, including those who question the entire Zionist concept.

So it’s not open dialogue of Israel that disturbs us; in fact, we’ve taken the government and its officials to task many times in these pages. What is perplexing, however, is the vehemence of Felicia Langer. A well-educated person, an expatriate Israeli citizen and a Jew, she reserves all of her “vitriol” for Israel, while making excuses for Islamist and Palestinian extremism as resulting from “frustration” caused, from her point of view, by Israel.

While we respond to Langer’s Israel-bashing with more sadness than anger, we worry that her fanatic and hateful views – some of which have been mimicked in our own community – create an incendiary effect that is antithetical to the so-called humanitarian aims that Langer purports to promote. We sincerely hope that the award granted by Germany does not tend to legitimize Langer’s bile and misinformation on the world stage.