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German President Addresses the Knesset (INN-ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) 02/02/05)Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=76317 INN} ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS INN} ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
German President Horst Koehler addressed the Knesset today, bringing the German language to Israel’s parliament for only the second time in its history.

Much controversy surrounded the Knesset address, with some Knesset Members boycotting the occasion and protesters loudly decrying the event outside.

Koehler was introduced by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who recalled taking part in the raucous demonstrations led by Menachem Begin in the 1950´s against accepting reparations from Germany. He said that although the year is now 2005, “many years after Hitler rose to power democratically, the world must declare that there is no place for neo-Nazi parties within the scope of democracy.”

Rivlin urged the German President to use his platform to condemn such hate-filled parties in German from the Knesset podium.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also addressed the Knesset prior to the German President’s speech. “The acceptance of responsibility for past acts does not release today’s European leaders from future crimes against the Jewish people," Sharon said. "Europe must wage a never-ending war against anti-Semitism and racism, which have increased in recent years."

Sharon also thanked Germany for helping Israel of late, particularly in mediating the return of the Israeli soldiers killed by Hizbullah and kidnapped Israeli citizen Elhanan Tenenbaum.

Opposition leader MK Yosef Lapid (Shinui), a Holocaust survivor, gave expression to the difficulty many had in hearing German spoken in the Knesset. “There was a debate whether to allow you to address us in German,” Lapid said. “There are those of us to whom the ring of the German accent awakens horrible memories. I remember being on the German trains and hearing ‘achtung, achtung...’ But I also have memories of great composers and artists who created beautiful works of art in German as well. Though German is the language in which Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, also wrote his work ‘The Jewish State’ in German."

"The language is not guilty," Lapid continued, "it was the people who were guilty. The time has come, 60 years after the Holocaust, to reevaluate of the relations between Israel and Germany… My father and grandfather, who were killed in the Holocaust, would not forgive me if I were to forgive. There is no forgiveness. But the Germany of today is a different place.”

President Koehler surprised many by beginining his address in well- pronounced Hebrew, thanking the Israeli government for hosting him in Jerusalem. He then continued in German, acknowledging Germany’s past crimes.

"We must understand that the victims of the Holocaust have assigned us the mission of never again allowing the murder of a nation," said Koehler. "I bow my head in shame and humility before the victims [of the Holocaust], and before those who came to their aid, at risk to their own lives - such as Raoul Wallenberg..."

He assured Israelis that his country was now squarely on the side of the Jewish State. "In the European Union, Germany stands at Israel´s side," he told the Knesset, saying Germany’s support of the “peace process” was demonstrative of that fact.

Minister Danny Naveh and MKs such as Dr. Aryeh Eldad and Tzvi Hendel chose to boycott the speech. “It is one thing to have diplomatic relations with Germany, such as buying submarines in order to further the survival of the Jewish State,” Eldad told Army Radio, “but to forge a friendly relationship and to allow German to be heard in the Knesset of the State of Israel is completely outrageous.” (IsraelNationalNews © 02/02/05)

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