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Interview with Felicia Langer

April 9, 2012. Our April 8 phone interview had an irritating audio buzz. Here's a transcription of the April 8 edited with Ms. Langer and a footnote about breaking news in Germany.

I'm speaking with Felicia Langer who is in Tubingen, Germany. She's a renowned civil liberties attorney, winner of the Right Livelihood Award often called the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, the Austrian Bruno Kreisky Prize and the German Federal Cross of Merit prize and this year the Palestinian Order of Excellence.

Good evening

You're an Israeli citizens and you have defended Palestinians for several decades and now you've lived for several decades in Germany. Why did you give up law in Israel?

Yes, it is a very important question. In 1990 I was performing this task, as you said, but afterwards I came to a conclusion that my work is almost in vain, that I'm a fig leaf and I cannot achieve almost anything for the Palestinians because the almost rotten legal system for the Palestinians. Therefore I closed my office as a protest and it was widely known. Also in the Washington Post there was an article that I cannot work anymore. because I protest against this situation which is unbearable and I cannot achieve anything.

And I got a position at a university, as a guest lecturer, professor lecturer at Bremen and afterwards in Kassel and I was teaching international law and the situation in the occupied territories.

Now over the last few days there's been a lot written about a poem about Israel and Iran by Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass. What do you think of the poem which the Israeli embassy called a blood libel?

I am trying to speak in the framework of your questions. I think that the poem on Iran is a poem against the nuclear weapons, a poem alarming against an aggressive war that Israel tries to ignite for which it is also pleading. It means aggressive war against Iran much like the war against Iraq and the war in Afghanistan also, but I think about the war in Iraq is a proper example here because the war on Iraq was because of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. and now a war against Iran is about the non-existing nuclear bomb.

The "blood libel" accusation is monstrous in my view. It shows how Israel is doing everything to silence every critical voice. It is a campaign against any critical view or accusation of Israel which is labeled as anti-Semitic and even worse. I was also a victim of such a campaign. In 2009 I received the German prize. It was four or five months of such a terrible campaign that I was even called a Hitler and anti-Semite. As a Jew, as an Israeli, as a Holocaust survivor. Can you imagine what the climate was? So I have this experience. So I wrote an open letter to Günter Grass and I said to him with all modesty that I know exactly what he feels because I have experienced it.

I think that this poem is very, very important as an alarm against this war. Netanyahu makes many many efforts in the United States in order to convince Barack Obama and others, AIPAC is already convinced ....to wage this terrible war on the false pretenses that they want to annihilate us and so on. This bogey, this threat to be annihilated is now in vogue for many years and unfortunately many people in Israel are so frightened and convinced that they agree with a first strike

Critics seem to be most angry at one phrase in the poem: "iranische Volk auslöschen könnte" which roughly translates "can annihilate the Iranian people"?

But as you understand Israel has more than 200 A-bombs which are not under control because we didn't sign the treaty of non-proliferation of atomic bombs. So what Gunter Grass suggested here sounds that such an attack could be an annihilation.

So you don't think it's offensive for him to say that?

No, no.. He is now saying in an interview to Süddeutsche Zeitung that he could change the wording of this poem, but the sense, the contents wold be the same. He is not submitting that he made a mistake.

Do you think that the fact that Grass never mentioned his wartime membership in the Waffen SS until six years ago disqualifies him for making any criticism of Israel?

No, not at all you understand. Six years ago he did it. He was 17 years old in 1945 and he was not a volunteer and he was obliged to do it, he said he regretted it, and was ashamed of it. To demand more of somebody who was 17 is just a hypocrisy.

You know my husband was in five Nazi camps. I am also a victim of war, of course. I was not with Germans, but I lost my beloved father in the Soviet Union. The Nazis exterminated my family and the entire family of my husband and now the Israeli authorities are using our victims and instrumentalizing them and trying to confuse the world that we have to strike first. So Netanyahu, showing this document about Auschwitz, is disgusting. I wrote an article which will be an chapter at the end of my new book I have written, "Hands off, hands off" because you are desecrating our victims.

Now Grass is criticizing Germany for selling Israel submarines. What do you think of those sales of submarine?

I also criticize this sale. I am against this sale partially financed by the German taxpayer. It's a sort of complicity to send arms to such an area, you know, the German peace movement is very much against it and the Israeli peace movement is against it, too.

Israel is the #4 military power in the world and the #1 power in the Middle East and has a lot of weapons, conventional and unconventional . There are regulations in Germany forbidding the sending of weapons to such areas of crisis. We are forbidden to send arms. It is like pouring oil in a fire.

So for me it is a very, very negative step.

My last question is generally do you support boycott, divestment and sanctions to put pressure on Israel?

Yes, I do. Of course, you have to be careful how you are realizing it. In my opinion it is a non-violent means, to influence a change of this aggressive dangerous policy also for the Israeli people. It means this is actually for the benefit of the Israeli people....You have another question?

Well, I have taken a lot of your time. I really appreciate it.

I wanted to correct your mistake because you are saying that in your opinion is that most people in Israel are for this first strike and I'm not so convinced that it's the situation

That was in a written question that I had sent to you,

She reads "It seems there is general sentiment in Israel for an immediate attack on Iran. What is the mood in Germany? What are your own views?"

... I appreciate your very important work. All my life is devoted to this work, all my life, till the very end, you know I'm almost 82, but now I'm saying to you something which is very important.

The Israeli developed polls are very interesting how they are worded. They are worded in such a way, "Either we will be exterminated by the Iranians or we shall suffer a little bit of losses, (Barak said some 500 deaths), but the Israeli state will survive." To put this question in such a way you can imagine the answer you will receive.

There is not such uniform thinking supporting the war.

But the propaganda is tremendous and it is unfortunately sometimes convincing when the world is silent, when you have the choice not to survive or to be a little bit injured then you prefer to survive and to strike and it is the way of putting the questions. It is the way of Israeli propaganda.

My husband and I are reading the Israeli papers every day through the internet. We speak Hebrew between us, so the English you're hearing is not so perfect. We are disgusted with this terroristic climate in Israel and this propaganda which is, in fact, anti-Israeli.

You ask here what is the mood in Germany is on this question. The majority in Germany doesn't want war. They're saying, "We don't want war", but as you know this "wonderful" invention of Israel, that every criticism is anti-Semitism. This is the Israeli propaganda trying to use these guilty feelings of Germans.

I am active in revealing the truth in Germany for 22 years in public meetings and in books and I can tell you that the situation changed and many people have understood that the policy of Israel is wrong.

You cannot keep such a policy of occupation and colonization for 44 years and feel secure.

We need peace be secure. We need peace with justice.


Today, April 9, saw large anti-war demonstrations in Germany in 80 cities and towns. The biggest was in Frankfurt. The rallies protested the Afghanistan war and the threat of war with Iran.

The rallies made a point of supporting Günter Grass.

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