Anton Hofreiter

Laws of nature are non-negotiable, says Green party parliamentary whip, and calls for urgent action in the fight against the climate crisis…



You are a biologist, Angela Merkel is a physicist. What does that mean in practical terms for politics?
The special thing about biology is that it functions in extremely complicated, integrated systems, namely ecosystems, which display a high degree of complexity. What bothers me about Mrs. Merkel is that, as a physicist, she knows what the climate crisis is going to mean for us, what these scientific numbers mean and that one cannot negotiate compromises with laws of nature. By the way, in politics I do not like the expression “no alternative.” In politics one finds alternatives around every corner. We have to fight the climate crisis now and stop just talking about it. Merkel talks a lot about the climate crisis but she doesn’t do anything. In 2016, Germany’s CO₂ emissions were as high as in 2009. We have made no progress in Germany in the fight against the climate crisis.

The diesel scandal, climate change, faulty nuclear reactors – all these are core Green issues – but at the federal level the Greens cannot get the same results that Baden-Württemberg’s premier Winfried Kretschmann and Tübingen’s mayor Boris Palmer achieve at the regional and local levels.
One reason is that there is a large measure of dishonesty in government policy today. I grew up in Bavaria when Franz Josef Strauss was the regional premier. A difficult person, but when he said, “I support nuclear power,” he supported nuclear power. Merkel, on the other hand, says, “I support climate protection,” but she doesn’t do anything about it. We Greens have not yet succeeded in convincing German voters of the contradictions between what she says and what she does. We have to make the difference between talking green and acting green even clearer.

Your goal is to phase out internal combustion engines by 2030.
I am firmly convinced that the German industry has to be given clear requirements to move toward zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, otherwise the companies will not invest enough and not move fast enough. In the end they won’t only be causing serious health and climate problems; they’ll have made themselves obsolete and put hundreds of thousands of jobs in Germany at risk.
Policy is communicated by people.



Why is it that Green leaders at the federal level cannot achieve the same feedback for their talking points as a mayor in Tübingen does?
You cannot compare a mayor’s job with federal politics.



Or a state premier. Or, in his time, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
Joschka Fischer never got more than 8 percent of the vote either.


Is the state of Israel disproportionately criticized in public in Germany?
On the one hand there is, I believe, justified criticism of the Israeli occupation and the ever-tighter rules in Israel on the activities of critical non-government organizations. On the other hand, we in Germany have an anti-Semitism problem that should not be underestimated. Criticism of Israel is often used as a gateway for anti-Semitism. It often comes in the guise of claims that one cannot legitimately criticize Israeli policy without being called an anti-Semite. These cases do exist, but of course they are not prevalent. We’ve been watching it closely. Here in Germany we have the classic brand of homegrown anti-Semitism, in addition to another form that should not be neglected, namely that held by some people calling themselves leftists and claiming solidarity with Palestine. And then we have the problem with anti-Semitism found in areas with a big share of migrants.


In Berlin schools Jewish kids are bullied mainly by other kids from Muslim families whose parents are exposed to anti-Jewish propaganda. Their children are being incited against Jews.
This is where schools, parents, all of us are called upon to reject anti-Semitic prejudice, incitement and violence. We must act resolutely against all these forms of anti-Semitism.

There is no criticism of China, no criticism of Russia, no criticism of Syria – yet we constantly hear that criticism of Israel is legitimate. Should not you, as a leading Green lawmaker, point out that criticism of Israel opens the gates to delegitimizing Israel?
That is something that one should always be aware of. Israel’s right to exist is repeatedly called into question explicitly or implicitly. That’s not the case in criticism of the U.S. In general, and using the example of Israel, one should be careful how one formulates. There is a big difference between saying, ‘I criticize Israel’ and ‘I criticize the policies of Mr. Netanyahu’ or ‘the current government.’ When I watch how Netanyahu acted in Hungary with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, then I have some criticism for Mr. Netanyahu. But that has to be worded precisely.

In 2008, Chancellor Merkel told the Knesset that Israel’s security was a tenet of German statehood and non-negotiable. Later, negotiations came after all. The nuclear deal with Iran is purely technical in nature. Nowhere does it mention the right of all states to exist. The treaty is effective for another eight years. Once again, no mention of Israel’s right to exist. Where is the criticism by the Greens?
I do not believe that during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program that Israeli security was disregarded. On the contrary, we seem to have succeeded in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When we look at the crisis with North Korea, it was a big step. I also believe that for the states of the region it strongly helped ease tensions. The treaty certainly changes nothing in the systematic violations of human rights in Iran and Iran’s problematic role in the region, but in view of the great threat I believe it was a step in the right direction – including for Israel’s right to exist.


There is no mention of that in the treaty. But the treaty does state that Iran will not obtain any nuclear weapons in the coming years and I believe there is at least an indirect connection there.
Despite the pact, Iran can continue building intercontinental missiles and is doing so. These missiles threaten not only Israel but also parts of Europe.
Missiles were not part of the negotiations. Indeed, the deal does not solve all problems, but we are convinced it was a step in the right direction. Of course, more steps need to be taken, so that the states of the region – and ideally beyond the region – recognize Israel’s right to exist.


One of our concerns is that the Jewish community in Germany and the state of Israel receive more than lip service. We want people to stand up for the human dignity of the Jewish people and actively promote the Jewish community.
That is a matter of course for us.■

Anton Hofreiter talked to JVG editors Elisabeth Neu and Rafael Seligmann in his office at the Bundestag in Berlin

Photo Credit: jvg (3)

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