By Benjamin Weinthal
(AUGUST 12, 2022 / JERUSALEM POST) Top military and intelligence experts in Israel, the United States and Great Britain have urged the government of Baden-Württemberg to oust the German state’s commissioner for combating antisemitism, Michael Blume, for terming Israeli national hero Orde Wingate a “war criminal.”
There has been widespread outrage among Israelis, American Jewish organizations and supporters of Israel about Blume’s anti-Israel remarks, because in his role he is supposed to combat modern antisemitism, including hatred of the Jewish state.
“The late Orde Wingate was a trailblazer and revolutionary military commander whose daring raids and tactics are still studied at military schools around the world,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, founder and CEO of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF), told The Jerusalem Post. “Wingate fought gallantly against oppressors on at least three continents, and will forever be enshrined in Israeli memory as a hero.”
Avivi, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division, said that, “to accuse Wingate of war crimes is a reprehensible attempt to rewrite history and blemish the exceptional legacy of a British officer. This attempt should be squarely rejected. The IDSF will continue to advocate exactly the type of military strategy that Wingate embodied: initiative, creativity and a firm belief in the justness of our cause.”
Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told the Post that Blume “should resign” for denigrating the British general, who is widely considered the father of the Israel Defense Forces.
A distinguished military historian and a former deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Oren served as a paratrooper during the 1982 First Lebanon War.
Wingate, an officer steeped in the traditions of Christian Zionism, served in Mandatory Palestine from 1936-39. He created and commanded the Special Night Squads, armed groups of British and Hagana volunteers, to fight Arab saboteurs and terrorists.
WINGATE IS beloved in Israel, where streets and squares are named after him – as well as the National Center for Physical Education and Sport, the Wingate Institute.
Blume’s remarks calling Wingate a “war criminal” and a “British murderer” first appeared on his private Twitter account. He then stated them in an essay on an obscure website that allegedly promotes antisemitism and conspiracy theories.
The late IDF chief of staff and defense minister Moshe Dayan said of Wingate: “He taught us everything we know.”
Wingate is buried in the United States Military Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Richard Grenell, the former U.S. acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration, told the Post, “Blume stokes antisemitism and isn’t uniting people. He should either resign or be forced to quit.” Grenell served as ambassador to Germany and is on the Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington.
“It is obvious why Blume, who supports the idea that Zionists can be compared to Nazis, should have attacked and defamed British General Orde Wingate, describing him as a war criminal and murderer,” Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp, who commanded British troops in Afghanistan, told the Post.
“Wingate, a highly decorated British officer who was killed fighting for his country in the Second World War, bravely defended Jews in Palestine against murderous Arab gangs in the 1930s,” he said. “He was a committed Zionist, revered as a hero and friend in Israel. That is enough to incite hatred from those opposed to Israel and Zionism.”
Simon Wiesenthal Center
The Simon Wiesenthal Center classified Blume’s activities as the seventh worst outbreak of antisemitism in 2021 for, among other things, his slashing attacks on Israel and Jews on social media. In 2019, he liked a Facebook post likening Israelis to Nazis. That same year, the Wiesenthal Center’s top Nazi-hunter, Efraim Zuroff, urged Blume to resign.
“It is unbelievable that a German antisemitism commissioner appears in the top-10 antisemites list of the Wiesenthal Center, rubbing shoulders with Iran and Hamas, which are both dedicated to the violent destruction of the Jewish state,” Kemp said.
“Germany, of all of the countries in the world, has a responsibility to fight Jew-hate at every turn,” he said. “And for one of its public officials – whether or not he’s an antisemitism commissioner – to support this sickness is a cause for national disgrace. Herr Blume shames Germany and should resign or be fired.”
Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Post, “Haters of Zionists and Zionism seek to denigrate and demonize our people’s history. Can anyone still question Blume’s antisemitism? Surely German authorities can find someone to be antisemitism czar who is prepared to fight Jew-hatred, not contribute to it.”
“These quotes by Michael Blume are unacceptable and, together with his other antisemitic actions, clearly require the German state of Baden-Württemberg to remove him from his post as commissioner,” Dan Pollak, director of government relations for the Zionist Organization of America, told the Post.
“The ZOA stands against Jew-hatred of all kinds, but it is particularly unacceptable when it comes from a government official whose job it is to fight against antisemitism.
Pollak, a former U.S. Navy submarine officer, added, “The memory of Orde Wingate is an inspiration to both Christians and Jews who have followed the path he pioneered as the most important British officer to serve in the Yishuv during this period. Slandering General Wingate to achieve a contemporary political purpose is particularly despicable. Like so many ‘anti-Zionists,’ Michael Blume cannot hide his actual agenda of Jew-hatred. He should resign or be fired at once.”
Melissa Braunstein, who writes for the Washington Examiner, asked on Twitter, “Why is there a commissioner against antisemitism who supports antisemitism?”
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, thought that Wingate might have become the IDF’s first chief of staff, had he not been killed during World War II
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said of Wingate: “I had recognized him as a man of genius, and I hoped he might become a man of destiny.”
When asked about Blume, the internationally famous freedom and democracy campaigner, Natan Sharansky, who is a leading expert on modern antisemitism, said he did not have time to evaluate Blume’s case because he was on his way to speak at Oxford University but he “values and respects the opinion of the Wiesenthal Center and Michael Oren.” Sharansky is the former head of the Jewish Agency and an ex-politician.
The Post sent press queries to Michael Blume, Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of Baden-Württemberg, Israel’s embassy and the German Jewish community.
This article was originally posted in the Jerusalem Post and can be viewed here.