A friend sent me the above cartoon, showing chancellor Angela Merkel reproaching Pope Benedict ("That's a no no, Ratzinger! As far as Holocaust denial is concerned you'll have to set things straight at your end at last, got me?!!") while protesters outside her window are shouting: "Kill the Jews", "Jews to the Gas" and "Allah bless Hitler". The caption says: "Sweeping at a remote door in the limelight", referring to the German proverb saying that one ought to "sweep at one's own front door first".
What had happened?
During a press conference Merkel had been asked what she thought of the "personnel decision" made by the pope and the ensuing discussion. Merkel replied that it was usually not her custom to evaluate or comment church affairs, and added: "But this is different when it comes to matters of principle, and I believe it is a matter of principle when... the impression is created that denying the Holocaust could be possible." She stridently demanded that the Pope make it "absolutely clear" that there could be no Holocaust denial and that "it must be dealt positively with the Jews", adding: "As far as I see, these matters have not been satisfactorily clarified yet." The following brouhaha is history.
But it wasn't quite so, or rather: it wasn't JUST so. Merkel had made the above statement while, and the implications of this have been missed by all of the world media, standing beside Nursultan Nasarbajew, the president of Kazakhstan, because the press conference was the one following his state visit. Nasarbajew, the autocrat, Nasarbajew, weighed down by international accusations of corruption, Nasarbajew, the Sunni Muslim.
Chance? Certainly. The question was off-topic, but Merkel could have shunned it for that very reason.
A lot of soul-searching has been made since then. Merkel, the Protestant pastor's daughter. Merkel, socialised in a Communist society. I don't think any of this applies. It is, like her predecessor's condemnation of the Israeli bombing of Palestinian terrorist camps in Syria in 2003 (during a state visit in Egypt, that was), the subconscious will to please THEM. And it's exactly that which makes it so frightening.