Controversy over Skoda cars in Israel resolved

Skoda Superb

Ministers of the Israeli government will be using Skodas and Audis in the coming years, after an importer of these cars won a government tender. But the issue of German cars to be driven by government officials in Israel has provoked negative reactions by some Israeli politicians who claim this might hurt the feelings of Holocaust survivors.

The Israeli importer of Skoda cars recently marked a major success. Champion Motors, as the local company is called, won a tender earlier this month to supply the government of the State of Israel with Skoda Superbs as well as Audis, the other vehicle they import. Ronnie Ackerman, a PR consultant for the importer, says Superbs did extremely well in the competition.

"We have some Skodas Superb in the Israeli government already, they are armoured Superbs, and with those cars we serve some very high officials who and they are very happy with the car. The fact that this car won the bid against BMW 5, Mercedes C Class, Cadillac STS, and Buick and against some really serious cars shows something."

Before long, this provoked a reaction by the Israeli cabinet's members nominated for the Shas party, a religious bloc representing the Orthodox Sephardic population. In a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, the Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen expressed his party concerns about the use of German-produced cars by the government of a people who suffered the most appalling of hardships at the hands of the Germans. Karen Shioni is the spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

"Minister Cohen and other ministers for the Shas party did not like the idea that the ministers of the Israeli government will be using German cars. Minister Cohen said that because of the feelings Jewish people have because of the Shoa, because of what Germans had done, we don't want to use German cars."

While the sentiment against German-produced goods in Israel has been dropping since the 1960s when the Jewish State stopped boycotting them, some families of Holocaust survivors might still have mixed feelings about using products that originated in a nation whose official goal once was to exterminate the entire Jewish race.

Michael Zantovsky
Michael Zantovsky, the Czech ambassador to Israel, who went to see Minister Yitzhak Cohen on Tuesday says that when Mr Cohen raised the issue, he did not have Skoda Superbs in mind.

"I went to see Minister Cohen this afternoon and he feels he has been misquoted by some of the media. He assured me that he never had Skoda cars in mind when he made his comments. I told him about the long Czech tradition of car-making industry, and he said that the ministers for the Shas party will be very pleased to drive Skoda cars. I, for my part, assured him that the Czech Republic has always treated the history of the Holocaust and of its victims with utmost respect."

It seems after all that Skodas, perceived as Czech rather than German cars, will be fine in Israel. But although no one can claim that Germany has not been treating the Holocaust with less importance than the Czech Republic, the issue of German-made products remains a sensitive subject within the Israeli society.