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Germany: How Officials are Stalling the Fight Against Antisemitism

Even before the antisemitic attack in Halle took place, the situation in Germany was alarming. The number of antisemitic incidents, including violent ones, had increased. But instead of joining the fight against the returning Jew-hatred conscientiously, some German officials are stalling or even sabotaging it.

In Germany, radical right-wingers are trying to relativize Germany’s horrific recent history. Nazis and radical Islamists keep on identifying the root of all evil, from their misguided perspective: It is the “parasite”, “the Rothschilds”, “George Soros”, “the Zionists”, “the entity”, “Israel”, meaning it is “the Jew.”

The Words ‘Never’ and ‘Again’

Parts of the far left in Germany have similar ideas. The difference is that they usually do not spread those conspiracy theories about the Jew who controls the financial world, the media and what not, but rather those about Israel. But the outcome is pretty much the same, since they utilize a popular propaganda weapon too, namely the lie.

Many radical left-wingers tend to support terror as long as it is directed towards the tiny and only predominantly Jewish state in the world. And they condemn Israel’s reactions, without even mentioning what triggers them. All of this hatred from the far right, the far left and the large community of Islamists in Germany is like an avalanche.

More than just speeches containing the words ‘never’ and ‘again’ are required here. This applied before Halle, and it certainly does afterwards. It is the federal government which should act as a shining example regarding support for Israel and the Jews. But Germany seems to be overchallenged here, to say the least.

Coordinators Against Antisemitism

Berlin pays court to Iran a lot more than to Israel. At the U.N., Berlin voted in favor of countless resolutions against Israel which were brought in by Arab regimes and based on conspiracy theories. So far, the same federal government has failed to confirm and implement the latest Berlin Bundestag decision in which the so-called BDS movement was finally labelled as antisemitic.

This kind of behavior does not exactly satisfy the small Jewish community in Germany. On top of that, one could argue the obvious favoritism to the disadvantage of the country which can supposedly count on Germany’s support, namely Israel, might even stimulate antisemitism, disguised as something called “Israel criticism”.

The New Synagogue in Berlin is being guarded by heavily armed police officers now. The same applies to most synagogues in Germany. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

In recent months, the federal government in Berlin and some federal states within Germany have appointed coordinators against antisemitism. What could go wrong with that kind of approach? Well, apparently a lot. Not all point men and point women of this kind move in the right direction. Michael Blume, the Coordinator Against Antisemitism in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, in Germany’s south-west, is an excellent example.

Weird Social Media ‘Like’

Dr. Blume, the man who is supposed to be fighting antisemitism, might be having an ambivalent view on it. At least this is the only halfway convincing answer to the question why he liked a Facebook post in which an individual named Alexander Omar Loh told “Zionists, Nazis and radicals” to disappear from his friends list. First of all, this statement would be reason enough to unfriend its author, at least to most people.

Secondly, why would an official who is supposed to fight antisemitism click the ‘Like’ button under a post of this kind? A similar question came up a few weeks back, when Germany’s representative in Ramallah, or one of his social media account authors, was caught liking antisemitic social media posts which glorified terror. Except Blume seems to do the liking and commenting himself.

Instead of admitting a mistake or blaming inattention, Blume insisted the post had been edited after he liked it. But, as it turns out, this was not the case. The word “Zionists” and the context were not changed. Another mistake? Blume commented by saying it was not the first time he had encountered traps in social media accounts. He also said anti-Zionism was antisemitism and he rejected both. Nothing less than this conclusion should be expected by a person in his position.

‘Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy Tweet’

Even though it raises serious questions, this case could have been forgotten after a little while, had there not been other incidents involving Blume which took a similar direction. In one case he was criticized by a member of the Jewish community in Germany for cooperating with Juma, a youth organization connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Blume reacted by accusing the person of posting “a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy tweet” against his family. The fact of the matter is that nobody had even mentioned his family before he did. Apart from this aspect, it is safe to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is not exactly known as a pro-Israeli organization which would support Jews or their state.

There is more. Michael Blume, who is also a religious studies scholar, wrote a book about antisemitism, entitled „Warum der Antisemitismus uns alle bedroht. Wie neue Medien alte Verschwörungsmythen befeuern“ (“Why Antisemitism Threatens All of Us. How New Media fuel Old Conspiracy Theories”, in German only).

Muted Critics

Regarding the book, criticism arose regarding Blume’s attempt to prove how peaceful Islam actually was by quoting moderate sounding parts of the Quran and leaving away famous passages which seem to be telling a different story. When he was criticized by the same Jewish lady, Blume took part in an online campaign against her, in which her Jewishness was questioned. Also he supposedly blocked editors of renown German publications who reported about his questionable approach in some of the matters mentioned.

The bloggers Gerd Buurmann and Felix Perrefort covered some of Blume’s gaffes, if that is what they are, in their blogs ‘Tapfer im Nirgendwo’ and ‘Ach gut’. But away from the social media world, Michael Blume knows how to sound convincing at times, when he is being quoted by large dailies, commenting on his latest regional report on antisemitism.

He does not sound that convincing when he keeps on saying “new media” had always boosted hatred against the Jews, as if it was a natural reaction, or when he connects antisemitism to air pollution: “If we want to fight antisemitism globally and credibly, and if we want to stand up for democracy and constitutionality, then we also have to increase our efforts for a transition towards renewable energy and decarbonization.” It is unclear how exactly Blume envisions the carbon-free struggle against hatred. Next he might get rid of all the Gluten in the endeavor too.

Good Advice

Days before the antisemitic attack in Halle took place, Blume told an audience that antisemitism in Germany would decrease in the long term, according to the ‘Badische Zeitung’ daily. Back at his computer, his fears seem to have haunted him when he says he was dealing with “antisemitic and racist conspiracies” against himself, right after his Jewish critic had to explain things to him. (Note: Article continues below ‘Related Articles’ teasers.)

She had help from the Berlin-based NGO ‘Werteinitiative’, which told Blume that fighting antisemitism with individuals or organizations who or which had “problematic relations with anti-democratic and antisemitic milieus” was not really possible. Whether he will heed this advice in future is unknown.

In Berlin, State Secretary for Federal Affairs Sawsan Chebli does not need any advice. She seems to know exactly what she is doing when she presents herself as a fighter against antisemitism, racism and Islamophobia. Chebli, the daughter of Palestinian refugees, is a workaholic, judging from all those initiatives she starts.

Understanding Chebli

As one of the few high-ranking politicians in Germany who are Muslims, she is the victim of threats and Islamophobic hate herself. As a Muslim who says she opposes antisemitism, the hatred she is confronted with also comes from within her own minority. On the other hand, she is getting a lot of support too.

All of this is evident to many of Sawsan Chebli’s numerous Twitter followers. She is very active here, in several ways. She likes presenting herself in her nice clothes and wearing expensive watches which prove her good taste. Maybe a little too good. This is something enviers keep on mentioning in their personal attacks against her.

Sawsan Chebli receives many hate messages. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

She also posts controversial comments. For instance she complained a flight attendant had addressed her in English instead of in German. Since her English is good, only few understood what she pretended to be annoyed about: Because of her looks, people thought she was not German, even though she is. That is something she might have interpreted as racism, in spite of the fact that aircraft are very international spots at which even the most blonde Germans might be addressed in English.

Israel-Related Antisemitism

But the issue is not the language she is being addressed in, it is not her beauty or her complaints, even though those seem pretty artificial at times. It is not the Rolex, it is not her arrogance or her truly impressive career. It is Israel. In an interview with the German TV channel Phoenix the other day, Chebli’s most important statement pretty much went unnoticed. It was the following: “Antisemitism has to do with politics and with Israel.” Understanding Chebli equals understanding that sentence.

It is the sentence which explains why there are contradictions in what she does. “She spreads Israel-related antisemitism while fighting other kinds”, a critic told this publication. Some even believe she might be following an agenda by pretending to be fighting antisemitism while actually promoting one kind of it through the back door.

There is no proof for the latter accusation, but there are posts and statements which seem to be supporting the first one. Whenever Israel is involved, Sawsan Chebli’s tweets or statements are negative to aggressive. Some at least come close to matching parts of the IHRA’s Working Definition of Antisemitism which was adopted by Germany and other countries.

More Obstacles

Especially in her position, this constitutes a problem, members of the small Jewish community in Germany believe. When Israel’s Moon rover mission recently failed, she tweeted “No moon, no peace.” As a Palestinian politician who says she is fighting antisemitism, statements which implicate Israel was an obstacle to peace, in spite of the fact that the country is actually the “side” which accepted all peace proposals, as opposed to the Arab leaders who rejected them all, are scandalous.

The threat of Islamist terror, not ‘only’ to Jews but everyone, is a subject Mrs. Chebli might not have come to terms with yet. On the 18th anniversary of 9/11, the worst Islamist terror attacks of them all with almost 3000 victims, her faith was her main problem. “On 9/11, my faith, which had been a private matter, became a public object of interest”, she twittered. “(…) Social problems were ‘muslimized’. All of this continues to have an effect even today.”

Activists who stand up to antisemitism in all of its forms are convinced the recent attack in Halle and hundreds of other antisemitic incidents in Germany show that an all-out fight against this kind of hatred is needed. Trying to involve antisemitic organizations, excluding Israel-related antisemitism, or even spreading the latter, does not help at all.

Berlin’s Approach

Neither does courting Iran or failing to address Tehran’s constant threats against Israel, funding the PA and UNRWA , welcoming supporters of terrorism against Israel such as Mohammed Abbas, who is also being accused of having been involved in the Munich Massacre, or ignoring the Berlin Bundestag’s decision on the BDS movement.

This is the kind of criticism Professor Gerald M. Steinberg offered in his latest opinion piece on The Berlin Spectator. It is what Michael Wolffsohn wrote in the ‘Bild’ daily. The question those critics want answered is whether obstacles will be removed and deeds will follow those overused words.

Of course there are positive aspects: Germany does have official coordinators against antisemitism who are really trying hard, including Felix Klein. The same applies to activists like Volker Beck. But this is about a concerted action. In order to effectively fight antisemitism, everyone needs to be involved all the time, most activists believe. They are convinced that this is not about Jews exclusively, but about democracy and freedom.

The German version of this article can be accessed here.

Related posts:

Gerald M. Steinberg: The Halle Attack and the Old/New Antisemitism

Germany: The Aftermath of the Antisemitic Attack

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