Kind of undermines the German state’s serious about Never Again…
This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld first appeared in the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and is republished here with the author’s consent…
Berlin – Capital of European Antisemitism
For a number of years, experts frequently saw Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, as the capital of antisemitism in Europe.1 There were often incidents of anti-Jewish hatred. The former socialist, Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, was a part-time antisemite.2 3 One example of extreme antisemitism: a bomb was thrown at the local synagogue.4 The complaints filed by Jews were not dealt with by the judges. As a result, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) put out a travel warning concerning the town.5 6
Antisemitism in Malmö has not greatly weakened. Yet even a superficial look at the size of classic antisemitism and anti-Israelism in Berlin shows that it by far negatively surpasses Malmö on these issues. There are so many facets of antisemitism in the German capital that any overview other than in a large report remains highly incomplete.
With 3.5 million inhabitants Berlin is a much larger city than Malmö whose population is less than 350,000. There are far more Jews in Berlin whose current Jewish population is 30,000-40,000, while Malmö’s Jewish population is approximately 500. A report published by Berlin’s Research and Information Center on antisemitism (RIAS) recorded a total of 1083 antisemitic incidents in 2018 compared to 951 during 2017.7 Far from all the hate-episodes are reported.
One much publicized case among many occurred in July 2019 when Berlin’s Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal was spat on and insulted by Arab speakers on his way home with his son from synagogue.8 In August, Rabbi Jan Aaron Hammel was aggressively pushed over, spat upon and verbally abused. The insults were in Arabic. He was treated for his injuries in a Berlin hospital. After this attack he had to walk with crutches.9
In 2012, Rabbi Daniel Alter was severely beaten up on a Berlin street by four Arab- looking youngsters in the presence of his 7 year old daughter.10 Berlin antisemitism commissioner, Lorenz Korgel, who was appointed in May 2019, warned that Jews who wear a kippah in public would experience frequent attacks.11
Gideon Joffe, chairman of Berlin’s Jewish community, said that one-third of the pupils at the Berlin Jewish High School suffered harassment at their previous non-Jewish public schools. He added: “In the year 2019 our high school is full of Jewish refugees.”12 The alleged perpetrators are often children of Muslim immigrants.
The most publicized case of such antisemitism occurred in 2017 at a public school. It concerned a Jewish boy whose first name was changed in the media to Oscar Michalski. The tormenters were pupils of Arab and Turkish descent. An older student shot at him with a realistic looking gun. He also strangled him to the point of unconsciousness.13 14
In August 2019, graves of Jewish soldiers killed in World War One were defaced at a large Jewish cemetery. In the same month, a Berlin Jewish woman received a letter containing ashes.15
On September 25, 2019, a pro-Palestinian demonstration took place at the Brandenburger Gate. Only a few hours before the Berlin Senator of the Interior, Andreas Geisel (SPD), prohibited the participation of two hate rappers Shadi Al-Bourini und Shadi Al-Najja. The lyrics of one of their songs from 2014 include: “Burn Tel Aviv down, we want to burn Tel Aviv down” and about Jews: “I want to trample you under my feet.”16 Far more international publicity got a Berlin demonstration in 2017. There placards were carried demanding the destruction of Israel. An Israeli flag was set on fire. 17
These are only a few examples of the more severe incidents to date. The official –contested — version supported by RIAS is that the main perpetrators of antisemitic incidents in Berlin are German and do not come from the 300,000 large Muslim community. RIAS however also mentions that 49% of the perpetrators are ‘unknown.’ Geisel (SPD), promised to improve scrutiny of the motives behind antisemitic offenses saying: “It is obviously unjustifiable to ascribe a motive of right-wing extremism to every one of these unsolved crimes.”18
In September 2019 it was published that there were 404 reported antisemitic outrages during the first half of 2019. RIAS now reported that while 30 percent of the incidents involved far-right perpetrators the larger number are committed by pro-Palestinian Muslims19
The antisemitic incidents, however severe, are only part of the aspects of antisemitism in Berlin. In 2019 the first Berlin Monitor was published. It provides insights into the views of the inhabitants on major themes. The Monitor found that Israel-related antisemitism is thriving in the town. Twenty-eight percent of inhabitants with no migrant background regard the establishment of Israel as a bad idea and 35% viewed behavior of Israelis as comparable to the behavior of the Nazis under Hitler. Of Berliners with a migrant background, up to 55% agreed with these statements.20
In this atmosphere, where hatred of Israel is widely spread, the Jewish Museum in Berlin, has come under major criticism for a number of anti-Israeli programs over the years. Ultimately these led to the resignation of its director, Professor Peter Schäfer, in June 2019. This renowned scholar apparently lacked the necessary managerial capacities to prevent multiple scandals. 21
The Berlin University of Applied Science, founded in 1971, was renamed in 2009 after Christian Peter Wilhelm Beuth (1781-1853), a Prussian statesman and a virulent antisemite. He called for the murder of Jews and, inter alia, embraced blood libel accusations.22 This reflects part of the atmosphere in Berlin.
The march on Al-Quds day which calls for the destruction of Israel, is an annual event in the town. There is also a mosque of sympathizers with the Lebanese Hezbollah organization.23 The German government refuses to outlaw the country’s branches of this genocidal terrorist organization.
Yet another aspect concerns the attitude of the local government. Mayor Michael Müller’s (SPD) when declining to publicly oppose high-profile anti-Israel events in Berlin barely escaped being included in the 2017 list of the world’s major antisemitic incidents of the SWC.24 In the summer of 2019, he came under renewed criticism when he received the Mayor of Teheran.25 The Berlin State Secretary for Federal Affairs, Sawan Chebli (SPD), is the initiator of Berlin’s Senate’s Working Circle to combat antisemitism. Yet in June 2019 she shared the podium with a Jewish pro-BDS supporter at an event in Berlin.26
Finally, there is the two-faced attitude of the German government whose seat is in Berlin. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) visited Rabbi Teichtal after he was attacked.27 Yet he also congratulated the Iranian government which has openly spoken about genocidal actions against Israel.28 Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat, regularly speaks out against antisemitism. Due to her asylum-policy, hundreds of thousands of antisemites from Muslim countries entered Germany. She also expressed solidarity with the part-time antisemitic Democrat American Congress members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib after US president Trump criticized them. 29 30
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) attended a solidarity prayer service with rabbi Teichtal at a synagogue in Berlin.31 32 Yet under his responsibility, Germany supports a huge number of anti-Israel resolutions at the General Assembly of the United Nations. The anti-Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Niels Annen (SPD) paid a congratulatory visit to the Iranian Embassy in Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 33
In Berlin, three antisemitism commissioners are active. There are detailed plans to combat antisemitism. Yet as long as two-facedness is so prominent at the highest levels in the municipality and in government, one can only wonder how effective fighting antisemitism in its classic and anti-Israeli forms can be in the town as well as in Germany at large.