BERLIN: RECENT NEWS FROM EUROPE’S ANTISEMITISM CAPITAL
It is not yet widely known that in recent years Berlin has become the capital of European antisemitism.1 The anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes in Berlin have many facets. There were 1083 antisemitic incidents in 2018 compared to 951 in 2017.2 These include tens of cases of physical aggression of Jews. Thirty five percent of Berliners view the behavior of Israel as comparable to that of the Nazis.3
Various Jewish students were constrained to leave public schools. Aaron Eckstadt, the director of the Jewish Moses Mendelsohn gymnasium in Berlin, has said that every two weeks a new student comes to Moses Mendelsohn because they are fleeing from their existing school. They are fed up with the mobbing, the threats and the daily antisemitism there. He added that according to his information the perpetrators are mainly Muslim pupils. Germany’s Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) visited the gymnasium in October 2019. She said that the police and justice employees must be sensitized to recognize antisemitic motifs.4 One wonders why that has not happened in past years.
The Al-Quds march, which calls for the destruction of Israel, takes place yearly in the city. Hezbollah, the Lebanese organization, classified by the US as a terrorist entity, is not only active in Berlin but also in other parts of Germany.5 The intelligence agency for the city of Hamburg has reported that 30 mosques and cultural centers in Germany have ties to Hezbollah or its ideology. Germany artificially maintains a separation between the military arm of this terrorist organization, which it forbids and the political arm which propagates its ideas in the country, is allowed to recruit members, collects money and funnels it to Beirut.6
Each month brings additional scandals. In December 2019 a conference of Hamas supporters took place in Germany’s capital where Hitler and his associates planned the genocide against the Jews. The conference was called “The Palestinians in Europe and in the UNWRA.” Its organizers have in the past been linked by German intelligence services to Hamas.7 The city of Berlin, governed by an alliance of left-wing parties, allowed the event to take place. US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell tweeted: “Hamas is a terrorist organization and should not be welcome in Berlin.”8
On October 3rd, about 1000 people marched in Berlin under the motto “We for Germany.” The Jewish Forum for Democracy and Antisemitism (JFDA) published a video which showed this to be a march of neo-Nazis. One man shouted: “Never again Israel.” There were also calls for a thousand year battle in reference to the thousand years that Hitler’s Third Reich was supposed to exist.9
In September, a 23 year old Syrian man armed with a knife stormed the guard at Berlin’s largest synagogue on Oranienburger street. According to witnesses he shouted “Alla Akbar and F**k Israel.”10 The attacker has since been released and his whereabouts are unknown.11
In October, a 70 year old man was beaten in Berlin. The attack started with a verbal assault featuring antisemitic insults. It was unclear whether the victim was Jewish.12
The rabbi of the Berlin Jewish community, Yehuda Teichtal, was attacked in July. In October, the prosecution halted its investigations. Teichtal criticized the decision of the authorities. He said: “Four people were witnesses of the attack. They know who the perpetrator is. Yet they refuse to make a statement.” Teichtal said that a successful investigation could have given people confidence in the justice authorities. He concluded: “The damage is enormous.”13 It should be said here that this development is typical for the left-liberal mood, which dominates Germany. The country’s army is in poor shape,14 the justice department is weak and the police are heavily understaffed.15
On November 9, on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, a show took place at the Brandenburg gate. It was broadcast live by the German public television, ZDF. During that show, which was aired on the date coinciding with the anniversary of Kristallnacht 1938, a slogan in Hebrew letters was projected stating “against the occupation.” The organizers apologized. Their representative told the Israeli Ambassador to Germany that he was unaware what it signified.16 This was yet another facet of antisemitism in Berlin.
An exhibition about the Jewish Mendelsohn family in a chapel at a cemetery in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin was vandalized in November. There were swastikas as well as symbols from the left-wing extremist scene. The exhibition was held near the graves of the Mendelsohn family.17
The problems come from many directions. The Artists Collective Center for Political Beauty (ZPS) installed an exhibit in December that included a steel pillar, which contained remnants of Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The installation of the pillar was approved by the authorities. After huge protests, the group closed the exhibition. It issued an apology to Holocaust survivors and other Nazi victims.18
Socialist mayor, Michael Muller, has condemned BDS. On the other hand, he hosted the Mayor of Teheran, Pirouz Hanachai, in December.19 This is one example of the widespread local and national ambivalence, which has made it possible for Berlin to become Europe’s antisemitism capital.