We can’t allow anti-Semitism to rear its head again in Germany

We can’t allow anti-Semitism to rear its head again in Germany
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The sight of a Star of David burning in Berlin in December conjures horrific memories of the books that were publicly burned in Berlin in 1933.

The flag burning occurred at a protest in response to President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Ten people were detained and it resulted in 12 criminal charges. This action should trouble the United States, not only because it is a direct response to American foreign policy, but because it unearths the reality of anti-Semitism among immigrants.

In response to the incident, the German government condemned this anti-Israel flag burning and anti-Semitism in general. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel declared: "We oppose all forms of anti-Semitism and xenophobia." Spiegel Online reports that Jens Spahn, a board member of Germany’s leading Christian Democrat Party, suggested that immigration from Muslim countries is partly responsible for recent incidents of anti-Semitism. And German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, said the responsibility of Germany for its history “knows no limits for those who were born later and no exceptions for immigrants.” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière even expressed his support for the creation of an anti-Semitism commissioner in the next German government.


The problem with Germany in 2018 is not only the historic shame of the Nazi Holocaust. Far less grave but still very worrying is the widespread ongoing demonization of Israel.


According to a 2015 study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, 41 percent of Germans see Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians as practically the same as the Nazi treatment of the Jews. This is a steep increase from 2007, when 30 percent of respondents in Germany compared Israel’s behavior to that of Nazi Germany.

During the Shoah, it took only two years for Nazi Germany to kill more than 1.5 million Jews in three extermination camps: Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. And there they were using the extermination technology of the 1940s. Would there be any significant number of Palestinians still alive if Israel had indeed behaved like the Nazi regime?

Recent studies also confirm that the percentage of anti-Semites among Muslim immigrants in Germany is far higher than among the population at large. A study by the state-level security services in the German state of Hessen found that anti-Semitism among Muslims is "at least as high … in terms of quantity and quality" as the "traditional anti-Semitism of the right"

The Hanns-Seidel Foundation studied asylum-seekers in the German state of Bavaria. It found that more than half of asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan believe that Jews have “too much influence” in the world. Further, according to the ADL’s Index of Global anti-Semitism, 21 percent of Germans responded in 2015 it is “probably true” that Jews have too much control over global affairs.

new study by Gunther Jikeli about Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Germany, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, found, as Berlin Director Deidre Berger said:

Until now, reports that many new arrivals in Germany espouse anti-Semitism have been largely anecdotal. But this new scientific analysis shows that the problem is widespread in the refugee communities from Syria and Iraq. Anti-Semitic attitudes, stereotypes, and conspiracy theories are common, as well as a categorical rejection by many of the State of Israel.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center brought up this matter three years ago with the German justice minister. Already there were also those in Germany who warned about Muslim anti-Semitism. An unsigned paper circulated in October 2015 among German security officials and published by Die Welt expressed dismay about the way in which Germany, in its effectively open-arms policy toward the refugees, was importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism and national and ethnic conflicts of other nations.

We appreciate that Germany’s top politicians now strongly condemn anti-Semitism and occasionally look to show solidarity with the Jewish community, but words and photo-ops are not enough. A number of assessments have to be made. First, how can the fight against anti-Semitism be improved by using all the means of the German constitutional state? Secondly, what additional legal and educational measures need to be implemented to deal with this new time bomb of anti-Jewish hate?

Clearly, potential new immigrants should be screened for classic anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes. Beyond that, the government must campaign forcefully against the demonization of Israel, and many media must hold up a mirror to their serial bias against the Jewish state.

We first expressed our concerns to Berlin three years ago. As we enter 2018, with even more immigrants from Middle Eastern and Arab countries arriving bearing anti-Jewish biases, there is now much more to worry about: Will democratic Germany live up to its historic obligation to combat anti-Semitism and the demonization of the Jewish state among its newest arrivals? Will the United States consider adjusting its own screening techniques?

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean and director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Manfred Gerstenfeld, Ph.D., is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.