German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) appears on a large screen as she makes an address during an anti-Semitism in Berlin..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a characteristically excellent speech against anti-Semitism on Sunday in the heart of the country’s government district.
She lambasted “pretend criticism of Israel” as an “expression of Jew-hatred at pro-Palestinian demonstrations.”
Her contempt for anti-Jewish activists and sentiments was crystal-clear. “It’s our national and civic duty to fight anti-Semitism,” she declared.
During Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to stop Hamas rocket fire, Germany was engulfed with anti-Semitic violence, including the firebombing of a synagogue in the city of Wuppertal and attacks on Jews wearing kippot.
Given the vanishing line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in Europe, some German Jews questioned why the rally was not called “Stand up: Israel Hatred – Never Again!” instead of “Stand Up: Jew Hatred – Never Again!” Nathan Gelbart, a prominent Berlin lawyer and chairman of the German branch of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, told The Jerusalem Post
a banner stressing “No denial of Israel’s right to self-defense” would have carried more weight.
There still remains a yawning gap between the speeches against anti-Semitism and actions on the ground in Germany.
Take the example of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah. Germany has designated Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist entity but has not banned the so-called political wing of the group. Its political membership in Germany numbers 950 people, and it played a key role in stoking modern anti-Semitism at a July Al-Quds Day rally in Berlin calling for the destruction of Israel.
According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, which initiated Sunday’s rally, protesters at the Hezbollah rally screamed “Gas Israel” and the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil.”
Gelbart said Germany outlawed the Islamic State last week, and made no distinction between an alleged political and military wing.
“Hezbollah has the same fascist ideology as the Islamic State,” Gelbart said, adding that Germany was not forceful enough against Hezbollah’s operation in Germany.
The presence of the German Left Party as one of the sponsors of the rally appeared to be another contradiction. Many critics see the Leftist party as the largest European political party bashing Israel. In July, a branch of Left’s party youth organization, Solid Ruhr, sponsored a pro-Palestinian rally, in which protesters tossed bottles and rocks at pro-Israel demonstrators and screamed “Burn, shitty Jew.”
The police arrested 14 people on the same day for a planned action against a synagogue in Essen, where the Solid Ruhr anti-Israel protest took place.
Last week, Left Party deputy Inge Höger issued a statement calling for Germany to stop the delivers of Dolphin submarines to Israel.
Dr. Nikolaus Schneider, the head of Germany’s Evangelical Church, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Roman Catholic Church, spoke eloquently against anti-Semitism in Sunday’s rally.
Nevertheless, peace organization Pax Christi, which is affiliated with Germany’s Catholic Church, has called for a boycott of Israeli products.
Protestant educational academies have sponsored events with Iran’s regime and invited Hamas representatives to attend anti-Israel events over the years.
The burning litmus test for German civil society and its political class will involve shrinking the disconnect between rhetoric and concrete action against anti-Semitism.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.