German Jews blast mayor who blamed Israel for Syrian refugee crisis

Mayor of Jena who supports a boycott of Israeli products, was in Ramallah on Friday meeting with Palestinians.

September 29, 2015 06:05
2 minute read.
REFUGEES WALK along train tracks leading from Serbia into Hungary on Friday

REFUGEES WALK along train tracks leading from Serbia into Hungary on Friday. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

BERLIN – Jena Mayor Albrecht Schröter was the subject of biting criticism after he accused the Jewish state of partial responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis overtaking Europe.

“Germany must break with restraint toward Israel as an occupying state,” he told the Thüringische Landeszeitung daily, in an interview published on September 18 that was widely interpreted as blaming Israel for the Syrian refugees pouring into Europe.

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The mayor, who supports a boycott of Israeli products, was in Ramallah on Friday meeting with Palestinians.

Schröter “fosters anti-Semitism,” wrote Reinhard Schramm, the chairman of the Jewish community in Thuringia state, in an email to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Jena is a university town in the eastern German state.

“There is the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict... but it is not this conflict that caused the wave of millions of Muslims and the attended fears from parts of the German population,” Schramm said.

He said the direct causes of the refugee crisis are: “Hundreds of thousands of dead in the civil war in Syria and Iraq, the murder-terrorism of Islamic State, the inhumanity against the Yazidis, Christians, Kurds and other minorities, and the conditions in Afghanistan.”

Schramm said when Schröter casts responsibility in the direction of Israel, he is following the “age-old cliché ‘The Jews are to blame,’ and therefore fosters anti-Semitism...

The cliché was false in the Middle Ages and false today. And it can lead to pogroms.”

Schröter responded to a detailed Post query, including as to whether he plans to resign, but without answering the questions. He did not respond to a follow-up email.

Post queries to the Berlin and Thuringia offices of the Social Democratic Party, of which Schröter is a member, were not immediately returned.

Markus Giebe, a deputy head of the Jena City Council for the party, told the Post during a telephone interview that “Israel is not responsible for the refugee crisis.” He said he does not believe that “Schröter is a left-wing anti-Semite.”

Giebe signed a petition from the Jena Jusos group – the young adult organization of the Social Democrats – that criticized Schröter for contributing “unwittingly to making anti-Semitic thinking respectable in our society.”

The student council of Friedrich Schiller University Jena issued a statement last week, rejecting “the anti-Israel anti-Semitism from Schröter.”

After Schröter signed a petition in 2012 supporting a broad-based boycott of Israeli products, the neo-Nazi NPD party branch in Thuringia wrote that he is “courageous” for his anti-Israel activity and that “as nationalists who have to deal every day with these Jewish/left-liberal defamation tactics, we think of Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice, who couldn’t get rid of the spirits he summoned.”

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