German commissioner says local BDS chapter incited against U.S. synagogue

“‘Zionist’ in the language of antisemites is a code for Jew,” Gauri Sastry, judge in the west German city of Essen, ruled in her groundbreaking legal decision.

September 17, 2019 16:47
2 minute read.
German commissioner says local BDS chapter incited against U.S. synagogue

A protester holds a placard reading ‘I boycott Israel, but not the Jews,’ during a demonstration marking al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day), in Berlin on June 1. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)

The commissioner of the Hessian Federal State Government for Jewish Life and the Fight Against Antisemitism has filed a criminal complaint against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement’s chapter in the German city of Wiesbaden.

Uwe Becker said that he filed the complaint after the chapter posted several tweets that targeted Israel and also led to anti-Jewish incitement.

The “Wiesbaden branch of the antisemitic BDS movement stoked incitement on social media that targeted an American synagogue with antisemitic insults” last Thursday, Becker told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “Wiesbaden termed the State of Israel, in its statements on social media, as a ‘Zionist colony,’ and the flag of the Jewish state as a symbol of a genocidal, colonialist ideology.”

The BDS group’s tweets were replies to a post by American philanthropist Adam Milstein, who tweeted a video showing the Baba Sale Synagogue in Los Angeles vandalized with “Free Palestine” graffiti.

Milstein condemned the graffiti, tweeting that “BDS is the 21st Century #Antisemitism, it radicalized all other extremist movements, promotes violence against Jews and resembles the Nazi methods to boycott The Jewish people.” Wiesbaden’s BDS chapter replied with several tweets.

The commissioner said he considers the group’s statements on social media “deeply antisemitic,” and that the tweets exceed the threshold of incitement.

Specifically, Becker cited statements made by the group about the American synagogue, which it called a “Zionist organization,” and said that anyone who “shows the Zionist flag must be confronted with the crimes of the Zionist colony.”

“With this statement, BDS Wiesbaden refers to a photograph of the interior of the synagogue, in which, among others, the Israeli flag can be seen,” said Becker, adding that “the Wiesbaden chapter emphasizes that graffiti on synagogues ‘would not occur if they did not act as messages of the Zionist colony,’ and ‘that a house of prayer should not be decorated with the symbol of a genocidal, colonialist ideology.”

He said that their statements demonstrate that “the BDS movement is not only about criticism of Israeli government action, but with the name of ‘Zionist colony’ denies the existence of the entire State of Israel.

The Wiesbaden BDS chapter’s Twitter account has only around 150 followers, though it is linked to the main website of the BDS umbrella organization, which has many more. Becker furnished the Post with screenshots of the alleged anti-Jewish incitement.

“This is pure hatred of Israel, and the Wiesbaden BDS chapter has very clearly dropped its antisemitic mask,” said Becker, who is known to have gone to great lengths to combat rising Jew-hatred in Germany.

German authorities and judges tend to favor the rights of contemporary antisemites in their rulings. A key exception was in 2015, when a judge in the west German city of Essen, Gauri Sastry, convicted 24-year-old Taylan Can for incitement after he yelled “Death and hate to Zionists” at an anti-Israel rally in 2014.

“‘Zionist’ in the language of antisemites is a code for ‘Jew,’” Sastry ruled in her groundbreaking legal decision.

The German parliament passed a non-binding resolution in May that classified BDS as antisemitic.

Wiesbaden is the capital city of Hesse, with a population of nearly 290,000 people.

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