German judge convicts man for shouting ‘Death to Zionists’ at march

Landmark case equates lethal anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Women and children attend a demonstration supporting the Palestinians, in Berlin July 22, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Women and children attend a demonstration supporting the Palestinians, in Berlin July 22, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A judge in Essen ruled on Friday that an anti-Israel activist incited hatred against Jews because of his calls to kill Zionists.
“‘Zionist’ in the language of anti-Semites is a code for Jew,” Judge Gauri Sastry said in a groundbreaking legal decision.
German Turk Taylan Can, 24, yelled “death and hate to Zionists” at an anti-Israel rally in Essen in July.
The daily Die Welt first reported on the decision. According to the paper, a video showed Can screaming for Zionists to be killed and stoked the crowd to follow his outbursts. Germany has strict antihate incitement laws.
The Left Party organized a rally against Israel in July and an “anti-Semitic mob” marched through the downtown area of Essen, the newspaper wrote. After the protest, anti-Israel demonstrators attacked pro-Israel supporters in the main train station. Salutes to Hitler and cries of “shitty Jews” were seen and heard. The explosion of hate resulted in 49 criminal complaints, 45 of which the Essen authorities dismissed in December.
The authorities pursued criminal action against Can. According to German media reports, he played a key role in many anti-Israel demonstrations over the summer.
The Jerusalem Post was not able to reach a court spokesman on Saturday familiar with the decision.
Nathan Gelbart, a managing partner at the international law firm FPS, told the Post on Saturday that the Essen court “has delivered a very brave judgment, though legally contestable. The judge has applied sociological and political arguments which are evident: those who say Zionists mean Jews as an ethnic entity.”
Gelbart added, “Due to German criminal procedure law the court must acquit the defendant in a case even where the slightest doubt of his guilt exists. We will have to see whether the defendant will appeal the verdict and how the magistrate’s court will confirm that there is only one interpretation of the wording ‘Zionist’ in connection with hate speech against Israel.”
In a police decision that prompted controversy at an anti-Israel rally in Hagen, located in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Can was allowed to use a police megaphone to chant, “Child killer Israel.” The police defended lending the megaphone to Can as a means to deescalate the crowd.
According to media reports, the crowd yelled “Hamas, Hamas – Jews to the gas!” Die Welt reported that Can said at the Friday legal proceeding “I don’t have anything against Jews, I only have something against Zionists.”
He told Sastry that because there is no group in Germany called Zionists, he had done nothing wrong.
He argued that he certainly hates Zionists and wished their death but that is only a punishment of God.
“We can agree that is a punishment of God, right?” asked Can.
Sastry replied, “No.”
Sastry said “When in the past year you called for the death of, and hate to Zionists, you mean the State of Israel and Jews. It was the State of Israel that found itself at war.”
The judge accepted the prosecutor’s recommendation and fined Can €200 and sentenced him to three months’ probation. Can has been convicted of previous crimes.
Sastry’s legal understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism appears to conform to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s recent statements.
Merkel said at a September rally against anti-Semitism that “pretend criticism of Israel,” is an “expression of Jew-hatred at pro-Palestinian demonstrations.”
Valls said classical anti-Semitism has transformed itself, and “feeds off hate for Israel. It feeds off anti-Zionism because anti-Zionism is an invitation to anti-Semitism.”