Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Tuesday called on German authorities to take concrete steps against what is seen as a growing anti-Semitic threat in the country.
In a joint Berlin press conference with the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, the associate dean of the center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, called on the German Justice Ministry to issue an arrest warrant for Sheikh Abu Bilal Ismail, a Danish imam who called for the extermination of the Jews at Berlin’s al-Nur mosque in July.
Ismail said it was necessary to “Destroy the Zionist Jews…” and to “Count them and kill them to the very last one. Don’t spare a single one of them… Make them suffer terribly.”
Cooper demanded faster action from the authorities, saying, “We were quite shocked that someone could come to your city, and to this country – which has the strongest anti-hate laws in the Europe – get up, preach on a Friday… [and] call for the annihilation of the Jews.”
“He [Ismail] made a genocidal statement in Berlin about Jews and went home. Nothing was done,” he added.
Following the incident, German authorities vowed to make anyone who spread such propaganda “bear the consequences of his abuse,” and that “the police will act against all anti-Semitic utterances.”
On Wednesday, federal authorities told The Jerusalem Post that the investigation was still ongoing. “There is at the present time no result, the investigation is not finished, so we have to wait,” said Martin Steltner, a spokesman for the Berlin prosecutor’s office.
According to German media reports on Tuesday, the office of Berlin’s prosecutor said that due to multiple criminal complaints of incitement to hate the investigation against the imam is ongoing.
Cooper claimed that at a meeting on Monday with the German justice minister, the minister “had not heard of this incident at all,” and that the state secretary told him he had “read about the incident but not known the details.”
A spokeswoman for the Federal Justice Ministry told the Post that Justice Minister Heiko Maas has taken strong stands against displays of anti-Semitism on many past occasions, and that Maas had discussed the prosecution of Ismail with Cooper, but that the question of jurisdiction falls with the local authorities, not the federal ones.
“It goes without saying that violence or incitement to violence must not be tolerated, regardless of who is targeted. Federal Minister Maas has made this very clear in connection with the anti-Israel demonstrations, and had repeatedly stressed that Jews must never feel threatened again in Germany – we all stand by their side when they are vilified with intolerable hate speech,“ spokeswoman Anna Zimmerman told the Post.
Cooper cautioned that “people in this country [Germany] who hate Jews and hate Israel are probing the limits of what it is that Germany will put up with.”
The co-organizer of the Berlin press conference, Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin Director Michael Spaney, stressed that “the anti-Semitism on German streets in the summer of 2014 was clearly Israel-related anti-Semitism.”
“It was Israel’s defensive operation against the terror organization Hamas that triggered the worst anti-Semitic incidents on German soil since decades, including fire attacks on synagogues,” he said.
Cooper said the next step would be to transition from “the heartfelt words expressed on Sunday by Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and others [at an anti-Semitism rally], into a short practical list of things that we hope will be done by German authorities; to back up the goodwill with specific actions that need to be taken.”
He accused the German police of frequently not taking enough action against anti-Semitic incidents, or at times even facilitating anti-Israel protesters.
“We’ve asked the German authorities to take a look at what happened over the summer, and to take better steps to invigorate the law enforcement authorities,” Cooper said.