Germany condemns antisemitic incidents after Israeli flags burned

Germany also criticized comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who referred to Israel over the weekend as a "terror state."

December 11, 2017 14:57
2 minute read.
Protestors burn a makeshift Israeli flag in Beirut, Lebanon

Protestors burn a makeshift Israeli flag in Beirut, Lebanon. (photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)


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BERLIN - The German government condemned on Monday the burning of Israeli flags and use of antisemitic slogans reported at protest rallies in Berlin and other cities after US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert repeated Berlin's criticism of Trump's decision but said that did not justify antisemitic acts, adding that Germany had a historic responsibility to stand by Israel and all Jews everywhere.

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Antisemitism remains a very sensitive issue in Germany more than 70 years after the end of the Nazi-era Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed. Germany regards itself as one of Israel's closest allies.

"One must be ashamed when such open hatred of Jews is on display on the streets of German cities," Seibert told a regular government news conference.

"Our laws on freedom of expression and assembly guarantee everyone a right to peaceful protest, but this right is no free pass for anti-Semitic atrocities, for incitement and violence," he said, calling for continual efforts to combat such incidents.

Trump's decision last week to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital reversed decades of US policy and caused consternation across the Arab world and among Western allies. It has ignited "Day of Rage" street protests in the Palestinian territories and beyond.

On Sunday, about 2,500 people demonstrated in Berlin against Trump's decision and one Israeli flag was burned, police said. They have launched investigations into 11 people, one of them related to the flag burning.

On Friday hundreds of people had gathered outside the US embassy in Berlin for "Day of Rage" protests. Police said they had detained 10 people during that protest and brought criminal charges against 12 people, including for burning Israeli flags.

Additional "isolated" incidents have been reported in Munich and other German cities, Seibert said on Monday.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said authorities would prosecute those responsible for the flag-burning incidents.

Seibert also criticized comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who referred to Israel over the weekend as a "terror state."

"Basically, we see it as completely wrong, unacceptable and inappropriate to describe Israel in such a manner," he said.

Other top German officials, including the foreign, justice and interior ministers, have condemned antisemitic acts and the burning of Israeli flags in interviews and on Twitter.

A German foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday the country's ambassador to Kuwait had met Kuwaiti officials on Nov. 28 to discuss a separate issue that has raised concerns among Jewish groups about antisemitism.

A German court ruled last month that Kuwait Airways had the right to refuse to carry an Israeli passenger due to his nationality, saying Germany's anti-discrimination law applies only in cases of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic background or religion, not citizenship.

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