Members of the German parliament wearing kippas attend a session of the Bundestag in Berlin.
(photo credit: AXEL SCHMIDT/REUTERS)
In a lively debate marking Israel's 70th Independence Day in the German parliament on Thursday, German party leaders re-affirmed that the country was committed to Israel's right to exist and lamented the recent rise of antisemitic incidents.
Addressing the most recent attack in Berlin, center-left SPD faction leader Andrea Nahles said: "we harshly condemn these attacks and we have to punish the perpetrators. Attacks against Jews are attacks against all of Germany, against democracy and our pluralistic society."
"It is valid for all future generations, that we carry no guilt [for the Holocaust] anymore but we do hold responsibility. This responsibility has no boundaries and it is unbearable when Jews can't live a full Jewish life in Germany without being afraid" Nahles continued.
On April 18, a young Jewish man wearing a kippa was physically attacked on a Berlin street by an Arabic-speaking man in an apparent antisemitic attack.
During the attack, the assailant lashed the man, who later turned out to be an Arab-Israeli, with his belt and repeated the Arabic word for Jew, "Yahudi." The incident drew attention to how prominent antisemitism really is in the streets of Berlin.
The incident took place in the trendy Prenzlauerberg neighborhood, which is popular among many Israelis living in Berlin. It is also home to an Orthodox Jewish community centered around the Lauder Yeshivas Beis Zion and the synagogue Kahal Adass Jisroel Berlin.
Alexander Gauland, leader of the far-right AfD faction, went a step further than Nahles and argued that "Whoever burns the Star of David and attacks citizens who wear a kippa, is abusing the country's hospitality and has forfeited their right to stay in Germany," suggesting that antisemitic attacks were mostly carried out by refugees.
"Antisemitism must not become the collateral damage of a wrong refugee and immigration policy," he stressed.
Germany's Merkel says fight against antisemitism must be won, April 18, 2018 (Reuters)
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Center-right CDU faction leader Volker Kauder, frequently referred to as the "right hand" of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, argued that the 'kippa-marches' held recently
were a step in the right direction to fight antisemitism, but not sufficient.
"While [these marches] are an important statement of support and encouragement for the Jewish population, showing that they are not alone, the marches are not enough. We have to make sure to that things actually change" he emphasized. "We have to teach children from a very early age that 'Jew' can never be a curse word."
Jews and non-Jews staged solidarity marches in German cities on Wednesday evening in response to last week's antisemitic attack.
In Berlin, more than 2,000 people participated in the kippa march, a police spokesman said, while rallies were also held in Cologne, Erfurt, Magdeburg and Potsdam.
"Everyone and everything has their place in this society, except for antisemitism," Kauder concluded.Jeremy Sharon and JTA contributed to this report