German Kristallnacht events marred by reported rise in anti-Semitism

Parliamentary resolution reveals deep fault lines among parties regarding how to combat the phenomenon.

Kristallnacht 88 (photo credit: )
Kristallnacht 88
(photo credit: )
A reported dramatic increase in the number of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany and accusations of anti-Semitism in the German parliament (Bundestag) are serving as the backdrop for the upcoming 70th commemoration of the Kristallnacht pogrom, which resulted in a wave of state-sponsored violence against German Jews on November 9, 1938. According to a parliamentary inquiry initiated by Left Party MP Petra Pau, the number of anti-Semitic crimes rose to almost 800 between January and September 2008, an increase of 81 from the same period in 2007. The Bundestag agreed on Tuesday to a resolution establishing a committee to report on anti-Semitic crimes, support the growth of Jewish life in Germany, and broaden public school education covering those areas. Yet the resolution revealed deep fault lines among the parties regarding how to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiments. Of Pau's Left Party, 11 members rejected the resolution. While Pau supported the motion, her fellow MP's Norman Paech and Ulla Jelpke asserted that "the petition attempts to discredit anyone who expresses criticism of the martial policies of NATO, the US and Israel as anti-Semitic and anti-American. Under the cloak of fighting anti-Semitism, it thus tries to legitimize fundamental foreign and domestic policy goals of the federal government." Hans-Peter Uhl, a Christian Social Union MP, told The Jerusalem Post that those Left Party MPs were "representatives of the modern anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism." Paech is an "anti-Semite" because of his anti-Israel statements, according to Uhl, who cited Paech's description of Israel waging a "war of extermination" during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Paech declined to return a Post telephone query. However, Gregor Gysi, chairman of the Left Party faction, wrote in an e-mail to the Post that "a clear majority voted for the motion, although we were shut out of its drafting, at the [Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social] Union's instigation. Skirmishes over party politics were more important to the Union than the struggle against anti-Semitism... The Union has a much worse history in regard to anti-Semitism, in every respect, than the Left Party. In fact, however, there are some views in my party that I do not share and that I have confronted." According to the resolution, "it is reason for concern that anti-Semitism is found in all segments of the population. It often accompanies anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. Solidarity with Israel is an unrelinquishable part of the German national interest. No one who takes part in demonstrations in which Israeli flags are burned and anti-Semitic slogans are chanted is a partner in the struggle against anti-Semitism." Uhl blasted three Left Party MPs - Jelpke, Sevim Dagdelen and Corneilia Hirsch - for participating in a pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullah demonstration in 2006. He criticized left-wing anti-Semitism, especially among Green Party members, whose chairwoman, Renate Künast, "fails to recognize that anti-Semitism exists in the Green Party." Künast told the Post that "Uhl's behavior is disgraceful." Asked whether there was anti-Semitism in the Green Party, she said, "No." Dr. Matthias Küntzel, a German political scientist who specializes in anti-Semitism, saw a blind-spot in the resolution because it omitted Germany's responsibility to combat anti-Semitism "internationally and in the Arabic world." He added that "Germany does not make itself credible when trade continues with Iran." Asked about the newly launched German Stop the Bomb campaign to ban business deals with Iran, Künast said she would sign the petition prohibiting German-Iranian trade relations and outlawing Hizbullah in Germany.