A problem of the German mainstream

After Halle, some commentators are quick to point the finger at those who speak about the danger of antisemitism from the Left and from Islamist forces.

People placing candles to honor the memory of two people killed in a shooting attack in Halle Germany  (photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)
People placing candles to honor the memory of two people killed in a shooting attack in Halle Germany
(photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)
Right after covering the Yom Kippur attack on the Synagogue in Halle by a right-wing extremist, the media began to highlight the numerous vigils and rallies in support of the Jewish community that were held everywhere in Germany in response to the assault.
Remarkably, there were no such vigils after an attack on the Berlin Synagogue, just a few days earlier, by a by knife-wielding 23-year-old man of Syrian origin, shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “Fuck Israel.” Certainly, the fact that in Halle two people lost their lives, while the Berlin attacker could be arrested before inflicting more serious harm, explains a large part of that difference in public reactions to the two attacks. Still, there is a huge mismatch between the strong and unanimous condemnations of right-wing violence that can be heard from all sides now and the timid, marginalizing and sometimes even apologetic responses to antisemitic acts by perpetrators with a political Left and/or Islamist background.
The decision by a German court, according to which a 2014 arson attack on a synagogue in the city of Wuppertal would not constitute an act of antisemitism, but rather an act of protest against Israeli policies, is idiomatic in this respect. Another case in point is the unwillingness of German lawmakers to outlaw Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and the failure of German authorities to crack down on Hezbollah’s antisemitic al-Quds demonstrations. Just a few weeks ago, the German weekly Der Spiegel promoted antisemitic fantasies of Jewish conspiracy in a story that portrayed the German federal parliament’s approval of an anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) motion as a result of Jewish manipulation. Now, the same magazine, in its current issue, features two long articles on antisemitism and right-wing terrorism.
 After Halle, some commentators are quick to point the finger at those who speak about the danger of antisemitism from the Left and from Islamist forces, in order to say: “See, we told you. It’s the Right.” A commentator in a local German newspaper cynically uses the Halle attack as an alibi to deny the significance of Muslim antisemitism while distorting Israel-related antisemitism as a false charge designed to sabotage legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.
“Antisemitism had been blamed on migrants and Muslims. Increasingly antisemitism had also been used as an accusation against critics of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. But Halle made it clear: The deadly danger for Jewish life in Germany still emanates from the Right,” writes Joachim Zinsen of the local daily Aachener Nachrichten.
There is no doubt that the assailant of Halle was right wing. And there is no doubt that the danger from the Right needs to be taken seriously. But to use the right-wing attack of Halle as a pretext to marginalize and even whitewash other forms of antisemitism is cynical and a slap in the face of the victims of Halle and all those targeted in that attack.
Many tropes of Israel-related antisemitism that underpin Jew-hatred among Muslims and the radical Left are shared by significant parts of Europe’s societal mainstream. The horrible assault of Halle by a right-wing extremist provides many members of that mainstream a convenient alibi to deny their own antisemitism and to blame Jew-hatred exclusively on a radical “other.”
Many of those who demonstrated on German street against antisemitism these days were moved by sincere motives and the honest intention to show solidarity with Germany’s Jewish community. But the size of those rallies would have likely been much smaller if they would have not resonated with self-righteous inclinations to blame the margins of society for something that, in fact, is a problem of the mainstream.


Tags Terrorism