German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pictured after speaking during a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, also known as Night of Broken Glass, at Rykestrasse Synagogue, in Berlin, Germany, November 9, 2018.
(photo credit: AXEL SCHMIDT/REUTERS)
At the end of May and in the wake of a rise in anti-Jewish attacks, the German government commissioner on antisemitism recommended that Jews should not wear kippot in public.
“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany,” Felix Klein was quoted as saying in an interview.
The comment set off an international uproar. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell decided to stand up to the German government’s fear tactics, spending a day last week walking the streets of Berlin while wearing a kippah alongside an Orthodox rabbi. “We are not afraid. We are proud,” he tweeted. The German daily Bild published a cutout kippah for its readers on the front page of the paper.
Considering its past, it would be only natural that the German government would try to ease concern among Jews, both in the country as well as those from around the world. Instead of doing that though, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided to allow pro-Iranian protesters to march through the streets of the German capital last week shouting anti-Israel slogans and waving banners, some of which read “Zionism is racism” and “Child murderer Israel.”
European affairs correspondent Benjamin Weinthal reported in The Jerusalem Post that Merkel had been asked to stop the march and to prevent it from taking place. She refused to do so.
In the end it was attended by approximately a thousand protesters, some of whom called for Israel’s destruction. The German watchdog organization that tracks antisemitism, RIAS (Recherche- und Informationsstelle Antisemitismus), posted a picture on Twitter of a German Muslim woman wearing a head scarf and holding a sign: “Never Again Zionism,” a clear play on the famous post-Holocaust slogan “Never Again.”
Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, spoke at a counter-demonstration against the al-Quds march and wrote on Twitter: “Speaking in Berlin against the Al Quds Day and its Iranian sponsors. This blatantly antisemitic and hateful event should be banned. Iran as the leading sponsor of terror, a serial abuser of human rights that seeks to undermine any chance for ME [Middle East] peace has no place in Berlin.”
Issacharoff could not be more right. Allowing the protest to take place just days after Jews were told that the German government could not ensure their safety if they wore kippot in public is shocking. Add to this, the Bundestag’s recent refusal to pass legislation that would outlaw Hezbollah and the public receives a picture that is difficult to ignore.
All of this comes at a time when antisemitism in Germany is on the rise. According to a recent report in The New York Times, antisemitic crimes in Germany increased by 20% last year, while violent antisemitic crimes rose by about 86%. Police attributes 89% of all antisemitic crimes to right-wing extremists.
Something bad seems to be happening in Germany and it needs to stop. Merkel should know better than to allow a hateful march to take place in her country’s capital with the single objective of undermining and delegitimizing the world’s only Jewish state. Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, the world has begun to forget what antisemitism is capable of leading to. The violence seen across Europe, as well as the recent attacks in the US in Pittsburgh and Poway, are just the latest manifestation of what modern antisemitism looks like.
With its stained past, the German government has even more of a responsibility to be loud and clear on what is permitted and what is not. While we support and cherish freedom of speech, some speech needs to be beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated. The al-Quds march in Berlin falls into that category.
Merkel has a responsibility to protect all of the citizens of her country. This includes the 200,000 Jews who call Germany home and this means ensuring that nothing will happen to them just because they are Jewish and because they might walk down the streets of Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich wearing a kippah.
Antisemitism should never be tolerated, especially in the country where Nazism came into existence. Merkel needs to act now.
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