German city bans Israel flag – again

Kassel authorities explain prohibition at event to combat anti-Semitism comes as “Israeli flag could disturb pedestrians” and “threaten” them.

casspi fan israel flag 512 ap (photo credit: AP)
casspi fan israel flag 512 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The city of Kassel in the German state of Hesse has issued a ban on the display of an Israeli flag at an information stand planned on Saturday by the group Alliance Against Anti-Semitism (AAAS).
According to a report Friday on the Web site of German news outlet Nordhessische, local authorities justified the prohibition at the event to combat anti-Semitism because the “Israeli flag could disturb pedestrians” and they could feel “threatened” by the expression of the flag of the Jewish state.
The singling out of the Jewish state was made evident in the Nordhessische news report because Kassel permitted activists supporting the pro-democracy movement in the Islamic Republic to display Iranian flags over the past months but Israel’s flag has a persona non grata status.
“How can it be that an agency, which is responsible for public order, views the public order as endangered by displaying an Israeli flag?” AAAS spokesman Jonas Dörge asked, according to Nordhessische.
The Kassel public order agency, a body employed by the municipality, was not available for immediate comment on Saturday.
Kassel, a city of roughly 200,000, previously cracked down on the display of the blue-and-white flag during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. While demonstrations involving calls to “kill Israelis” took place in Kassel and across German cities during the Gaza war, local authorities seized and banned the display of Israeli flags in Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Bochum, Mainz and Berlin. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators attempted to shut down a solidarity stand for Israel in January 2009 in Kassel, prompting the removal of the Israeli flag.
According to numerous observers in Germany, authorities are quick to punish pro-Israel Germans who display Israeli flags and Hebrew signs, while permitting violent incitement against Jews and Israelis at rallies organized by Muslims and Left Party members. A student in the industrial city of Bochum was fined €300 in September for waving an Israeli flag as a counterprotest at an anti-Israel rally where demonstrators invoked inflammatory, hate-driven rhetoric against the Jewish state.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany has slammed regional governments for failing to protect free speech and preserve a lively democratic culture. Yet societal and media indifference toward bias and hatred against the Jewish state remains largely anchored in German society and the Israeli flag is viewed as a “provocative” symbol.
Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, a publicist who has written on modern anti-Semitism and political Islam in Germany, explained the ubiquitous indifference toward contemporary anti-Semitism. He told the Jerusalem Post that Wolfgang Benz, director of Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, has significantly contributed to a climate where his faulty drawing of a parallel between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia has been “accepted” and has served to play down the severity of the Holocaust.
Benz went to great efforts over the past year to propagate the view that German Muslims are facing the same murderous hatred as Jews during the course of German history. He remained silent during the outbreak of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity in Germany during the Gaza war.
Von der Osten-Sacken cited José Luis Ortega Lleras, chairman of theOffice of Integration in the Bavarian city of Erlangen, who said lastweek that the hostility against Muslims in Germany is the same as whatJews experienced before they were annihilated by the Nazis.
Benz is slated to deliver a talk on Sunday at a city-sponsoredanti-racism conference in Erlangen on why anti-Semitism is comparableto bias against Muslims. The conference has raised eyebrows amongcritics because Benz is appearing with Dr. Sabine Schiffer, whoendorsed The End of Judaismby Hajo Meyer as an “important book” in which, according to Meyer,Judaism is to blamed for anti-Semitism. Schiffer works closely withBenz and his institute, and essays and interviews from her haveappeared on anti-Semitic German Web sites and newspapers such as the Neue Rheinische Zeitung,that call for boycotts against Israel. She is considered a friend ofthe regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran and recently gave aninterview to the Iranian state press.