Three members of the German Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the Bundestag toured Yad Vashem on Tuesday after they allegedly weren't able to meet with senior Israeli officials since the party is boycotted by the Israeli government. Two of the visitors are members of the Bundestag and the third is a political assistant.
Today 3 @Afd Bundestag members toured @yadvashem. Yad Vashem is open to all, especially to those in need of intensive Holocaust education, The AfD and its members have still a long way to go in understanding the Holocaust and addressing German responsibility of this past.— Dani Dayan (@AmbDaniDayan) May 2, 2023
Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan tweeted on Tuesday that "three AfD Bundestag members toured Yad Vashem." Dayan emphasized that "Yad Vashem is open to all, especially to those in need of intensive Holocaust education. The AfD and its members still have a long way to go in understanding the Holocaust and addressing German responsibility of this past."
Israeli governments have boycotted the party and refused to hold ties with the AfD traditionally, therefore Dayan wouldn’t meet with them, nor did any of Yad Vashem’s senior staff.
Those Bundestag members who participated in the visit were Matthias Moosdorf and Dr. Marc Stephan Jongen.
Dayan told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that Yad Vashem has received a request from the German Embassy for these members to organize a ceremony in the Yizkor (memorial) Tent at the memorial site in Jerusalem.
“We denied this request,” Dayan said. “We debated about their request, but in the end, we understood that we cannot allow it. On the one hand, they are those who most need this education, but we won’t work with this party, just as the Israeli government won’t have a dialogue with them.”
“We know there still are antisemitic attitudes in the AfD and we haven't met with them, the only decision that we have made was to let them in - but without any special ceremonies or attention as members of parliaments usually get,” Dayan said.
“We hope they will change their ways and their views as a result of the visit to Yad Vashem,” Dayan expressed to the Post. He added that he has updated the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry about this visit.
AfD has faced allegations of antisemitism
The AfD is a right-wing populist party in Germany that has faced numerous allegations of antisemitic rhetoric and behavior. In 2016, a senior AfD politician, Björn Höcke, sparked outrage after he called Berlin's Holocaust Memorial a "monument of shame" and called for a "180-degree shift" in how Germany deals with its past. Höcke has also been criticized for making statements that appear to minimize the Holocaust and for associating with far-right groups with antisemitic views.
Other AfD members have also been accused of antisemitic behavior. For example, a former AfD spokesman, Christian Lüth, was filmed in 2019 making antisemitic comments about the Holocaust and the Jewish community.
The party's leaders have repeatedly denied charges of antisemitism and have pointed to their support for Israel and the country's right to defend itself against terrorism as evidence of their lack of prejudice. However, critics argue that this support is often couched in terms that suggest that Israel is defending itself against a broader Islamic threat, rather than responding to specific acts of terrorism.
In addition to accusations of antisemitism, the AfD has been accused of promoting xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies, which many observers argue are also rooted in prejudice and discrimination. The party has been accused of stoking fears about Muslim immigration and of using anti-immigrant rhetoric to gain support.