There has always been antisemitism in Germany. This is nothing new. Nonetheless, recently something has changed, and a process – a worrying new trend – has been set off. A series of troubling incidents by pro-BDS entities has made Germans feel as though long-simmering antisemitism has been let out of the closet. This is the reason many Jews are asking themselves whether the time has come to leave, or if they can still safely stay in Germany.
My answer is simple: stay and fight.
Currently, the renowned international art fair Documenta is taking place in Kassel. In the months prior to the fair, organizations and individuals active in the fight against antisemitism warned of predictable Jew-hatred. True to their concerns, the fair has been riddled with scandal after scandal since it opened.
For example, the Indonesian collective curating the fair, which has been accused of supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement targeting Israel (BDS), did not allow the invitation of Israeli artists and even uninvited previously invited guests. Uncoincidentally, Indonesia does not recognize the State of Israel. Additionally, although disgusting antisemitic imagery has been repeatedly displayed at the fair, every individual in a position of authority has denied responsibility and downplayed each and every disgrace.
Finally, after several months, the director resigned, only for the new interim director to declare that there would be no more investigations into antisemitic art on display at the fair. Even after more antisemitic images were later found in the fair’s brochure – which had apparently already been “checked” after complaints and nonetheless approved for display – the interim director shirked his responsibility to ensure a cultural event free from bigotry. The mayor of the City of Kassel, as well as the German Cultural Minister, Claudia Roth, who authorized and provided over 42 million Euros in funding for the fair, have likewise denied any responsibility for the antisemitism exhibited.
Concerned citizens who sounded the alarm and called for consequences and the fair to be shut down, including the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the American Jewish Committee, members of the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP), and over 600 people who have thus far signed an online petition in support of such measures, have all been ignored.
In addition to the Documenta debacle, there has been a vast increase in the number of pro-BDS events across Germany in the last weeks and months, often organized by the Israeli-designated terror group, Samidoun, which has been organizing more and more “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea” events across the country. In other words, events that openly call for the violent destruction of the Jewish State.
All this, despite Germany’s unique history, repeated vows to safeguard Jewish life in Germany, the anti-BDS resolution previously passed by the Bundestag, its signing onto the IHRA antisemitism definition, as well as Germany’s “raison d'état” to stand up for the security of Israel. These are all vital tools to fight antisemitism, but they must be utilized and implemented properly in order to truly combat it effectively.
The situation is worrying, but this is not (yet) the time to give up. This is the time to get up and fight – everyone in their own way. It is the time to write open letters to parliamentarians and media outlets; to organize protests and counter events; to petition and demand that Germany live up to its responsibilities. And it is time to support the organizations active in the fight for Israel and combating all forms of antisemitism – now more than ever. The task may seem daunting, but every form of activism, even if only in the form of financial support for others, can have an impact. The tide will likely not turn immediately, but if we do not stand up against the current tsunami, it will soon become unbearable, and “Never Again” may yet turn out to be a thing of the past.
Sacha Stawski is the President of Honestly Concerned, an initiative to fight biased media coverage of antisemitism in Germany and the conflict in the Middle East. Stawski also heads the pro-Israel German group I Like Israel (ILI).
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Adam Milstein.