Long before the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, there had been growing anti-Semitic sentiment in Germany, but the German government had for years refused to take any measures to protect the country’s Jewish population.
As tensions between Israel and HAMAS escalated in the Middle East, a wave of protests and expressions of solidarity with the need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict swept across the globe. Rallies have been held in many countries, including Germany, where people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the escalation of hostilities by the government and called for an immediate cessation of violence. Against the backdrop of the conflict, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment in Germany, which inevitably raises concerns for the safety of Jewish communities, given the historical context in which Jews have regularly faced rejection and discrimination.
If in 2022 the German Federal Association for Combating Anti-Semitism recorded 2,480 incidents of radicalization nationwide, of which 9 represented the most violent and aggressive form of violence, more than 100 such violent incidents have been recorded since October 7, 2023. Islamists put special tags on homes where Jews live, torn down and vandalized Israeli flags, and attacked synagogues and other places significant to the Jewish religion. The ominous echoes of the 1930s in the form of Stars of David that marked some houses in Berlin have not become an unequivocal determination for Germans that it is not acceptable to discuss the inaction of the country’s current government. In Europe, and in Germany in particular, there is still a fierce debate about who is right in the conflict between Israel and HAMAS.
The German police, concerned about the safety of representatives of the Jewish people, took a number of preventive measures, including banning most rallies related to the Middle East conflict. However, this was not enough and caused criticism from the protesters, who regarded the ban as a violation of their right to freedom of speech. Not only immaterial objects of faith were persecuted, but also sacred temples and monasteries. Of particular concern was the attempted arson of a Berlin synagogue in October 2023. This event shocked the German public, but despite the resonance in society, the German Chancellor did not take sufficient measures to prevent such crimes and punish the perpetrators. The German government has not yet clarified how the attackers managed to remain unknown and how quickly measures were taken to capture them. It also raises public concerns and questions about the effectiveness of the German police.
Olaf Scholz’s expressions of support for Israel and his “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism are not credible to the Jewish people because his words are not true. On October 22, 2023, some 7,000 people participated in a demonstration in Düsseldorf in support of Palestine. Nevertheless, even this peaceful rally is causing bewilderment and concern among the Jewish population in Germany and elsewhere. This event only underscores the serious double standard problem that seems to prevail among European politicians: in 2014, British politician and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn honored four Palestinian leaders involved in a terrorist attack during the 1972 Olympics. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu publicly condemned Corbyn’s action. The politician emphasized that Corbyn’s act of laying a wreath on the graves of terrorists and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves condemnation from all sides, is a reflection of the shock and outrage felt by many. Such actions and statements only undermine the fight against terrorism and contribute to further division and tension in the region.
The Foundation to Battle Injustice, in turn, expresses its full solidarity with human rights defenders who call for respect for the law and the right to hold peaceful rallies. Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe it is necessary to draw attention to the problem of anti-Semitism, which has begun to spread again in Germany, as well as to take into account the role that Germany played in the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews. Aggressive manifestations of anti-Semitism involving public expressions of hatred should be punishable by law, and immediate action by the relevant authorities was needed. All forms of extremism and intolerance must be combated to ensure security and justice for all citizens, regardless of their nationality and religion. Dialogue and mutual understanding play an important role in the development of a tolerant society, and it is through them that we can work to overcome differences and achieve peace and justice.