The rising number of anti-Semitic incidents has forced decision-makers to seek solutions to the phenomenon. To recall, in 2005 the European Union Monitoring Center (EUMC) has proposed a “Working Definition of anti-Semitism” which confirms that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism. It was later adopted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights which replaced the EUMC. The Working Definition categorizes that certain expressions such as comparing Israel to Nazi Germany - known as the “nazification of Israel” - are considered modern or neo-anti-Semitism.
Recently, the German government announced it adopts the international definition of anti-Semitism. Figures on anti-Semitisms in Germany indicate that the decision is very timely. The German authorities recorded 1,468 anti-Semitic offenses in 2016, a 7.5 percent increase. Per the request of the government, a 311 page preliminary report published in April 2017 provides a breakdown of the incidents. Muslims are the most prevalent group among those accused of anti-Semitic offense. Researchers note that the Middle East conflict has spurred a high level for anti-Semitism among the Muslims. The findings are only partial, however, because only 18 imams volunteered to participate. The experts behind the study acknowledged that far more research is needed to determine the extent of anti-Semitic attitudes, including the impact of Muslim immigration to Germany.
The report concluded that anti-Semitism exists on both the extreme right and to a lesser extent on the extreme left as well as among Muslim communities. It pointed out that right-wing anti-Semites committed the greatest number of actual anti-Semitic crimes. And the experts were at pains to emphasize that anti-Semitism among people of Arab or Turkish backgrounds had less to do with their religion than with their socialization. Juliane Wetzel, researcher and the the Expert Group co-coordinator said that "A pilot study commissioned by the expert group about the attitudes of imams in Germany was unable to identify any radical anti-Semitism." After reviewing a substantial number of studies on the topic, the Expert Group said that while the traditional forms of anti-Semitism had somewhat declined, it was modern anti-Semitism, for example, criticism of Israel being extended to Jews in general, remained alarmingly popular. Politicians agreed that criticism of Israel is often used to justify anti-Semitism and that "Forty percent of the German population agrees with statements that attack Jewish people by way of remarks that are hostile to Israel." The Expert Group promised to release more findings on the growing modern anti-Semitism.
According to Deidre Berger, the director of The AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish relations, "The lack of a unified definition has led to anti-Semitic incidents being all too often ignored in recent years... The fact, for example, that the courts considered an arson attack on a synagogue in Wuppertal as non-anti-Semitic illustrates the necessity of a definition."
Absent a definition it would be harder for law enforcement to combat anti-Semitism. The importance of the Working Definition can not be overestimated.
German government adopts international anti-Semitism definition
Author Jefferson Chase
Per a government cabinet decision, Germany now has an official standard description for anti-Semitic statements and acts. The definition should make it easier to identify and combat instances of anti-Semitism.
The official definition of anti-Semitism was drawn up by the government's conservative Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Social Democratic Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. It is almost identical to the one proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) used by countries around the world, including, for instance, Britain and Austria.
The IHRA definition reads: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews
, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."
The definition was adopted after the government's regular Wednesday morning cabinet meeting. De Maiziere stressed the importance of consensus on the term in Germany, which is still plagued by various manifestations of anti-Semitism
"We Germans are particularly vigilant when our country is threatened by an increase in anti-Semitism," said the interior minister. "History made clear to us, in the most terrible way, the horrors to which anti-Semitism can lead."
Neo-Nazism is only one form of present day anti-Semitism
Defining anti-Semitism may seem to be self-evident, but it took considerable time and effort for Germany to agree to a specific wording. Other countries were quicker take up this definition.
"I very much welcome the adoption of the working definition of anti-Semitism by the German government," said Felix Klein, head of the German delegation to the IHRA and the Foreign Ministry's special representative for relations with Jewish organizations. "In order to address the problem of anti-Semitism, it is very important to define it first, and this working definition can provide guidance on how antisemitism can manifest itself. We are proud to join Austria, Israel, Romania, Scotland and the United Kingdom in affirming that there is no place for anti-Semitism in any society and we call on other states to follow."
The cabinet has recommended that law-enforcement and other public officials use the official definition.
A first step and framework
"The adoption of the definition sets out a framework," Beck said in a statement. "Government action on various levels – from legal prosecution to educational measures to the sensitization of the judicial system – is now more binding. We can create a common understanding in government of the problems and challenges and a evaluation framework for preventing and combating [anti-Semitism]."
Critics of the IHRA definition say it fails to distinguish between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel
As the commission detailed in its report, today's anti-Semitism takes forms as different as extreme-right xenophobic fears of a global Jewish conspiracy and Israel-focused hostility toward Jews among Arabs and other Muslims. Other government cabinet members stressed that anti-Semitism in Germany could not be reduced to any single group.
"Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is pervasive throughout this society," said Minister for Family Affairs Katarina Barley in Berlin.
That sentiment was seconded by the director of the Anne Frank Education Center in Hessen, Meron Mendel, who warned against reducing modern-day anti-Semitism to Muslim migrants and refugees.
Arson against a synagogue as 'non-anti-Semitic'
Critics of the IHRA definition say it fails to distinguish adequately between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel. But Jewish groups in Germany welcomed the cabinet's decision precisely because its description of anti-Semitism also applies to excessive criticism of Israel as a "Jewish collective" and not a nation like many others.
Jewish Council President Schuster hailed the government's decision
"It's as important to combat anti-Semitism dressed up as putative criticism of Israel as to fight against the old stereotypes about Jews," said the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster.
Schuster added that Wednesday's decision would be of help to police – a sentiment seconded by Deidre Berger, the director of the Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations of the American Jewish Committee.
"The lack of a unified definition has led to anti-Semitic incidents being all too often ignored in recent years," Berger said. "The fact, for example, that the courts considered an arson attack on a synagogue in Wuppertal as non-anti-Semitic illustrates the necessity of a definition."
Berger called for police training on the subject and for the next government to appoint a permanent anti-Semitism commissioner
to ensure that the commission's recommendations were implemented.
German cities split with 'anti-Semitic' BDS boycott movement
The international protest movement to boycott Israel is increasingly encountering resistance in Germany's big cities. Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich have said BDS uses language from the Nazi era.
Author Christoph Strack
For over ten years, an international network of protest against Israeli policy toward the Palestinians has existed: the "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" (BDS) movement. It began in 2005 when numerous Palestinian organizations expressed extensive criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. Internationally, the call to boycott Israeli products from the occupied territories and holdings of Israeli companies
was based on a long-term campaign in the 1980s against the apartheid system in South Africa.
For a long time, BDS' stance was regarded as critical of Israel as a whole or anti-Zionist. But recently, several German metropolises have judged the protest movement to be "anti-Semitic" and have outlawed official support to the movement.
A few weeks ago, Frankfurt — considered Germany's business and financial capital — turned against BDS. The city's municipal authorities decided they would not allow any locations or public spaces to be used for BDS activities in the city, and they appealed to private landlords to follow suit. In addition, they announced that any associations or organizations supporting the BDS movement would see their public subsidies revoked.
Uwe Becker, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a member of Frankfurt's mayoral council whose portfolio includes religious affairs, provided the impetus for the decision. He told Deutsche Welle that to him, the BDS movement is "profoundly anti-Semitic" as it uses the language "that Nazis once used" in their messaging. Moreover, he calls his city's refusal to support BDS an "important signal." Becker said that he has received much more praise than criticism about the decision and believes that many people "have come to really understand what BDS is about."
At the national level, the anti-BDS movement is also gaining steam. At its annual convention in Essen in December 2016, Merkel's CDU party approved a petition that would make the party condemn or oppose any BDS activities. Becker also initiated that petition.
The Frankfurt alderman says he would like to see further votes of this kind. "If possible, at least the big cities in Germany and Europe should position themselves accordingly. It should become a movement." So far, he has not had any official requests to join his anti-movement movement. "But at events here and there I am already being approached informally." The topic has been brought up at the Deutscher Städtetag, a meeting of officials from over 3,400 German municipalities. It has not yet been discussed within the framework of the German-Israeli sister city network.
BDS is modeled after the international boycott against South Africa that helped end apartheid
Munich, Berlin follow suit
Reaction was swift from the Bavarian capital, Munich, following Frankfurt's announcement. Several German and Israeli media reports have indicated that the city has proposed a bill that would disallow any municipal provision of space or money to pro-BDS entities.
Now Berlin has weighed in. There is, however, a back story to the Berlin Senate's distancing from the BDS movement. In June, an uproar was sparked at a Humboldt University event featuring an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor and a deputy of Israel's parliament, the Knesset. According to media reports the two were "shouted down" by BDS activists. In mid-August, a BDS-organized pro-boycott demonstration in Berlin overshadowed a pop culture festival
that had received minor financing from the Israeli embassy. Various artists, mainly from the Arab world, obeyed the call to cancel their participation in the festival.
Harsh criticism of the festival boycott came first from high-ranking city officials. Berlin's mayoral council member and culture minister Klaus Lederer (The Left party) expressed horror at the outcome. "The boycott is disgusting," he said. At the national level, Germany's Minister of Cultural Affairs Monika Grütters (CDU), who supported the festival, was similarly clear. When Berlin Mayor Michael Müller (Social Democratic Party) did not initially comment, the Simon Wiesenthal Center threatened to put him on its annual anti-Semitism list, which garners high visibility internationally.
It was only after a discussion with the Central Council of Jews in Germany that Müller spoke out. "BDS stands alongside anti-Semitic signs in Berlin businesses, which are intolerable practices from the Nazi era. We will do everything possible to take spaces and money away from BDS due to its anti-Israeli hatred," he said. He expressed a desire for a "legally binding ban on providing spaces" and also mentioned the possibility of a proper ban on BDS, a step for which the interior minister, currently Thomas de Maiziere of the CDU, would be responsible. Mayor Müller thus followed Frankfurt and Munich's line. As of Friday afternoon, the BDS had not issued any response to his statements.
A tussle broke out in Munich when a Jewish community member pointed out the bias of the pro-BDS speaker at an event
Reports indicate rising anti-Semitism
Ultimately, these moves demonstrate that municipalities are also taking into consideration the growing concerns of many Israelis and German Jews.
On Friday, national newspaper Die Welt cited new federal government data on anti-Semitism. In the first half of 2017, a total of 681 such offenses were recorded, 27 more than in the same period in 2016. There was also a slight increase in cases of violence and "incitement towards hatred," which, it should be noted, has been a serious felony in Germany since the Nazi era.
Media reports also indicate that in their petition to stop funding pro-BDS entities, CDU and SPD officials in Munich cited another recent federal statistic according to which 40% of Germans hold Israel-related anti-Semitic views.
Volker Beck, a Green party member of Bundestag and head of its German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group, initiated the publication of the figures through an official request to the government. However, he told Die Welt, "the dark figure” [the actual or unreported figure behind a statistic — Editor's note] is "to be feared, and is probably much higher." Beck, along with various non-governmental organizations, has long been calling for an anti-Semitism commissioner to serve directly in the Federal Chancellery. In June, however, the federal government made it clear that a decision on such a representative would no longer come before the upcoming Bundestag elections. But the demand is likely to come up again after September 24.
Volker Beck says that government figures on anti-Semitism probably underestimate its prevalence
Germany pays too little attention to current anti-Semitism, report says
Author Jefferson Chase
An independent report, supported by politicians across the spectrum, has concluded that more needs to be done to fight modern forms of anti-Semitism in Germany. But it doesn't answer the question of precisely what.
"The most recent case of anti-Semitic taunts and attacks against a Jewish boy here in Berlin's Friedenau district give our report a particular currency and relevance," Patrick Siegele, the director of the Anne Frank Center, said. "It illustrates the difficulties German society has dealing with anti-Semitism."
Six hundred and forty-four anti-Semitic crimes were reported in Germany last year, although the actual number was probably dramatically higher. After reviewing a substantial number of studies on the topic, the Expert Group said that while traditional forms of anti-Semitism had declined somewhat, modern anti-Semitism, for example, criticism of Israel being extended to Jews in general, remained alarmingly popular.
"Forty percent agree with Israeli-centered anti-Semitism," Green Party member of the Bundestag Volker Beck said. "That's almost half of the society. It says a lot about the intellectual environment in which Jews have to live."
"New forms of anti-Semitism have arisen, and unfortunately the end of the Holocaust and the Second World War didn't mean the end of anti-Semitism," conservative MP Barbara Woltmann said. "It does worry me that around 20 percent latent anti-Semitism still exists within the populace."
The experts issued five "key demands" to improve that situation. They include appointing an anti-Semitism ombudsman, establishing a national data base for anti-Semitic crimes and providing long-term support for groups researching and trying to combat anti-Semitism.
But the 311-page report, whose presentation coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel
, is a basis for parliamentary discussions in the future, not actual proposals for legislation. On closer examination the report actually reveals that much has yet to be determined about modern-day forms anti-Semitism in Germany - most prominently anti-Semitism among Muslims.
The Middle East conflict is a flash point in German society
Anti-Semitism among Muslims
The report concludes that anti-Semitism exists on the extreme right and (less prevalently) extreme left of the political spectrum in German society as well as among Muslim communities. It pointed out that right-wing anti-Semites committed the greatest number of actual anti-Semitic crimes. And the experts were at pains to emphasize that anti-Semitism among people with Arab or Turkish backgrounds had less to do with their religion than with their socialization.
"A pilot study commissioned by the expert group about the attitudes of imams in Germany was unable to identify any radical anti-Semitism," researcher and group co-coordinator Juliane Wetzel said.
The partial study in question, however, included only 18 imams who voluntarily participated and thus is hardly representative. The nine-member group of experts acknowledged that far more research needs to be carried out to determine the extent to which certain committees and migrants to Germany in general maintain anti-Semitic attitudes.
Without doubt opposition to Israel, which often shades over into anti-Semitism, is a constitutive element of some young Muslims' identity. However, such anti-Semitism is cultural, not religious.
Anti-Semitic vandalism remains a problem
A lack of practical results
It is no secret that the word "Jew" is often bandied about as an insult among young people in schools in heavily migrant districts of Berlin. The tormenters in the case of the 14-year-old Berlin boy
came from Turkish and Arab backgrounds. The question is what can be done to combat these and other manifestations of anti-Semitism in everyday life in Germany.
The findings and recommendations in the expert group's studies will be presented for debate in the Bundestag. But with only a handful of weeks remaining in this legislative period, the group admits that political action probably won't be forthcoming.
This is the second such expert group with the second such report. The results obtained by the first one, formed in 2009, weren't good.
"I asked the members of my parliamentary group what became of the recommendations and demands of the first report," Green MP Beck said. "And you could say: practically nothing."
Germany's federalist structure is one reason progress on dealing with everyday anti-Semitism can be sluggish. The members of the expert group agree that anti-Semitism is too often taught in schools exclusively in conjunction with Germany's National Socialist past and that instruction about modern-day anti-Semitism is needed. But school curricula are the responsibility of Germany's 16 individual federal states. All the federal government can do in that area is issue recommendations and provide money for worthwhile projects.
Concrete action is very unlikely before Germany's national election in September and the constitution of a new Bundestag, which will almost certain include the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany, some of whose members have been accused of harboring Nazi sympathies
Thus, sadly, there is little chance any time soon for any measures to prevent incidents like the one at the Berlin school.
Bundestag Report Points Finger at Muslims for Rising Anti-Semitism in Germany
13:38 25.04.2017(updated 13:45 25.04.2017)
Far-right groups remain the biggest threat to Jews in Germany, but they face increasing hostility from Muslims who target German Jews in retaliation for Israel's activities in the Middle East, a report on anti-Semitism in Germany has found.
Surveys appear to show that anti-Semitism in Germany
is in decline, but Jews face a renewed threat from far-right groups as well as enmity from Muslims, whose hostility is based on opposition to Israel, according to an independent report commissioned by the German Bundestag.
"The approval rate for classical anti-Semitism is only about five percent. The approval for so-called secondary anti-Semitism – everything that is connected with the Holocaust and the declaration that Jews are preventing us from finally finding our way back to normality because they are supposedly reminding us of the Holocaust
– is clearly decreasing. Just 26 per cent of respondents agree with this statement," Juliane Wetzel, a historian specializing in anti-Semitism and one of the report's authors, told Sputnik Deutschland
While right-wing extremists remain the biggest threat to Jews, Muslims in Germany who base their anti-Semitism on hatred of Israel also pose an increasing threat, the report found.
"A pilot study we commissioned on the attitude of imams could not identify any radical anti-Semitism. However, there is clearly an equation of Israeli policy with the Holocaust. Now we have to observe anti-Semitism among Muslims and intensify preventive measures."
"There are many indications of the spread of anti-Semitism among refugees from Arab Muslim countries. However, the situation is also complex at the same time. There is the danger of being discriminatory and judging the Muslim population to be the bearers of anti-Semitic attitudes," Wetzel warned.
Between 2001 and 2015, there was an average of 1,522 anti-Semitic offenses committed per year, 44 of which were violent crimes. Sharp increases in anti-Semitic attacks were witnessed in 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2014, when there were escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Petra Pau, Vice-President of the German Bundestag and member of the leftist Die Linke party, said that criticism of Israel is often used to justify anti-Semitism.
"Forty percent of the German population agrees with statements that attack Jewish people by way of remarks that are hostile to Israel
. This shows a frightening ignorance of Israel and Israeli society. Israelis are equated with Jews, although there are Christians, Muslims, atheists and other believers in Israel," she explained.
"People from all backgrounds and with any kind of educational level can be anti-Semitic. They often don't think of themselves as such. Hatred of Jews is not a problem specific to Arabs or Muslims. But – and this is what the report tells us – there are specific patterns in certain groups with a Muslim background and we still do not know much about that," Pau said.
On Monday, Germany's Federal Interior Ministry released last year's crime figures
, which showed a 6.6 percent increase in politically motivated crime, with a total of 41,549 offenses. These are categorized as offenses which "threaten the fundamental democratic principles of our society and respect for fundamental human rights."
The most frequent politically motivated crimes, which comprised 34 percent of the total figure, were propaganda offenses such as flying flags from banned organizations.
were responsible for 23,555 (57 percent) of the crimes. They committed 2.6 percent more offenses than the previous year, an increase which Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere described as "unacceptable."
The number of crimes committed by left-wing extremists decreased to 9,389, a decline of 2.2 percent.
The authorities recorded 1,468 anti-Semitic offenses, a 7.5 percent increase, and 8,983 crimes based on xenophobia, a 5.3 percent rise. There was a dramatic 66.5 percent increase in politically motivated crimes against foreigners, with a total of 3,372 offenses.
"There are a lot of other factors connected with being Muslim that lead to anti-Semitism being more prevalent among this group, above all people's migration background," researcher Beate Küpper said. "Young people from Muslim social contexts, be they Turkish or Arab, are on average more anti-Semitic than other young people. But they're not more anti-Semitic than other young people with other migration backgrounds, for instance the Soviet Union."