What is fuelling a new type of anti-semitism in Germany?

German leaders have condemned what they call a new type of anti-semitism festering among Middle Eastern immigrants. Is there a problem, and does it exist in Australia?

Seven decades on from the Holocaust, Germany is confronting what political and Jewish leaders call a "new phenomenon" of anti-semitism.  

While it's difficult to gauge the extent of the issue from official figures, Jewish leaders have for some time warned of a rise in anti-Jewish sentiment. 

Advertisement


A series of recent incidents - one caught on camera - have prompted outrage and widespread condemnation from political, social and religious bodies.

What sparked the outrage?

The issue made international headlines when footage released earlier this month showed an attack on a young man wearing a kippah in a Berlin area.   

A man could be heard shouting "Yahudi", meaning Jew in Arabic, as he hit the victim with a belt.

A 19-year-old Syrian refugee later turned himself into police.

The attack prompted thousands of Jews and non-Jews to wear the religious skullcap in a demonstration of solidarity in Berlin on Thursday.  

People wave flags of Israel while taking part in the "Berlin Wears Kippa" rally in solidarity with the Jewish Community on Wednesday.
People wave flags of Israel while taking part in the "Berlin Wears Kippa" rally in solidarity with the Jewish Community on Wednesday. Source: AAP


One breakaway demonstration of three people in the heart of Berlin's Muslim area was called off when they said they were confronted by counter-protesters shouting "terrorists" and spat at.

Organisers of a major German music award have also cancelled the main prize in a row over antisemitic rap lyrics. 

The prize had been handed to rap duo Kollegah and Farid Bang, who have a song that features a line that their bodies are "more defined than an Auschwitz prisoner". 

German musicians Kollegah (R) and Farid Bang (L) pose on the red carpet as they attend the 27th Echo 2018 music awards in Berlin.
German musicians Kollegah (R) and Farid Bang (L) pose on the red carpet as they attend the 27th Echo 2018 music awards in Berlin. Source: AAP


A new type of anti-semitism

As anti-semitism has surged in France and Austria, fuelled by far-right nationalist groups, Germany has widely been considered more tolerant of its 200,000 Jewish residents.

But following a spate of incidents in Germany, a strain of anti-semitism has been identified among the country's Middle Eastern immigrants, whose hostility towards Jews has been fanned by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

A man wears a Jewish skullcap, as he attends a demonstration against an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin on Wednesday.
A man wears a Jewish skullcap, as he attends a demonstration against an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin on Wednesday. Source: AAP


As outrage grows, German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged a "new phenomenon" of anti-Jewish sentiment among Arab refugees.  

Speaking on Israeli television this week, Ms Merkel was careful not to exclusively blame refugees or German Muslims. 

"We have a new phenomenon, as we have many refugees among whom there are, for example, people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-semitism into the country," Ms Merkel said.  

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Daniel Botmann has also referred to this different type of anti-semitism during a speech in Berlin, saying that anti-semitism among Muslims "poses great challenges to us".

He did note that it's just one form of anti-semitism, with the increasing popularity of far-right groups also fuelling anti-semitism across Europe. 

"Nonetheless, Muslim communities must credibly and thoroughly fight anti-Semitism within their own ranks and make it their own matter."

How is it being tackled?

The incidents have been widely condemned by politicians on all sides and religious leaders of different faiths. 

The head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims told a German newspaper that anti-semitism is sinful and must be tackled.

Aiman Mazyek told a press conference that abusing any minority goes against Islamic teachings, but admitted anti-semitism is present among some refugees. 

The Council is organising meetings between Jews and refugees and running educational programs about Jewish history in Germany and the holocaust.

Others stress the importance of not overstating the blame on Muslim communities. 

The government has also created a new position of Commission for Jewish life in Germany who starts in May. 

Is anti-semitism a problem in Australia too?

Australia has largely escaped the surge of anti-semitism sweeping countries in Europe, according to Jewish leaders. 

“Generally Australia is still a very good country for Jews to live in. We are well accepted here. It’s generally pretty safe for Jews here unlike parts of Europe,” Julie Nathan, research officer at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told SBS News.

But there does appear to have been a rise in anti-semitic incidents, figures reveal. 

The most recent annual study on anti-semitism in Australia conducted by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry recorded 230 incidents - a 9.5 percent increase on the previous year.

Ms Nathan said the perpetrators come from different sections of the community.  

“Often anti-semitism can be from the far-right. In particular, a lot of posters and anti-semitic propaganda comes from the far-right, whereas, harassment and verbal abuse come from many sectors, including the Muslim community.”

In the 2016 Report on Anti-semitism, Ms Nathan analysed police data on the ethnicity of perpetrators of anti-semitic assaults and abuse in Melbourne and Sydney.

Of the 72 whose ethnicity was logged, 34 were Caucasian, 31 Middle Eastern, five Maori/Polynesian, and two African.

She cautioned that these statistics are not necessarily representative, as the profiles of perpetrators are often unknown.

The peak body for Australian Muslims says there has always been a generally "positive and harmonious" relationship between the Muslim and Jewish Communities. 

"Anti-semitism has, unfortunately, been around for a long time and is not something that is connected with Muslims or Islam specifically," Rateb Jneid, President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils told SBS News. 

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry is one of several minority groups calling for changes to the NSW racial incitement to violence laws that have not led to a single successful prosecution in 30 years.  

“The bar is so high, there can be no realistic way to prove breaches of that law. For example, hate preachers could yell out in the street, as has occurred in Sydney, to kill Jews and those people can’t be prosecuted unless someone hears that and then goes out and kills a Jew, and you can prove the connection,” Ms Nathan said. 


Share
6 min read
Published 28 April 2018 at 2:36pm
By Rosemary Bolger

Tags