German anti-Semitism surges, from the right

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  February 15, 2021

Police recorded a surge in anti-Semitic incidents in Germany last year.

But contrary to Israel lobby efforts to blame Muslims, leftists and the Palestine solidarity movement, the phenomenon stems almost exclusively from the right.

In 2020, German police logged 2,275 reports of anti-Semitic incidents, more than any year since 2001, the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported last week. This included 55 violent crimes.

The numbers for 2020 represent an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

Yet while police were able to identify almost 1,400 suspects, there were only five arrests.

The figures were provided by the federal government in response to a parliamentary question from Petra Pau, a left-wing lawmaker.

More than 1,300 of the reports have been classified according to the suspected political motivation of the incident.

The picture provided by the statistics is stark: 1,247 were categorized as right wing: 9 as left wing; 18 as “foreign ideology” and 20 as religiously motivated. Another 39 incidents could not be classified.

Based on these figures, 94 percent of the anti-Semitic incidents had a right-wing political motivation.

These figures come atop growing concerns over neo-Nazi infiltration of Germany’s police forces and military.

Misdirecting blame

This contrasts with the impression disseminated by Israel lobby groups aiming to misdirect blame at supporters of Palestinian rights, as well as Muslim and immigrant communities.

Such warnings were prominent after Germany began welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and other countries in 2015.

Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany – a communal body and pro-Israel lobby group – asserted that “Many of the refugees are fleeing the terror of the Islamic State and want to live in peace and freedom, but at the same time, they come from cultures in which hatred of Jews and intolerance are an integral part.”

And last year, the European Jewish Congress published a report co-authored with researchers from Tel Aviv University, calling attention to the alarming number of attacks on Jews by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in 2019 and early 2020.

The report’s authors could not conceal the reality that most of this surge came from the far right.

And yet their report expended many words attacking the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and trying baselessly to associate its supporters with rising anti-Semitism.

BDS was mentioned no fewer than two dozen times in the 17-page document despite there being no evidence that advocacy for Palestinian rights was fueling anti-Jewish bigotry.

The report also falsely asserted that in Germany, “Israel-related anti-Semitism, mainly originating from Muslim students and staff, is already becoming normalized among school students and teachers.”

Such false narratives have also made their way to the American right, where supporters of Israel like the National Review’s Jonathan Tobin have sought to exonerate Germany’s far-right of its anti-Semitism.

In 2019, Tobin claimed that “the recent wave of immigrants from Muslim and Arab countries has created a vast new constituency for Jew-hatred” in Germany.

He also praised the far-right Alternative for Germany – a party which contains many Nazis – because it has “gone out of its way to state its support for Israel.”

The effort to blame Muslims for German anti-Semitism obscures how the anti-Semitism on the right comes from the same sources as the violent, reactionary racism that targets Muslims and people from immigrant backgrounds.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist went on a shooting spree in the town of Hanau. He targeted two shisha bars frequented by members of Germany’s Turkish community and other immigrant communities, killing nine people – all with immigrant backgrounds.

This was only the latest in a long string of plots and killings by German neo-Nazis targeting Muslims and immigrants.

Misleading anti-Semitism definition

Although the nationalist right remains the overwhelming source of German anti-Semitism, politicians focus inordinate efforts cracking down on the BDS movement.

Their bogus pretext is that criticizing Israel and calling for accountability for its crimes against Palestinians is the same thing as hating Jews.

This lazy and deceitful equation is inherent in the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that Israel and its lobby have been urging governments and institutions around the world to adopt.

Seven of the 11 “examples” of anti-Semitism attached to the IHRA definition relate to criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology Zionism.

A handbook recently published by the EU to promote this definition contains outright lies that certain Israel-related protests in Europe were motivated by anti-Jewish animus.

That handbook was actually authored by RIAS, an official German body that purports to document anti-Semitism.

Human rights activists and civil libertarians have been pushing back against the IHRA definition, seeing it as a tool not for fighting bigotry but for censoring support for Palestinian rights.

Last week, the academic board of University College London voted to retract the IHRA definition and ask the university to replace it with one that would “safeguard freedom of expression” and “protect academic freedom.”

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books