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Anti-Semitism is pushed aside in the upcoming German election campaign

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With key issues like immigration, the future of the EU and even “dieselgate” at stake, Israel and the fight against anti-Semitism are being pushed aside as topics in the German election campaign. For everyone except the 200,000 German Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is unfortunately not a topic in this election,” laments Levi Salomon, Director of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and against anti-Semitism (JFDA), told i24NEWS. “We wish that it would be, but the relevant topics for society are unemployment, pensions or the refugee crisis. The Jewish minority is simply too small.”

The influx of migrants from countries where hatred of Jews is widespread is also a major concern for the Jewish community. “One big issue is how are we going to deal with their cultural background, their anti-Semitic background that they are bringing with them,” added Mirjam Rosenstein, Chairwoman of the lobby group Middle East Peace Forum (NAFFO). “We'll have to see how the government deals with that.”

Also among the worrisome issues are the tensions between Berlin and Jerusalem, the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) movement and the weakening of Holocaust remembrance. Evidence of the latter can even be found in the vote compass produced by the state-funded Federal Agency for Civic Education, which for the first time included the question: Should the genocide of the European Jews continue to be a central part of the German memory culture?

Amit Edelman

Trying to convey these concerns to politicians, a group of local Jews drafted a first-of-a-kind position paper and asked all parties to respond. The policy demands included a strong commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, support for the State of Israel, and a stronger opposition to political Islam. Not surprisingly, all the reactions were positive.

“There is a big difference between what the parties express as their political goal, and what reality shows us,” stressed Elio Adler, the initiative's founder. “We have to understand that the Jewish people in Germany are really concerned, they really worry about the question, ‘is there a Jewish future here or not?’"

Merkel’s rival Martin Schulz on the other hand remains an unknown quantity. His remarks as president of the European Parliament, especially when praising Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after he claimed during a speech at the European Parliament that Israeli rabbis called on the government to poison Palestinian water, raising concerns.

The worries were not eased by his comment during a televised debate with Merkel three weeks before the election, acknowledging the “deeply rooted anti-Semitism” of Palestinian migrants to Germany. “To them we must clearly say: 'in this country you only have a place when you accept that Germany is a country that defends Israel,'” he stressed.

“It seems that the SPD and Schulz realized that that they need to voice a clear opinion against anti-Semitism and for Israel, but I don't trust that it really came from the heart,” admitted Rosenstein.

“It's an open question whether his attitudes will change, either as chancellor, or more probably as minister in the next government,” agreed Berger. “We just don't know but there are certainly questions about it.”

The Jewish organizations are currently drafting a petition, calling on whoever forms the next German government, to include in the coalition agreements not only a pledge to support Israel, but also to appoint a special commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism and to ban Hezbollah and PFLP activities in Germany.

Polina Garaev

“With Schulz in the coalition, the chances of this happening will probably be different, but I'm still hopeful,” noted Rosenstein.

A win for Schulz's Social Democrats will not necessarily intensify German critique against Israel, for example, in regards to the settlements.

“This criticism grew even under the current Christian Democratic government of Chancellor Merkel, so whether a Social Democratic-led government would be even harsher in its language, we don't know,” Berger said, refusing to speculate.

“What we do know is that this is increasingly becoming a point of tension between the German and Israeli governments and we don't think this will disappear anytime soon.”

But the real question to ask is not who among the chancellor candidates would be better for the Jews, argued Salomon, stressing that “also Merkel is just one person.”

“They both speak out against anti-Semitism, but it's not about the statements of a single person. It is about the atmosphere in society.”

Therefore, what is perhaps even more worrisome than who will be the next chancellor, is how strong the right wing populists will be, not the leaders.

Surely entering German parliament for the first time, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party’s promises to defend Israel and Jewish life in Germany are mostly met with disbelief from Jewish organizations. One who defends anti-Semites in his midst, they say, cannot be any friend of ours.



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