Ahead of election, German Jews set forth policy demands for societal integration
With Germany's federal election approaching and the future of multiculturalism seemingly hanging in the balance, German Jews are raising their voices and making it clear to politicians what kind of society they expect them to foster.
“Our society is now fragmented, and Germans Jews are scared to be caught between right-wing extremists, left-wingers that are getting more aggressive, and Islamists who try to gain political influence,” tells Elio Adler, initiator of the first-of-a-kind Jewish position paper that presents politicians with policy demands from Jewish community members and its supporters.
The Values Initiative's position paper – the brainchild of independent citizens developed through a weeks-long collaborative writing process – contains eight policy points, among them the appeal for a strong commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, support for the state of Israel, and a more fierce opposition to political Islam.
“Organizations, associations and mosques that do not unconditionally support democracy and human rights should be prohibited, closed, and if necessary prosecuted,” the document urges. It also calls on politicians to counter the influence of foreign governments on German institutions, and to sanction, or possibly even deport, individuals that do not accept the country's “guiding culture.”
All of Germany's established parties – including the anti-migrant populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) – are now expected to submit a written reply to each demand. Their answers will serve Jewish and concerned non-Jewish voters as they form their opinions ahead of the election.
But the initiative is more than just a voter's compass, insists Adler. “In a way, we are showing how integration works, as Jews who are integrated but not assimilated. And it relates to the discussion we are having with other groups in Germany that want to keep their identity. What's the problem? Look at us.”
“For the first time we raise our voice as German citizens, not as Jews,” agrees Michal L., one of the document's first signatories. “It shows how much Jewish people are integrated in this society and how much they appreciate this country – and want to participate so that it stays as beautiful as it is.”
The need to get active became clear in 2014, say the initiators, when anti-Israel protesters filled the streets in cities across Germany in opposition to operation Israel's Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, shouting anti-Semitic slogans like “Jews to the gas.”
The government mishandled the situation then, they believe, and now it continues to overlook unsettling behavior among conservative Muslim organizations in an attempt to bridge gaps with the groups, which behind closed doors still preach hate and undermine the rule of law.
Officials are paralyzed by the fear to appear resist, claim the initiators, which prevents them from setting clear limits in regard to foreigners and outside cultures.
“Because of their history, Germans don't feel they have the right to defend their values,” states Michal, “but we want to encourage them to acknowledge those values and to embrace them. We say to politicians, if you won't articulate your concerns, the right will and they will get the votes.”
The AfD already praised the Values Initiative on social media as a “welcomed effort,” while patting itself on the back at the same time: “Our party is probably the only one in Germany to regularly point out the existing problems since 2014 and to urge they should be dealt with, when all other political forces avoided the issues,” claimed the party in its Facebook post.
Adler says he received many reactions from AfD supporters, “thanking us for saying this and telling how great it is. Our answer was, 'Why? We want kosher slaughter of animals, circumcision, Germany in a thriving EU – all the things you oppose.' But they cherry-picked the parts that serve their purposes.”
The AfD often attempts to utilize Jews in support of their anti-Islamic ideology, but is left disappointed by the little “gratitude” it gets, notes Adler. “They try to claim we have the same thesis, but they are wrong: We have a completely different view of people than the AfD's. They use religion to de-integrate people that are different, whereas we are offering a way to integrate them by accepting the same values. They will not get any applause from us for being anti-Muslim.”
Polina Garaev is i24NEWS' correspondent in Germany.
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