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Anti-Semitism attacks in Berlin highest in Germany, new crime statistics show

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech at a rally against anti-Semitism near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Thousands of protesters attended the public rally organized by Germany’s Jewish community at the capital’s Br
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
President of Germany's Central Council of Jews called the new crime statistics 'disturbing but not surprising'

The city best known for its multicultural society and spirit of acceptance is also the German capital of anti-Semitism, new crime statistics reveal.

Preliminary data released by German police shows that more anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Berlin in the first half of 2018 than in any other German city. The majority of perpetrators – right-wing extremists.

Nearly 20% of the 401 cases registered in Germany took place in Berlin. According to a report by the local newspaper Tagesspiegel, authorities have recorded 80 incidents defined as “politically motivated crimes with an anti-Semitic background,” from January until June. Four of those incidents were violent attacks.

In comparison, only 43 such incidents were registered in the entire state of Bavaria – almost half than their number in Berlin.

The data was gathered in response to an inquiry by Vice President of the German parliament Petra Pau. In 62 cases, the perpetrators were described as right-wing extremists and in eight cases, the suspects were deemed acting based on a “foreign ideology” – which often refers to attacks by individuals with foreign roots that target people they believe to be Jews out of hatred for Israel.

This was the case for Adam Armush, a 21-year-old Arab-Israeli who was beaten with a belt on the streets of Berlin after stepping outside wearing a kippa. Armush filmed the attacker, a 19-year-old Syrian-Palestinian, hitting him and shouting “Yahudi” (Jew in Arabic). He was sentenced to four weeks in prison.

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The police data also showed that in three cases, the background for the attack was described as “religious ideology,” likely committed by Islamists, and three other incidents were attributed to far-left activists. In four cases, the background remained unclear. In total, 23 suspects were arrested in these cases.

In all of Germany, the number of incidents with an anti-Semitic background in the first half of 2018 was estimated at 401, of which 349 were attributed to neo-Nazis and other far-right groups. In general, far-right extremists were responsible for at least 7,693 incidents, of which 374 were violent and hurt at least 201 people.

German police however warned that number will likely increase, as people tend to report such crimes with some delay. Last year, police in Berlin initially registered 67 anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2017 and 48 incidents in the second half, but after accounting for belated reports the total number of incidents reached 288 – more than double the original figure.

Some attribute the difference between Berlin and other German cities to the higher number of Jews and Israelis living in the German capital, as well as the higher concentration of migrants from Muslim countries. Others argue that incidents that take place in Berlin are simply more likely to be reported.

Berlin’s police officers work more closely with Jewish groups and are better at recognizing and responding to anti-Semitism, suggested Sigmount A. Königsberg from the Jewish Community of Berlin, speaking to German broadcaster DW. However, Jews living in the capital also face increased risk, as various social movements and extremist groups are more active in Berlin than in other parts of Germany, he said.

While the data indicates that far-right groups are the main source of danger, Königsberg and other community representatives believe the number of perpetrators of Muslim origin is higher than reported.

"I hear from the Jewish communities that their subjective perception of the threat posed by Muslim anti-Semitism is greater than the crime statistics shows," stated the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein. Whenever the motive for an attack is unclear, he also noted, it is automatically attributed to the far-right.

President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster called the new crime statistics “disturbing but not surprising,” since it reflects the concerns voiced by Jewish community leaders over the past months.

“This development requires consistent action by politicians and authorities, as well as a general willingness of society to oppose anti-Semitism,” he stated. He called upon authorities to facilitate the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents and to intensify measures to control and prevent anti-Semitism.

Polina Garaev is the i24NEWS correspondent in Germany.

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