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Jewish group to be founded in German right wing party

Alexander Gauland, Bernd Baumann and Alice Weidel from German right wing party AfD at a press conference in Berlin, September 11 2018
Bernd von Jutrczenka (dpa/AFP/Archives)

Jewish members of the far-right populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) are planning to launch a Jewish group to counter accusations of anti-Semitism made against the party. The group, to be called jAfD, seeks to represent the voice of German-Jewish critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policies. “This is a fig leaf for AfD’s racism,” lament Jewish groups.

The group, expected to include some 20 “founding members” will be officially launched on October 7 in Offenbach, in the area of Frankfurt. The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) reported that speakers at the event would include Beatrix von Storch, deputy chairmen of the AfD parliamentary group, and Joachim Kuhs, deputy chairman of the group Christians in the AfD.

The Frankfurt-based daily also reported that the man behind the initiative is Dimitri Schulz, a 31-year-old from the nearby city of Wiesbaden. Schulz, a mechanical engineer who came to Germany with his parents from the former Soviet Union at the age of two, joined the AfD in 2014 and is also involved in the internal interest group representing Russian-Germans.

Ahead of the state election in Hesse on 28 October, he campaigned for the AfD by calling the controversial party the only one that equally defends in its platform Christian as well as Jewish values. Schulz also stressed that even though he never concealed his faith, he never experienced anti-Semitic sentiments and always felt that his beliefs were received “very warmly.”

Responding to surprised reactions to the event, spokesperson of the AfD fraction in the State of Hesse, where Offenbach is located, stressed that belonging to the Jewish faith stands in no contradiction to belonging to the party. The spokesman Robert Lambrou also ruled out the existence of anti-Semitic views among party members and assured that new members that would express Jew hatred would be expelled.

The foundation of the group will serve as proof that the claim that AfD approves of or even tolerates anti-Semitism, is a simply a “widespread mistake or biased prejudice,” said Lambrou, who is also scheduled to attend the event.

John MACDOUGALL (AFP/File)

But Jewish groups and community leaders strongly reject the initiative. Germany’s Jewish student union JSUD already announced they intention to demonstrate outside the event under the title “This Alternative isn’t Kosher.”

“It is our duty to show that the absolute majority of Jews in Germany stand firmly against the AfD’s ideology, ideology and methods,” stated the organizers. “The AfD is one of the greatest dangers to Jewish life in Germany and the founding of the JAfD is its attempt to instrumentalize Jews for its own purposes.”

Head of the Jewish community in Offenbach, Alfred Jacoby, has called the project “crazy.” Speaking to the FAZ. He recalled the remarks of party leaders like Alexander Gauland and Björn Höcke, who caused scandal by appearing to belittle the Holocaust, and the failure of AfD leaders to condemn the participation of neo-Nazis in the right-wing demonstration in Chemnitz and Köthen in past weeks.

Some of them performed the illegal Hitler salute. “These people are doing something that is unacceptable to Jews,” Jacoby said.

“The AfD is still a party where anti-Semites feel more than comfortable,” noted Charlotte Knobloch, former chairwoman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany to the daily Bild. She added that she finds the ability of Jews to justify their membership in such a party to themselves to be “completely baffling.”

Also the Jewish-German interest group WerteInitiative made an appeal to those considering joining the AfD: “There are problems in Germany that specifically affect us Jews, but the AfD will not solve them by creating a peaceful coexistence of different cultures, rather by splitting them. Their pattern will be: ‘today them, tomorrow you’.”

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