Far-right Afd launches the ‘non-Kosher alternative for German Jews’
Frank Rumpenhorst (dpa/AFP)
Outside the launch event of the Jews in AfD (JAfD), a Jewish faction of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, stands a table with German pretzels, Israeli hummus and ham and cheese sandwiches. The group blamed for offering a kosher seal to a party often accused of anti-Semitism provides a curious case.
The AfD has been repeatedly accused of belittling the Holocaust and harboring anti-Semites. So, the news of certain members organizing themselves into an internal interest group on Sunday, nicknamed JAfD, was received with surprise in Germany.
“Just because we are Jewish, doesn’t mean we have to be pro-refugees and migration,” insists the JAfD co-initiator and now newly-elected Vice President Artur Abramovych, at a press conference Sunday. He, like others in the room, wore a kippah [a Jewish skullcap] for the occasion, “to be more easily recognized by journalists,” he later explained.
Germans like to reduce the Jewish heritage to a history of exile and suffering but that is false, he told i24NEWS.
“The comparison between the Jewish refugees of the past and the Muslim migrants that came to Germany illegally should be an insult to Jews,” Abramovych said. “We haven’t had analphabets among us since the 19th century and among the refugees that came from the former Soviet Union, like my family, almost all were academics.”
Abramovych came to Germany from the Ukraine when he was two years old. The JAfD’s new president Vera Kosova also immigrated to Germany, from Uzbekistan at aged 15. Despite the fact that the majority of Jews in Germany have their roots in the former Soviet Union, JAfD leaders stress that among their 25 members, most are non-Russian speakers .
“We are the address for anyone who has cultural and religious Jewish roots and searches for a politically conservative camp,” explained Kosova after the press conference. “We want to give a voice to our politically conservative members and represent them inside the party and outside, especially in political topics of relevance to Jews.”
Neither of them sees any contradiction between Jewish values and the AfD party platform. “I grew up in a time when a destruction of German society was in full swing and German contempt to all things traditional always felt foreign to me,” recalled Abramovych. “The synagogue offered me something unlike anything I experienced elsewhere – and so did the AfD.”
To join the JAfD, one needs to prove that he belongs to the Jewish community. How? That remains to be seen. “Simply having a Jewish grandfather isn’t enough,” noted the members, while at the same time stressing that “we are not Rabbis, we won’t follow religious law.”
Also, the list of topics that the group plans to tackle is still being compiled. Muslim anti-Semitism and ties with Israel are among those being considered. The one thing they promise to do is call out fellow party members on problematic statements.
“Some people want to throw out these people – I think it’s enough to make sure that the majority opposes these people,” added another member, Bernhard Krauskopf. “I don’t believe these people would ever be able to convince the AfD to become a Nazi party.”
The notion that the AfD is a party full of anti-Semites is the result of the slanted press coverage by the German press, insists the group’s other Vice President Wolfgang Fuhl. “All parties have anti-Semites among them, from the left and the right. Five to ten percent of Germans are anti-Semitic. But these people in the AfD are isolated and restricted. The party is doing plenty to fight anti-Semitism.”
In some things, he supports the statements of his controversial party mates. “The German memory culture must change, this is what is causing those 5-10% to be anti-Semitic,” argues Fuhl. “They are socialized to become anti-Semites and this is the result of the education policy of the old parties. So we need have to chance something in how we address this issue, otherwise it will get even worse.”
Jewish organizations in Germany don’t share this view. During the launch event, several groups held a protest in Frankfurt, calling the JAfD a “non-kosher alternative” for German Jews. “If Jews would depend on the AfD as a guarantor of Jewish life in Germany, this would put us in a bad situation,” a joint statement read.
The AfD’s policy towards Jews is “Juden Raus,” which translates as getting the Jews out of Germany. “This small group of supposedly Jewish people is not able to handle this issue the way it's supposed to be handled,” prominent Jewish leader in Germany Charlotte Knobloch explained, “it's up to politicians, those in charge. This misleads people and leads to them being used by this party.”
On Sunday, JAfD members lamented the Jewish community’s refusal to give them a chance. “They discredit us before even hearing what we have to say and that is dishonest. Wait till you see what we do. Their reaction is unjewish,” said Fuhl.
“We do not need to wait and see what JAfD is doing, because they already decided to be members of an anti-Semitic, racist, populist group,” President of the German Jewish Student Union Dalia Grinfeld said. “If Jews join the AfD in banning circumcision and kosher slaughter and denying the holocaust - it's not a question of what they will do, but how much damage it will cause the vast majority of Jews in Germany.”
But leaders of the JAfD insist that not only the Jewish community would benefit from a stronger AfD, Israel would also,
“Our position [regarding Israel] is clear: We want a dialogue, we want an exchange, we want to emphasis what we have in common, and we have a lot in common,” AfD front-woman Beatrix von Storch told i24NEWS. “That is why this group is especially important.”
“Merkel may talk the talk, but she sends money to Israel’s enemies and refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” Krauskopf said.
“After the US, Merkel no longer has any accuses not to do it, and if she can and she refuses, then to me this anti-Semitism. It doesn’t matter how nice she is, in the end, her policies are those of a Jew hater.”
Polina Garaev is the i24NEWS correspondent in Germany
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Jewish in Germany. You better get out of there while you can. Have you not learned from the past? History will repeat itself I'm afraid.