German government officials have vowed to clamp down on public anti-Semitic language, responding to recent demonstrations and speeches in which protesters called for death to Jews.
“If anyone uses demonstrations to spread anti-Semitic slogans he will have to bear the consequences of this abuse,” said Frank Henkel, the representative of the Berlin government in charge of the Berlin police, ”The police will act against all anti-Semitic utterances. ”
In recognition of Germany’s historic responsibility for the Holocaust, German law includes anti-hate speech provisions that outlaw public utterances calling for violence against religious or ethnic groups. But Israel’s current military actions in Gaza, which have generated many civilian deaths, have sparked widespread demonstrations in which protesters have called for violence against Jews.
The Berlin police have been criticized for not acting more effectively against such demonstrators. Last Friday, Sheikh Abu Bilal Ismail, speaking at the Al Nur mosque in Berlin, called upon Allah to “destroy the Zionist Jews,” according to a translation of his speech by the pro-Israel group MEMRI. “Count them and kill them to the very last one,” said the sheikh. “Don’t spare a single one of them….Make them suffer terribly.”
The mosque is a Salafist stronghold known for its militant brand of Islam and active in converting Germans.
“Anti-Semitism must never again get a platform in Germany,” declared Minister of Justice Heiko Mass. “We have to do everything to protect Jewish life in Germany. Nobody should feel threatened here.”
According to Annette Kahane, chairperson of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Berlin, a prominent civil society group devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, the open proclamation that Islam is at war against Israel is a new development in the German demonstrations.
Kahane said members of the left wing, right wing extremists, and Hamas frequently unite in these recent demonstrations. She’s voiced concern about the failure of alleged anti-racist groups in Germany to publicly reject Moslem anti-Semitism at the rallies against Israel’s war in Gaza.
Deirdre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, charged in a complaint to the police that the sheikh’s sermon was an incitement to public expressions of hatred, which violates German law. “These kind of utterances have to be prohibited by the police immediately,” she said.
There have also been attempts to attack Jews and abuse pro-Israel demonstrators. Saturday night, an Israeli couple was attacked on the Unter Den Linden Boulevard in Berlin, according to Berlin’s Jewish newspaper, the Judische Allgemeine. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallying nearby noticed the man’s kippah and descended upon the couple, according to the paper. The couple reported that the demonstrators shouted, “Fucking Jew, we’ll get you.”
“If the police did not intervene, they probably would have killed us,” the wife was quoted as saying.
The couple said they had come from Israel to Berlin to get away from the war.
Violent demonstrations are taking place in other German cities. Last week in Bremen, according to the Judische Allgemeine, a Jew was beaten by Muslim youth who shouted, “Jews are fascists.” In the heavily Muslim city of Dortmund, demonstrators marched to the city center with Hamas flags, despite the ban on the public display of such flags in Germany, which considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization.