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German Parliament Passes Anti-Semitism Measure

The German Bundestag today approved a resolution vowing to combat anti-Semitism and support Jewish life in Germany, and to deepen the country’s special relationship with Israel.

The resolution, which passed by an overwhelming margin in a voice vote during a poorly attended session, signaled the government’s recognition of anti-Semitism’s continued existence in the country responsible for the Holocaust.

According to a government-sponsored study presented to the Bundestag in January 2012, 20% of Germans harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

The most active anti-Semites come from the extreme right, according to the resolution. While noting that Muslim members of Hamas and Hezbollah foment anti-Semitism through attacks on Israel that go well beyond legitimate criticism, the resolution fails to recommend initiatives to combat Muslim extremists.

The resolution, which specifically condemns Israel-related anti-Semitism, stresses the critical importance of education in counteracting prejudice against Jews. It calls for better education in schools and other institutions, including improved teaching about the Holocaust, expansion of existing curricula on Jewish life and German-Jewish relations, and expanded cooperation with Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, a volunteer organization that gives support to Holocaust survivors.

“Education, education,” emphasized Bundestag member Gitta Connemann, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s majority party, during the floor debate that preceded the vote. Speaking with firm conviction, she said that German children must not just learn about the dead, but must also learn about all aspects Jewish life in Germany today

Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, hailed the resolution as “a welcome public acknowledgement of the importance of fighting anti-Semitism in all forms, including anti-Zionism.”

Berger, whom several of the lawmakers thanked for her role in shaping the resolution, stressed that it remained for the government to now implement the educational measures it outlined, including programs on Jewish life, Jewish history and Holocaust education.

According to Berger, the resolution sets up a framework of annual reporting by the government to the parliament on measures to combat anti-Semitism, which, she said, will mean “more government accountability” on the implementation of those measures.

Skeptics praised the resolution’s goals, but did not see it as an action plan.

“I am not particularly optimistic,” said Emmanuel Nahshon, Israel’s deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Berlin, when asked his view of the resolution’s potential to have an immediate impact.

Gert Weisskirchen, a 68-year-old retired Bundestag member and tireless opponent of anti-Semitism, also doubted the effectiveness of the measure.

“The words are meaningful,” he said. “But the deeds are not impressive.”

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