As I write these lines in Jerusalem, Yom Kippur has just come to an end. The news has just reached us here that during the holiday, a synagogue was attacked in the German city of Halle, and that two people have been killed.
According to the media reports, the assailant, a neo-Nazi, attempted to force his way into a synagogue to massacre those inside. At the time of writing, no further details are known. But while much about the attack remains unclear, one thing is certain: this crime occurred in the country with the greatest obligation of any in the world to eradicate anti-Semitism.
Germany, the country that did its best to exterminate the Jewish people, promised in the 1950s to devote its energies to healing this terrible wound — a promise reaffirmed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And yet in recent years it has stood by as hatred against Jews and Israel has risen once again. In the first months of this year alone, there were 400 anti-Semitic incidents in Germany.
Germany’s fatal rendezvous on Wednesday was made possible by the 77% of Germans that think it’s appropriate to forget the country’s crimes. That forgetfulness is what has allowed supremacist Nazi ideology to be resurrected. It is also what has made possible the importation into the country, along with a vast multitude of Islamic immigrants, of well-organized, but willfully ignored, Jew-hatred. Ironically, Germany has done this to demonstrate its spirit of generosity, tolerance and brotherhood.
See how a paradox determines the destiny of a nation that believes itself to be the mother of philosophical logic.
Felix Klein, the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, published an article this past May stating that he was “extremely alarmed by the rise of anti-Jewish hatred in Germany.” Yet his government votes — always, no exceptions — against Israel, both at the United Nations and European Union.
In addition, Germany suspends diplomatic relations with Israel whenever Israel’s policies towards “the territories” are not in line with Germany’s wishes. This last happened in 2017, with Germany asserting the right to judge Israel’s security policy and publicly condemning the Jewish state, harshly criticizing its supposed moral shortcomings and making continuous references to “proportionality.”
Worse still, it has allowed public displays of homicidal hatred, such as a demonstration on the streets of Berlin (inconceivable!) organized by the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization Hezbollah where “Death to Israel!” and “Death to the Jews!” were shouted.
Klein has said that “sometimes hatred of Jews is based on a radical right-wing vision and at other [times] it emanates from Muslim hatred,” and also that it “often originates in left-wing ideology characterized by an apparent global humanism. But each time the image of the enemy that comes out is the same: the Jew.”
Fifty percent of immigrants to Germany, according to a study conducted in Bavaria, think Jews have too much influence in the world — and so do between 15% and 25% of Germans. This in the country responsible for the Shoah, in which two million Jewish children were murdered.
Germany has allowed anti-Semitism to flourish everywhere: in its cities, schools, throughout its mass media, in politics, in its streets and institutions, as well as in the suburbs where immigrants live. This shameful, ancient hatred is being nourished by ideologies Germany should have to be the first to identify and fight.
The German Bundestag took a very positive step in condemning the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, yet it has not done nearly enough.
The rising tide of hate is driving the German ship of state toward a fatal meeting with the past. It will take hard work, attentiveness and a great deal more honesty, as well as less rhetoric, to seriously address the issue.
And not only in Germany. As this Yom Kippur ends and Jews in Israel and abroad return home from their respective synagogues, the world has a duty to protect them — in deed and not just in word — as their nation-state, the collective Jew, is cruelly besieged, attacked and accused of made-up crimes. pjc
Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she is currently a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. This piece originally appeared on JNS.org.