GERMAN BRIEF: SOCIETY
Extremist politics at
the root of anti-Semitism
June 2023: The number of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany remained at a high level last year. While the overall number of incidents fell slightly compared to 2021, there were more cases of extreme violence. The Jewish community also faced increased hostility on social media and through mass electronic mailings. The organisation tasked with recording anti-Semitic incidents in Germany wrote in its annual report that many of the attacks were carried out by Islamists and right-wing perpetrators. Many antisemitic incidents occur in everyday situations, especially for affected Jews, for example, while shopping, on public transport or in educational and cultural institutions.
The Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism (RIAS) documented 2,480 anti-Semitic incidents in 2022, compared to 2,738 the year before. With nine acts, the cases of extreme anti-Semitic violence reached a new high. This is the highest number of such cases since the start of nationwide recording in 2017. For example, the former rabbi's house of the Old Synagogue in Essen was shot at in November 2022. German authorities are investigating whether the shooting and two other cases of extreme violence in North Rhine-Westphalia were carried out in cooperation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
In 2022, incidents in the arts and culture sector were particularly noticeable. This was noted by the German government's anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein. As an example, he cited Kassel’s Documenta 15, where an anti-Semitic image caused controversy. "It was not the only cultural event that hid anti-Semitism under the guise of artistic freedom." This year, he said, it was the concert tour of British musician Roger Waters, who had been criticised for his alleged anti-Semitic attitudes.
Despite much criticism, his concerts went nevertheless ahead. The Bavarian state government had called for a boycott of the concert in Munich. "Five years ago,” a spokesman said, “the former Pink Floyd bassist already performed with balloons in the shape of a pig's head, with the Jewish star on them. Surprisingly, there was no outcry then. Perhaps it could be argued that the many debates this year indicate some kind of progress.”
But more sensitivity is also needed in other areas, such as German rap. The anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudices included in many songs are frightening, particularly considering that they are aimed at young fans.
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany: 2020 to 2022
Cases of extreme violence, often involving weapons
Threats against persons
Damage to property
Threats on social media and by other electronic means
Antisemitism is a global desease. According to a report published by the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation, there was a peak in anti-Semitic acts around the world in 2021, at more than 10 incidents per day. Roughly 50 per cent of those acts were committed in Europe, and around 30 per cent in the United States.
The most-commonly recorded anti-Semitic acts were vandalism, wrecking, graffitiing, desecration of graves and propaganda. Physical and verbal aggression accounted for one third of the acts reported. The number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories expounded on social media has also increased, and anti-Semitic symbols have also been used in demonstrations against restrictive health measures. One of the main reasons for the increase in these acts was the war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, which triggered a wave of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli demonstrations, and which degenerated into serious attacks against Jews in that region and beyond.
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