BERLIN—“The lawmakers have sent a clear signal that they take the concerns of the Jewish community seriously,” said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, after the Budestag, Germany’s parliament, voted Thursday to create the post of anti-Semitism Commissioner.
The Jewish community had long been calling for such a move.
The Commissioner is tasked with being a point of contact for Jewish groups, acting as a middleman for battling discrimination on a federal, state, and local level. They will also coordinate with the government on implementing certain measures to carry this out, which will include ramping up the education and awareness of current and historical forms of anti-Semitism.
The Commissioner will develop and implement a strategy to root out anti-Jewish sentiment and crime as part of a 17-point proposal.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) as well as the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Free Democrats voted in favor of creating the commissioner post. The far-right AfD party backed the proposal, with Germany’s Left party abstaining from the vote.
“The fight against anti-Semitism is a task for all of us,” said Schuster.
He said it is important to combat the problem “whether it comes from the middle of society, from right-wing extremists, or Muslims and Israel-haters.” He included the anti-Israel boycott movement, BDS, in the list of anti-Semitic movements to be fought, and said it was time that integration courses for new immigrants intensify their efforts to root out anti-Semitic attitudes.
“But we explicitly reject a general suspicion against Muslims or even an instrumentalization of the topic in order to exclude this religious minority,” he said.
The CDU’s parliamentary group leader, Volker Kauder, said that Germany had to show decisive action against anti-Semitism as it was in Germany’s national interest.
He said it was “shameful” that Jewish institutions had to be protected by police and that Jews were often afraid to go out and openly identify as Jewish.
“That’s something we can’t tolerate in our country,” he added.
Social Democrat (SPD) parliamentarian Kerstin Griese said it was extremely troubling that the word “Jude” (“Jew”) was among the words most commonly used as insults in German schoolyards. She added that it was important to oppose all kinds of anti-Semitism, with Germany carrying a special responsibility.
In her speech, the AfD’s Beatrix von Storch claimed that Muslims living in Germany were the main exponents of anti-Semitism, and called for systematic deportations, “including the imams who have long been preaching hate.”
The legislation that creates the post of Commissioner notes that Germany has a “special responsibility” to fight anti-Semitism due to the Holocaust, which saw the murder of 6 million Jews during the Third Reich.
In Germany today, anti-Semitism still emanates primarily from the far-right fringe of society. It has worsened with the arrival of one million immigrants from the Arab world, who, in the main, refuse to acknowledge Israel and its right to exist.
That sentiment was on display when Israeli flags were burned in Berlin and other cities around Germany in protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. ‘’More than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, to see such images coming from Germany was simply intolerable,’’ writes Jen Thureau of Deutsche Welle. The burning of Israeli flags has brought the issue of anti-Semitism to the fore again.
He adds: ‘’Burning flags are not the only problem. Jewish citizens in Germany have reported that they are increasingly wary about publicly displaying symbols of their Jewish identity, such as Stars of David. And that is exactly why it is high time and fully appropriate for politicians to send a signal.’’