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Is German anti-Semitism a problem of the past, or a consequence of mass immigration?

Is German anti-Semitism a problem of the past, or a consequence of mass immigration?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that every synagogue in Germany should have police protection, as the country tackles a rise in anti-Semitism. Is the problem a specter of the past, or a consequence of mass immigration?

“We have always had a certain number of anti-Semites among us,” Merkel told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview aired on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, there is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single day care center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen.”

Also on rt.com Police should guard every synagogue, Jewish school & daycare in Germany – Merkel

Anti-Semitic incidents rose nearly 20 percent between 2017 and 2018, with the number of physical attacks recorded almost doubling, according to interior ministry figures. Meanwhile, the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein told local media over the weekend that he “can’t recommend Jews to wear kippahs anywhere at any time in Germany,” earning him a rebuke from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for “capitulation to anti-Semitism.”

Merkel and Klein are overstating the problem, Peter Schulze, professor of International Relations at University of Gottingen, told RT.

“I don’t think there is a safety crisis for Jews in Germany,” he said. While Schulze acknowledged a “reawakening of prejudices,” the professor said rising alarm around the issue is a result of how the “population and maybe the policymakers have become more alert and more sensitive to these issues.”

Still, a rise in attacks has been documented, and more and more Jews in Germany and across Europe feel that “nothing is being done” to combat anti-Semitism, according to an EU survey carried out last year.

Who’s responsible?

Merkel told Amanpour that her country needs to learn from its Nazi past to overcome anti-Semitism. Schulze too argued that the rise in anti-Jewish hate can be attributed to the growth of “patriotic and nationalist” sentiment in Germany and across Europe, as well as scapegoating given the widening gap between rich and poor on the continent.

However, many observers have blamed Merkel herself for unknowingly stoking the problem, by welcoming more than a million Middle Eastern and North African migrants into the country in 2015.

“A considerable number of migrants from the Near East or northern Africa, of course a minority, have anti-Semitic feelings, and take part in or initiate, or at least tolerate anti-Semitic actions or communications,” Dr. Werner Patzelt, political science head at Dresden University of Technology, told RT. Steeped in a culture of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel thought, more than a few of these migrants brought religious conflict to the streets of Germany, Patzelt claimed.

Also on rt.com German Jews demand extra integration classes for Muslim migrants to avoid anti-Semitism attacks

A string of incidents since Merkel announced her ‘open door’ policy revealed the extent of the problem. Last year’s attacks included a Syrian migrant beating a Jewish man with a belt in Berlin while shouting “Jew” in Arabic; a group of migrants throwing firecrackers at an Israeli journalist reporting in Hebrew; and a young man brutally beaten in a Berlin park by attackers hurling anti-Semitic slurs.

“Growing anti-Semitism due to immigration of people from the Muslim world was a side effect of this mass immigration,” Patzelt stated. “Unseen, unnoticed for a long while, unwelcome, but nevertheless existing, and we have to deal with it.”

“We have a security problem now on our streets,” Schulze added, noting that some migrants often “bring the baggage of such ideologies with them to Germany.”

What about the right?

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has blamed the rise in anti-Semitic attacks on right-wing extremists. “There is still a layer of more or less latent anti-Semitism in the German population,” Patzelt agreed, saying that this rising hatred since the 19th Century eventually led to the Holocaust, a “uniquely German phenomenon.”

Also on rt.com German shock rockers Rammstein spark outrage with Nazi camp video teaser

However, the right-wing in Germany today is not the right-wing of the 1930s and 40s, Schulze pointed out. While the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party may harbor some extremists, the professor stated that these extremists have “never played a relevant part” in German politics, and the AfD is at its core a “conservative middle-class party.”

Moreover, Patzelt claimed that voters who support the AfD’s anti-immigration message are not necessarily in majority anti-Semites.

“Immigration is welcomed in particular by leftist people, whereas right-wing people usually are skeptical of immigration,” he said. “Anti-Semitic feelings in the traditional way are cultivated among right-wing people. Anti-Israel feelings however are cultivated also among left-wing people. So being against immigration does not automatically mean to be anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.”

A European problem?

Germany is not the only country grappling with a surge in hate crimes against Jews. In France, the government has shut down a number of organizations accused of promoting jihad and anti-Jewish hate, in response to a 74 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 on the previous year. Alongside the jihadist hate, Jewish graveyards and storefronts have been vandalized with Nazi symbols.

There, like in Germany, debate has risen over the source of the upsurge. Some commentators have blamed anti-government ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters, while others have blamed France’s sizable North African population, particularly in marginalized communities on the outskirts of major cities.

“In France I think because of the enormous wave of immigrants in the 1950s and 60s we have a real problem in the marginal areas around the big cities,” Schulze told RT. “In Holland and Belgium I think the problem is totally under control.”

Regardless of the source, a growing number of European Jews are considering emigrating to Israel. Of 13 EU countries, German, French, and Belgian Jews are most likely to pack up and make the move, the EU survey last year revealed.

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