Photo by Freud (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, Wikimedia Commons)
The Central Council of Jews in Germany has joined the racist cacophony against refugees. Council President Josef Schuster (photo) has called for an Obergrenze (upper limit) for the number of refugees who can claim asylum in Germany. As if constitutional rights like asylum were limited to a maximum number of people: "You have the right to free speech, but only until an 'upper limit' of 5000 free speakers is reached..."
In an interview with the right-wing Springer newspaper Die Welt, Schuster claimed his issue was not with letting more Muslims into the country, but more Arabs, whom he singled out as anti-Semitic: "When I look at the places and countries in Europe where there are the biggest problems, one could come to the conclusion that the main problem is not a religious, but an ethnic one."
That's an amazing claim coming from someone who lives in Germany. As Armin Langer from the Salaam-Schalom-Initiative points out: According to official police statistics, over 95 percent of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany are committed by Germans without a "migration background". Langer concludes: "If someone says that anti-Semitism is mostly a problem amongst Arabs, he's either dumb or has bad advisors – or he's simply a racist."
(These statistics can be confusing, however, as explained in the October issue of Exberliner: police stats on anti-Semitism don't include crimes "related to the Israel-Palestine conflict", which can also include anti-Semitic acts, and watchdog organisations like RIAS consistently count more crimes than the police.)
"Upper limits" for refugees are being pushed by the right-wing demagogues of the CSU and the AfD. Are these the people Schuster wants to be associating with? Germany's "new right" has a very strange relationship to the Jews. As an expression of their opposition to all things Muslim, they will often swear allegiance to a "Judeo-Christian Occident" and carry Israeli flags at Pegida demonstrations. At the same time, they like to talk about how "you-know-who" are secretly controlling the world – and their demonstrations are chock-full of anti-Semites. These are not the best allies.
"Not in our name" was the reponse of almost 100 Jewish people – specifically: "Jews against racism" – who demonstrated in Mitte on Tuesday. One held a sign with a quote from the Torah in Hebrew: "Love your neighbour as yourself". Another sign called on Germany to let in at least "six million refugees". There were several photos of Anne Frank – who, if she'd been granted asylum in the US, might today be an 86-year-old woman.
One speaker at the demonstration told how his grandmother was helped in her escape from occupied Paris by a Syrian student. A second speaker accused Schuster of "chuzpah" for condemning Arabs as homophobes, despite never having spoken up for queer rights himself.
The sad thing, as many people have pointed out, is that the same rhetoric now being used against Syrian refugees – they're political extremists, they have a strange religion, they'll take our jobs, etc. – was used in the US to turn away Jewish refugees from Europe during the Second World War.
Just look at the comments on the demo's Facebook event to see how divided Berlin's Jewish community is: There are endless discussions about whether it's safe to walk through Neukölln with a kippa. There are arguments between Jews born in Germany and more recent immigrants from Israel. But one thing is clear: Many Jewish people don't like their official representatives from the Central Council making racist demands.