‘Maieutics” is a wonderfully phonetic term, which Socrates simplified by comparing to the activities of a midwife. It describes a form of didactic dialogue that helps the vis-à-vis to reach an understanding over a certain matter with the help of targeted questions – just like the midwife helps a mother to give birth.
So I am practicing maieutics today, and I’m asking: What went wrong? What went so wrong that in 2012 a Jew is beaten almost unconscious in the streets of Berlin, and his assailants threaten to kill his 6-year old daughter? And this a mere week after a black man was brutally attacked in Munich.
What went so wrong that neo-Nazis freely terrorize foreigners in the eastern German town of Geithain?
What went so wrong that I, as an Israeli, as a Jew, not long ago had to be evacuated from the town of Zwickau, because a brown mob waited for me outside following my lecture?
You say these are isolated incidents? That similar things happen in France? I say: True. These are isolated incidents, and in Toulouse, too, Jewish kids face the threat of being shot due to their beliefs.
So, being “isolated,” do these incidents, in the context of a clear statistical trend in Germany, depict a bright red alarm sign that can be colored pink or talked away? Should we pretend that anti-Semitism in Germany is not even more unbearable than anywhere else in the world — and should not be allowed to bloom or even germinate?
Of course not. Quite the contrary.
Whether due to radical Muslims or neo-Nazis, the day on which Jews in Germany hide their identity out of fear of attacks is a black day.
Fear is a key word. It seems to be the Germans’ biggest enemy. How else can one explain the fact that the ever-more-visible radicalization of Germany’s Muslim youth is met with silence? That thousands of young Muslims in Germany are exposed to the maddest anti-Semitic incitement every day via Iranian, Turkish and Arab satellite TV in their living rooms in Berlin, Munich or Hamburg?
Out of fear of terror attacks? Out of fear of appearing anti-Muslim or anti- foreigners?
How else do you explain that so many of these youngsters finish school without having heard the word “Auschwitz” even once, out of their teachers’ fear of provoking them?
How else can you explain that attacks against Jews in Germany are perceived as less terrible when the perpetrators are “allegedly Arabs” — as was the case in Berlin last week?
Is it because they “have their reasons to hate Jews” when you see what’s happening in the Middle East?
Pretty absurd, isn’t it? But that’s the reality. A number of studies in recent years have shown exactly this surreal trend: the tacit acceptance of anti-Semitism when it originates in the Muslim world — probably because the attackers’ “argumentation” in favor of the attacks is palatable. After all, according to a 2011 study on anti-Semitism ordered by the Bundestag, almost 40% of Germans think it legitimate to dislike Jews due to Israel’s policies.
Just as surreal as the acceptance by the responsible authorities of the neo-Nazi murders of dark-skinned foreigners over the course of 10 years, with the well known refrain of “we didn’t know” (that these were acts of radical rightist terror).
Just as surreal as the police reaction at times of imminent threats by radical rightists. They arrive at the scence only after something has happened. Otherwise they instruct the caller to kindly refer the belligerent attackers to the house rules, and to avoid provoking them. Long live German politeness. Long live bureaucracy.
Enough maieutics. Socrates’ philosophic genius is powerless in the face of of the challenges that Germany’s government — and even more so its people — faces. The treatment of a creeping, often politically bleached, anti-Semitism in society. The treatment of an ever-growing group of young Muslims who hate the West as much as they hate Jews.
This is certain: The population will have to show a broad and conscious readiness for civil courage, for solidarity, and for an unconditional fight against anti-Semitism. Instead of Jews hiding their kippot following this attack, non-Jews should flood the streets of Berlin wearing kippot to signal what they think of hatred and extremism.
And instead of teaching the Jewish youth in Germany tricks to hide their identity as the first voices within the communities indicated (e.g. baseball cap on top of kippa), they must be taught to defend themselves. Krav Maga is one of Israel’s most brilliant inventions, and today’s sine qua non of self-defence. With kippa, Krav Maga, and an overdue wave of solidarity and action by Germany’s political establishment and society, that black day will hopefully disappear on the horizon of the unthinkable.
PS: The Star of David that hung around my neck throughout my youth in Munich in spite of my grandmothers’ worries is now back in its old place, and shall not yield again so quickly.