Germany’s Fatal Blind Spot

The German Bundestag recently passed a law saying, that non-citizens convicted of antisemitic crimes won’t be able to apply for German citizenship. This push, initiated by CDU member Mathias Middelberg, is a desperate piece of tokenism that tries to create an image of Germany to be a philosemitic haven while it turns a blind eye on the deep roots, structures and traditions of Antisemitism in Germany.

This law tries to meet the antisemitic riots in Germany following the immense and explosive violence in Israel and Palestine in May 2021 but fails to meet the general problem at all. Following the idea of the law, Antisemitism is a problem created mostly by migrants from the Middle East, imagining an internalised Antisemitism qua culture. The Berlin based research and information service on Antisemitism (RIAS) thus counts 22 incidents of such a nature on a thousand in sum for 2020. This makes foreign antisemitic crimes a two percent problem in relation to 98 percent “home made” Antisemitism. And at the same time the Bundestag tries to advance criminalization of already marginalised groups, more and more police offices are accused of being actually solid right-wing, neonazistic groups and several special units of police and army are dismantled for sharing right-wing propaganda and hoarding ammunition and guns. The german daily newspaper taz revealed, that even the Bundestag’s own police office houses right-wing individuals and groups.

And at the same time, the Bundestag passed this law, an unknown individual covered in a Ku Klux Klan costume shot at a group of eco-demonstrators at a small-town’s train station with an Airgun. At the same time, the Bundestag passed this law, a Jewish couple in my hometown decided to leave this place due to antisemitic violence of its German neighbor. And at the same time, the Bundestag passed this law, Neo-Nazi groups and publishers can publicly display their worship of the 3rd Reich and spread antisemitic propaganda and being even partly protected by intelligence agencies as they did during the NSU crisis.

The same Bundestag criminalizes refugees and volunteers trying to help them and makes business with regimes violating fundamental human rights like Libya or Iran or promote Antisemitism (as for example Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban). Actually, German law is already equipped with enough means to challenge antisemitic or racist violence, but it fails to apply such laws due to a blind eye on its own massive and structural issues regarding Antisemitism and racism. With its BDS resolution from 2020 it even has a tool to criminalize and silence critical Jewish voices as it did with the Berlin based School for Unlearning Zionism, for instance. For now, the new law is based on the IHRA definition of Antisemitism which leads to the possibility of accusing even Jews of Antisemitism for criticizing Israel’s policy. Now imagine the riddiculous situation of a Jew who is not allowed to reside in Germany or to apply for citizenship. In its attempt to fight Antisemitism, the Bundestag becomes racist and antisemitic itself.

What is happening here is the German neurosis of claiming the interpretational sovereignty on Antisemitism to cover its own antisemitic and disastrous heritage. This pharisaic overeagerness thus let others pay the price for a genuine German and European problem. For sure, there is a necessity to meet foreign Antisemitism and a need to discuss migrant struggles in the context of German law and society, but it does not appear as a proper solution to exclude such individuals instead of embracing their issues, especially on a continent, which claims to be a haven of human rights and intellectual openness. Even former Neo-Nazis is given a second chance and many of them make a proper living of publishing books and appearing as many frequented experts on right-wing extremism.

Thus, this law is a weak and useless token, rather pleasing one’s own consciousness and displaying an alleged upright fight against Antisemitism, while the real dangers of Antisemitism are not fought consequently.

About the Author
Tobias Griessbach has a M.A. in Anthropology and is a freelance journalist.
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