German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend lamented the rise of a “different type” of anti-Semitism in her country, a day before defending her decision to accept thousands more refugees from North Africa and the Middle East.
In an interview with an Israeli television news station on Sunday, Merkel denounced recent attacks on German Jews and admitted some newcomers have brought the anti-Semitic attitudes prevalent in their home countries with them to Germany.
“We have a new phenomenon, as we have many refugees among whom there are, for example, people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country,” she told the private Channel 10 network, according to Euronews.
Merkel would do everything possible to ensure the safety of Jews in Germany, referring to her recent appointment of a special commissioner to fight anti-Semitism and to support Jewish life in the country, she went on to say.
Anti-Semitic incidents have risen in Germany in the wake of Merkel’s decision to unilaterally suspend EU migration rules and admit roughly 1 million asylum seekers from Syria and other greater Mideast countries. The move has upended German politics and fueled the rise of right-wing populism in Germany, mirroring similar developments across the Eurozone.
German police recorded 1,453 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 — more than in five of the previous seven years — according to an April 3 Wall Street Journal report. Official figures undercount the true number of incidents because fewer than a third are reported to police, some Jewish groups say.
Germany has a well-documented history of anti-Semitism from its far right groups, to say nothing of the Nazi regime. Today, though, most of the violent incidents come from Muslim perpetrators, according to Levi Salomon, head of the Jewish Forum for Democracy against Anti-Semitism.
“It is wrong to generalize or to stigmatize Muslim communities,” Salomon told TheWSJ. “But to say there is no specific problem there is even worse. We need to devise urgent strategies to deal with this.”
The relationship between Germany’s recent Muslim refugees and rising anti-Semitism was brought into stark relief April 17, when two young men wearing Jewish skullcaps were beaten on the street in Berlin. Video of the incident circulated on social media, showing the attacker repeatedly shouting “Yahudi,” the Arabic word for “Jew.” The suspect in the assault is a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, according local media reports.
A day after her interview with Israeli media, Merkel defended Germany’s decision to accept 10,000 more refugees as a part of an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency.
“Our goal is to prevent illegal migration and to replace it with legal migration,” Merkel told reporters at a news conference with Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner on refugees.
Immigration and refugee acceptance are divisive issues in German politics, thanks in part to a furious reaction by Merkel’s opponents to her open-borders policies. In a series of negotiations following tumultuous German elections in September 2017, Merkel agreed to cap the number of refugees arriving in Germany at 200,000 in order to form a governing coalition.
The 10,000 refugees coming through the UN agreement will count toward the new cap, Deutsche Welle reported on April 23. The German government has not said what countries they will come from.
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