RELIGION

German panel on anti-Semitism ripped for not including Jews

Jews in Europe are increasingly alarmed at what they see as a rise in anti-Semitism. (Fabian Weissbarth)

Jews in Europe are increasingly alarmed at what they see as a rise in anti-Semitism. (Fabian Weissbarth)

Jewish leaders in Germany are blasting the government’s latest plan to address anti-Semitism, noting the proposed eight-member commission assembled to address the problem does not include a single Jew.

The plan has drawn sharp criticism from Julius Schoeps, a scholar at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish studies.

“The government must ask itself why the committee lacks some of the more influential German anti-Semitism researchers and why no emphasis was put on including experts from Jewish organizations and committees,” said Schoeps.“This is a unique scandal.”

“No one could imagine planning a conference on discrimination against Muslims without Muslim participants, or a panel on abuse of women without a woman,” Annetta Kahane, the chairwoman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a nongovernmental organization in Berlin that fights racism, said.

A spokesman for Germany’s Interior Ministry told  FoxNews.com in an email that religious affiliation of the experts on the commission was not a criterion used to select these members.

"No one could imagine planning a conference on discrimination against Muslims without Muslim participants, or a panel on abuse of women without a woman.”

- Annetta Kahane, Amadeu Antonio Foundation

"In retrospect, that may have been a mistake,” State Secretary Guenter Krings said, before indicating the government may seek input from Jewish organizations.

Addressing the problem of anti-Semitism is increasing in importance as Jews ponder a future in Europe amid growing numbers of anti-Semitic incidents. Recently, a Jew was killed in an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue, marking the latest in an outbreak of such attacks on Jews in Europe.

German-Jewish leaders are all the more frustrated with the government’s latest proposal because a previous commission that explored ways to fight anti-Semitism produced few results. Formed in 2008, the earlier commission was made up of internationally respected experts who published a report in 2011 that yielded few results. 

“Rather than earnestly engaging with the ideas and suggestions, the expert work has been left to collect dust in a drawer,” Stephen Kramer, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s European office, said.

The newly formed government commission will not issue a report until the end of 2016.

German Jewish leaders are fed up with government inquiries and have decided to conduct their own investigation.

Schoeps said their alternative commission would  include both Jewish and non-Jewish experts

“The fight against anti-Semitism cannot be limited to statements of solidarity and reminders issued in commemorative addresses, rather it must manifest itself in concrete political action,” Kramer said.

The anti-Semitism now sweeping Europe gives a greater sense of urgency to efforts to address anti-Semitism.

“Jewish institutions need more protection following numerous terrorist attacks, and anti-Semitic attitudes are rife in schools and society at large,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office.

A  2014 study of hate mail sent to the Israeli Embassy in Berlin and to other Jewish institutions showed that anti-Semitic sentiment has gone mainstream, and that many of the writers are well educated.

Germany, with mandatory Holocaust education, has confronted its Nazi past. And Holocaust denial is a crime.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is an unwavering supporter of Israel and a warm friend of Germany’s more than 100,000 Jews. At the same time, she is careful not to offend the nation’s 4 million Moslems.

Many of Germany’s Musmins stay connected with events in the Middle East via cable television networks such as Hezbollah’s Al-Manar and Hamas’s Al-Aqsa. These are anti-Semitic networks that promote Holocaust denial.

While Germany has made every effort to confront its Nazi past and combat classic forms of anti-Semitism, there is widespread anti-Israel sentiment that is often used as cover for overt expressions of anti-Semitism.

“It is not so legitimate to attack Jews in Germany, so you attack Israel as a state,” said Lars Rensmann, a German expert on anti-Semitism, who heads the political science department at John Cabot University in Rome. “This helps you understand Germans who say what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians is just as bad as what the Nazis did to the Jews.”

The alternative commission that Jewish leaders propose will view the problem of anti-Semitism from a Jewish perspective, Schoeps said. “We are the targets and we are more sensitive to the threats than non-Jews.” He added that this inquiry will seek better ways to protect Jews throughout Europe.