German court says it’s not racist to firebomb synagogues, mosques and churches so long as you have the right thinking
In “German Court Rules Synagogue Firebombing an ‘Act of Protest’”, the Daily Beast takes up the story of three ‘protesters’ who ‘brought attention to the Gaza conflict” by setting fire to a synagogue.
You might suppose that this was further proof that the West’s shrill, highly selective criticism of Israel (and, of course that country makes mistakes – often bad ones) is rooted in anti-Semitism.
James Kichick makes an analogy:
A group of skinheads torch a black church somewhere in the Deep South. Upon being apprehended by the police, they cite the injustices that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe has visited upon the white farmers of his country as justification for their arson. Mugabe is black, he rules on behalf of “the black race,” and therefore black people everywhere must be made to feel responsible for his crimes.
Anyone making such a ridiculous argument would rightly be labeled a racist. But change the victims from black people to Jews, and the perpetrators from pale neo-Nazis to dark-skinned Muslims, and a great many people will claim that what is obviously a crime motivated by blatant bigotry is in fact a politically-inspired protest.
So. To Wuppertal, Germany, where two German-Palestinian men are in the dock (the third is too young to be tried in the same court). They are accused of setting fire to a synangogue. CNN would surely say that Muslims could have been the target, perhaps visiting the synagogue for a get-together on spiritual matters, on a school trip or eating in the kosher cafe behind the synangogue’s bulletproof windows. But mostly likely the targets were Jews.
The group (three were arrested – one was aged 18; the others were aged 24 and 29) were armed with home-made firebombs on the night of Sunday July 28th. They all denied involvement. But then the 24-year-old admitted it:
“We threw the bottles, both the others ran away and I stayed. Two bottles hit the door and the wall. Three didn’t reach the building, we were really drunk.”
Leonid Goldberg, chariman of Wuppertal’s Jewish cultural association feels the hatred:
“For years now, our rabbis haven’t worn their kippahs in public as they go through Wuppertal. Jews that do wear their kippah in public attempt to hide it by wearing a hat on top so that they don’t have to hear insults from young Muslims, most of all.”
But this is not 1938, when the synagogue was smashed on state orders. Germany’s Central Council of Muslims has condemend the attacks. Many locals protested in support of the Jews.
Chancellor Angela Merkel says the Jewish way of life “is part of our identity”: “We want [members of the Jewish community] to feel safe in Germany.”
Chairman of the Central Muslim Council, Aiman Mazyek stands tall:
“I am a Jew when synagogues are attacked. I am a Christian when Christians are persecuted for example in Iraq. And I am a Muslim when firebombs are thrown at their places of worship. As a society we have to stand together.”
But intolerance is on the rise:
Germany is experiencing a growing Salafist population, especially in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. There are around 1,800 followers of the ultra-conservative branch of Islam there. Wuppertal is Germany’s number-one city for Salafists, who preach a very conservative interpretation of Islam and reject any form of democracy.
And thern there are German attacks on circumcision, kosher and halal meat.
To make intolerance and racism fester and grow you need willing fools in power. So. The judge finds the men in the dock guilty of arson. But he rules that it was not an attack motivated by racism. He says it was an attack designed to “bring attention to the Gaza conflict”.
Wrong. It was racist. Wholly racist.
And if you’re afraid or too stupid to say it, your words and deeds do not foster tolerance and empathy – they spread division, martydom and hatred.
The BBC’s Tim Willcox is away.