When anti-Israel criticism becomes anti-Semitism: German court rules that torching of synagogue reflected criticism of Israel’s policies

Whenever I say that there’s a thin line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israeli’s policies, I get excoriated. Truth be told, I think that not a trivial part of movements like BDS or campus protests against Israel are directed not at Israeli politicians, but against Jews themselves. BDS founders have covertly (and sometimes overtly) expressed approbation for the elimination of Israel itself, and there’s simply too much opprobrium directed at Israel—as opposed to other states whose malfeasance is far worse—to be explained by politics alone. Finally, the New York Times reported in 2014, after the synagogue attack discussed here took place, that demonstrators in Belgium and France were shouting not “Down with Israel!” or even “Death to IsraelI”, but “Death to the Jews!”

This opinion has been sustained by a new decision by a European high court—in Germany no less.

In February of 2015, as reported by The Jerusalem Post (and an article in The Daily Beast), a German judge convicted three German-Palestinian men of tossing Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in the city of Wuppertal. The charge on which they were convicted was “serious arson,” but here’s the kicker: the learned judge pointedly added in his decision that the crime was not motivated by anti-Semitism, declaring instead that it came from “a desire to bring attention to the Gaza conflict.”

Does that make sense? Why should German Jews be attacked for what is going on in Israel? Are they responsible for what happened in Gaza? No, the only explanation is that these men wanted to attack Jews, or a Jewish place of worship.

Now I’m not all that keen on added penalties for “hate crimes”, as I feel that punishment should be levied solely for an act itself and not because the perp has some animus against a group. Further, I’m not sure that anti-Semitism would have caused a German judge to levy a longer sentence or whether Germany recognizes anti-Semitic “hate crimes”. (One reader told me that skinheads who had done the same thing were treated much more harshly.)

What offends me is not the judge’s failure to issue a harsher punishment, but his flat claim that throwing Molotov cocktails at a place of worship in Germany constitutes political criticism rather than anti-Semitism. What world is that judge living in? There is, after all, an Israeli embassy to demonstrate against! As Vox noted yesterday:

The court’s decision is baffling — and deeply troubling. The men didn’t target the Israeli Embassy or one of its consulates. They attacked a Jewish institution. To conflate Israelis with Jews — and to say that a disagreement with the policies of the former somehow justifies attacking the latter — is by definition anti-Semitic. And if there is a line between anti-Israel sentiments and anti-Semitic ones, this attack definitely crossed it.

“The ruling judges … found that it was somehow logical that if you were angry with the state of Israel you would choose [to attack] a synagogue, because there are no objects of the state of Israel to protest,” Deidre Berger, the director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations, told me Friday. “It’s very difficult for us to get a sense of the dimensions of the problems of anti-Semitism in Europe when cases of anti-Semitism are not characterized as such.”

Let’s face it—in many parts of the Middle East, both children and adults are taught not to hate Israeli politics, but to hate Jews per se—as seen by the vile Nazi-like caricatures of Jews coming from both private and state media in that region. This indoctrinated Jew-hatred is also reported by ex-Muslims like Ali Rizvi and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Talk about “Islamophobia”!

Those who claim that implementing a two-state solution—which I favor, but am increasingly wondering if it’s workable—will act to eliminate Muslim animus against Israel are living in La La Land.

But to the point: just this week, a German higher court affirmed the lower court decision, which included suspended sentences for all three men. The decision that the act was not anti-Semitic was also affirmed.

What’s especially ironic about this is that the synagogue previously on that site was burned by the Nazis on the infamous Kristallnacht of November 9/10, 1938, and had been rebuilt. Back then it was clearly anti-Semitism, now it’s criticism of Israeli policy toward Gaza. Does any rational person believe that?

James Kirchick at The Daily Beast made a startling but accurate 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.

Amen!

h/t: Grania

87 Comments

  1. Cindy
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    And if someone was to leave bacon near a mosque, he’d be punished with a harsh sentence for a hate crime…

    I am sick of how illiberal leftists are quick to invoke Hitler as in insult to describe things they don’t like (Trump is literally Hitler) yet suddenly their concern for Jewish people goes out the window if the perpetrator of a hate crime is Muslim.

    And I have decided to stick with “illiberal leftists’ as that is Johnathan Haidt term of choice. The root of liberal is liberty he explained, and classical conservatives can believe in liberty as can classical liberals. It is the authoritarians who are dangerous, and they can be either left or right. The RW version of SJW is the Social Jesus Warrior. Analyse their arguments sometime – RW SJWs are a mirror image of left wing SJWs.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Great points, Cindy. I am really looking for some reasoned debate from liberals, but I am finding none. All I have seen is grandstanding and trying to create a certain image. The recent comments by John Lewis, to the effect that Trump is not legitimate, are a good example. This man is clearly using his connection to the civil rights movement to create a certain image and motivate ill-informed people. Lewis’s comments divide the country and are absurd.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Lewis is not alone in this thinking…he just has the guts to say it. I would say his reasoning for saying so is much more legitimate than Trumps reasoning for years in saying Obama was not legit because he was born in Kenya or some foreign land…like maybe the 50th state. Trumps pathetic remarks back to Lewis just show how he can dish it out but boy he cannot take it.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          I agree with Randall on that part of the argument.

          I’m with Cindy when it comes to authoritarians. Whether on the left or the right, it is authoritarianism that is the problem imo.

          Especially in Germany, and increasingly in wider Europe and also among the illiberal left, anti-Zionism has become an excuse for anti-Semitism. There are genuine issues the Palestinians suffer, but too many make it an excuse for Palestinian terrorism and for attacking Jews in general.

          Jerry is also correct about the strong animus against Jews amongst many (?most) Muslim nations, and it’s not going to disappear if/when a two-state solution is reached. Israel will continue to be attacked by her neighbours, and they’ll think up a new excuse for it.

          I am wary of saying other countries in the Middle East do much worse things than Israel though. That’s true of course, but it’s also not a valid excuse for doing something wrong to say someone else is worse.

          Also there are political reasons other countries get away with more than Israel that relate to the UN and Russia and China competing for power with the US. That’s not getting resolved any time soon.

          • Posted January 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            The argument that other ME states are much worse offenders of human rights than Israel does not absolve Israel of its human rights violations, but it discredits the argument that animosity towards Israel (but towards no other ME country) exists solely due to Israel’s human rights violations and nothing else.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Lewis’s comments […] and are absurd.

        Not being in America, I’ve not heard the name and have on idea what he’s been saying. However …

        Lewis’s comments divide the country

        You say this as if it’s both a bad thing, and something that didn’t exist before Lewis’s comments. The first point is at the least open to debate, but I think you’ll find that, at worst, Lewis’s comments (whatever they are) have made pre-existing splits in American society harder to ignore.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      And if someone was to leave bacon near a mosque, he’d be punished with a harsh sentence for a hate crime…

      As harsh as you can imagine:

      Prisoner Kevin Crehan was jailed in July following an attack on Jamia mosque in Totterdown, Bristol, died on Tuesday, according to prison service spokesperson.

      The HMP Bristol inmate died while he was halfway through serving a 12 month prison sentence and an independent investigation has since been launched.

      http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/29/man-who-attacked-mosque-with-bacon-sandwiches-found-dead-in-prison-6350609/

      • Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        It’s fairly ridiculous to describe leaving bacon sandwiches on the doorstep of a Mosque as an “attack” on the Mosque (OED: “Attack”: “Act against (someone or something) aggressively in an attempt to injure or kill”). Torching it would be an “attack”. A 12-month sentence is also pretty ridiculous, unless there was a lot more to it than that.

        • Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          Arson is a different matter. Arson isn’t just an attack on property, like graffiti or breaking windows: it’s something which can kill.

          I suspect the harsh sentence is more a reflection on the court’s need to deter retaliation – in which case the perpetrator is being punished for how his victims might respond.

          • Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

            Sorry, second paragraph refers to the Uk case.

          • somer
            Posted January 15, 2017 at 1:07 am | Permalink

            The predictability of which kind of response applies to one religion alone

        • aljones909
          Posted January 14, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          It’s the second UK case where a bacon attack has resulted in lengthy prison sentences. Here’s the BBC report of a case in Edinburgh:

          “A teenage girl and 39-year old man who desecrated an Edinburgh mosque by attacking it with strips of bacon have both been jailed.” They received 12 month and 8 month sentences.

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-27941589

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Leaving bacon near a mosque isn’t a hate crime, at least not in the US anyway. To have a hate crime, you first have to have a crime; only then, will inquiry be made into whether the crime was committed with a prohibited motivation.

      In the US we don’t impose criminal sanctions for hate speech, much less for hate thoughts.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 16, 2017 at 2:08 am | Permalink

        All of which seems so obviously appropriate and correct. Always nice to know the good old US of A still has at least some things right.

    • Posted January 15, 2017 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      To be a Muslim means to believe in fairy tales as the ultimate truth and the only truth, just as in any Monotheistic religion. By being a believer you oppose all what’s not you. It is truth for all the monotheistic religions, but only Muslims do it in today’s world actively by war. So why opinion opposing Islam and all its symbols should be forbidden, and punishable by death, and the Islam should be untouchable?
      As to the legitimacy of hate crime in general, some are focused against the Muslims, as reaction to violence done by members of this religion against the citizens of countries they live in, and to where their fathers emigrated from their father land, which the philosophy of Islam made unlivable. The Islam is not only against itself, (Suns fight the Shia), but against all the philosophical values that made the European civilization as it is today. The European values did not come out of nowhere. They were created during long process of thousand years if not more by individuals who had to stand up against similar despotism of thought as Islam is. All these want to destroy the contemporary Islamists in the name of Allah and his messenger. As most of the despots, they want to start with the most easy symbol, the Jews, who contributed to the European philosophy unproportionately, yet were the most valuable minority throughout the history. They are happily joined by the salon Lefties, who did not realize until now, that even the most despotic, indoctrinating education system like the communistic system can’t create the ultimate human, full of compassion, altruism and love to others, but in contrary. There is nothing attractive and excusable about what Muslims perform in today’s world. Yet those who cry in the squares of European cities “Death to the Jews”, are not concerned by the misery of Arab people caused by political entities in the world, but to express their hate to everything that is not them. If they would cry out of compassion for the Arab children, they should shout “Death to Islam, or save the children from Islam”, cry that would be much more relevant to their case than the slogans like “death to Israel” or “death to Jews”.

      • Cindy
        Posted January 15, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Tarek Fatah has said that Islam is an Arab supremacist movement. As a Pakistani, he has noticed how Arab Muslims look down on non Arabs…

  2. eedwardgrey69
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Whether the judge considers it political or Anti-Semitic is irrelevant. Germany has no particular law against hate crimes. A politically motivated crime is not be more or less punishable than a racially motivated one. And a punishment has been handed out. Suspended, but that, too seems like a verdict a first perpetrator gets in Germany for a crime against property without damage to people.
    While I strongly disagree with the judge, it doesn’t really matter for the verdict.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Given that, why would the judge then comment on whether the motive was anti-Semitic or political?

      • Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Maybe because it’s Germany? They are still bending over backwards to get over the guilt feelings from WW2. More than you can say for some countries…

        • Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          So why give a more lenient sentence for an anti-Semitic act?

          • Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

            As I read it, the judge claimed it was NOT an anti-semitic act. Isn’t that the whole point?

            • Posted January 14, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

              In other words, the judge gets over the guilt feelings by blaming the victims.

    • CFM
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      It has such laws now. Anti-hate-crime laws were passed in 2015, including added penalties for hate crimes. Courts are supposed to “consider racist, xenophobic or other inhuman reasons when reaching a verdict” (see http://www.bundesrat.de/DE/plenum/plenum-kompakt/15/933/933-pk.html, in German).

      But the crime above took place before that change.

  3. Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Thank you for speaking out in defense of Israel. There are people who don’t understand how one-side this whole conflict is. It is true that many children in the Middle East are indoctrinated with a passionate hatred of Jews. They want to literally eliminate Israel, which is why the behavior of Kerry and Obama with respect to the U.N. is so deeply disturbing.

    • Rita
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      I thought Jerry was speaking out, not in defense of Israel, but in opposition to persecution of Jews.

      • Malgorzata
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        Just the information about the pervasive antisemitism in the Arab world which is a dirty secret, never to be mentioned in the “polite society”, is a defense of Israel.

        • Carl
          Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          The hatred and indoctrination is hardly a secret in many Muslim countries – Iran and Palestinian areas to name two. Many Westerners just prefer to avert their eyes.

          Jew hatred was also an intimate part of the culture in Christendom for centuries. Anyone who thinks Hitler was a sudden occurrence that came out of nowhere is deeply uneducated. I use the past tense advisedly, because much remains just beneath the surface.

          • Rita
            Posted January 15, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

            I’m uncomfortable with the idea that any criticism of Israel’s policies are treated as though the person making the criticism is suggesting that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.

            • Malgorzata
              Posted January 15, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

              Don’t be. Normal criticism of this or that policy isn’t treated this way. Only lies, demonizing and delegitimizing Israel is.

            • Richard C
              Posted January 16, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

              Jerry Coyne hasn’t criticized Israel’s settlement policies and its coddling of the Ultra-Orthodox especially when it involves sexist beliefs. Of course, criticism of Israel’s policies is not in itself antisemitism or a denial of Israel’s right to exist.

              Displaying a willful double standard, however, is. Bigotry often hides behind the veneer of rules that, somehow, only gets enforced against a single side.

              • Richard C
                Posted January 16, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                That should be “has”, not “hasn’t”

  4. Malgorzata
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    sub

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Very good and correct posting here. I can’t think of anything to add except to say, the bigotry in this case lies with the judge and that is the only reasonable conclusion. How could he possibly come up with this 1 plus 1 equals 3.

  6. Jules
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Europe’s elite seems to be taking a side in this religious conflict. Not just judges, but opportunist politicians see a sizeable and rapidly growing demographic and a tiny and shrinking one. It’s no surprise that more and more Jews are emigrating to Israel and the United States.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 16, 2017 at 2:14 am | Permalink

      Just very sad that they still don’t feel safe in Europe. (For good reason.)

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Now I’m not all that keen on added penalties for “hate crimes”, as I feel that punishment should be levied solely for an act itself and not because the perp has some animus against a group.

    Hate crimes are a logical extension of our current “blameworthiness” model of criminal justice, in which the culpability assigned an act depends in large measure upon the perpetrator’s mental state (or “mens rea”) at the time the act was committed. That’s why we treat acts done intentionally different from those done recklessly, from those done negligently, from those done accidentally, with no culpable mental state at all.

    It is also not unusual under our blameworthiness model to impose aggravated criminal penalties upon offenders who act with a particular proscribed motive — upon those who, for example, commit a crime for pecuniary gain, or those who target particularly vulnerable victims such children or the disabled or the elderly.

    • Historian
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I am not an expert on hate crimes, so this comment is being made as a casual observer, subject to correction by more knowledgeable people. That being said, I wonder if the differing penalties for hate crimes versus non-hate crimes are not nuanced enough. Suppose I am mugged and physically hurt twice. In both cases the mugger purposely wanted to do me physical harm. In the first case the mugger wanted to steal my wallet; in the second he wanted to hurt me for belonging to a certain race. Should the differing motivations for the crime really matter in this example when the intent is exactly the same? I have difficulty in seeing the rationale for differing penalties, at least in cases of physical harm, when motivations differ, but the intents are the same.

      In other example, suppose graffiti is spray painted on a synagogue twice. In the first instance the motivation was anti-Semitism and the intent was to raise the level of anti-Semitism in the community. In the second, the investigation reveals that the perpetrator was a clueless kid, who thought the spray painting would be fun. Here I see how the application of a hate crime law in the first instance would be justifiable because no physical damage is being done to a person. In this example both motivation and intent differ.

      I do not know if in the U.S. criminal law differentiates between motivation and intent. I would be interested to know, and if it does, how it relates to hate crimes.

      • Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Suppose I am mugged and physically hurt twice. In both cases the mugger purposely wanted to do me physical harm. In the first case the mugger wanted to steal my wallet; in the second he wanted to hurt me for belonging to a certain race.

        In the first case the violence is the means to an end; in the second it is an end in itself.

    • Carl
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I think there is something wrong with the logic behind “hate crimes” in America. If “hate” drives someone to murder, should it matter if the hate is based in antisemitism rather than, say, sexual jealousy? What about killing a Trump voter? Isn’t the worst murderer the one who kills merely for the enjoyment of it? Determinists should think about this.

      I think we should redefine hate crimes more along the lines of terrorist acts. We should recognize a hate crime when the intention and result is to diminish the lives and well being of a particular group by creating wide spread fear.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 16, 2017 at 2:17 am | Permalink

        On first impression, that makes eminent sense.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Mens rea refers to the intent to commit a crime, rather than the motivation.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        Mens rea refers to whatever culpable mental state is an essential element of a criminal offense — whether intent, knowledge, recklessness, or negligence. Motivation, as in hate crimes legislation, is generally considered as an aggravating factor exposing an offender to a higher degree of offense and/or greater punishment.

  8. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I’m so sick of liberal double standards. It’s condescending to everyone at best and unjust at worst.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Do only liberals have double standards? I agree with you on the rest.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        No, but I’m commenting on this specific case, not cases in general.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 16, 2017 at 2:19 am | Permalink

          Plus, I think, we, as liberals, have a duty to call out this stuff that’s antithetical to traditional liberal values.

  9. Historian
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Anti-Semitism often emerges when frustrated groups who are nursing grievances and are not aware of the true source of their problems or do not have the power to challenge the source find Jews a psychological outlet for their angst. Jews living outside of Israel make a great target because they are often small in number and defenseless, better educated and successful than the aggrieved, and for Christians they carry the opprobrium of being “Christ killers.” Israel is a major military power in the Middle East and cannot be directly attacked by its critics. Hence, Jews living outside of Israel serve as a proxy for that country and thus are vulnerable to irrational attack.

    Fanning anti-Semitism has often been a useful strategy for governments to divert the attention of their populace from their problems or to keep it supporting the government. Such was the case with Nazi Germany and czarist Russia among others. If right-wing parties gain power in European countries, we can expect a significant increase in Anti-Semitic incidents. In other words, scapegoats, in this case Jews, serve the interests of the ruling class and the psychological needs of the masses.

    • BJ
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      We’ve seen a significant rise in anti-semitism across Europe in the last decade or two under left-wing leadership. It is not just the right that uses anti-semitism.

      • Posted January 14, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Quite true.

        • BJ
          Posted January 14, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          And if people like Jeremy Corbyn (and the rampant anti-semitism on left-wing college campuses in western nations) are indicative of things to come, that will only be getting worse on the left.

  10. Tom
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Pre Nazi Germany had some of the toughest laws regarding offences carried out based on religious differences, which partly explains why the NSDAP (the subsequent Reich Government) had to emphasise the whacky racial, nationalistic side of their “ideology.” Prosecutions for crimes clearly against a minority RELIGION became cloaked b the claptrap of a clearly POLITICAL movement so that the pot bellied Storm Troopers were able to thumb their noses at the law.
    It was all a game of let’s pretend, euphemisms and spite. Eventually the validity of these laws became so whittled away that the Third Reich could make up its own.
    We will need to wait for a statement from the German Government to clarify the law since opening the door to a Political slant on “hate laws” will also effect freedom of speech.

  11. Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    sub

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    The rise of ‘hate crimes’ in America prompts me to re-examine Jean Paul Sartre’s “Anti-Semite and Jew”

    An excerpt:

    ” the anti‐Semite has chosen to live on the plane of passion. It is not unusual for people to elect to live a life of passion rather than one of reason. But ordinarily they love the objects of passion: women, glory, power, money. Since the anti-Semite has chosen hate, we are forced to conclude that it is the state of passion that he loves. …We are wary of reasoning based on passion, seeking to support by all possible means opinions which love or jealousy or hate have dictated. ….but that is just what the anti-Semite has chosen right off.

    How can one choose to reason falsely? it is because of a longing for impenetrability. The rational man groans as he gropes for the truth; he knows that his reasoning is no more than tentative, that other considerations may supervene to cast doubt on it. He never sees very clearly where he is going; he is “open”; he may even appear to be hesitant.

    But there are people who are attracted by the durability of a stone. They wish to be massive and impenetrable; they wish not to change. Where, indeed, would change take them? We have here a basic fear of oneself and of truth, orcontent of truth, of which they have no conception, but the form itself of truth, that thing of indefinite approximation. It is as if their own existence were in continual suspension.”

  13. Sarah
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m just starting to read Manfred Gerstenfeld, The War of a Million Cuts: the Struggle Against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism (2015). It looks like an absorbing analysis of the way small but ubiquitous elements go together to create a climate of hatred. He shows how antisemitism and anti-Israelism overlap.

  14. Isaac
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Does any rational person believe that Israel isn’t a vicious warmongering colonialist expansionist ethnic-supremacist state?

    Yes. Just not any person who’s rational about Israel.

    Israel insistently identifies itself as a “Jewish state” and demands the Palestinians recognize it specifically as a “Jewish state”. The conflation of Jews with Israel is a primary policy goal of the state of Israel. This case shows it has been successful and it also shows just what that “success” entails.

    • Posted January 15, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Yep, Israel clearly brought it on itself by identifying as a “Jewish state.” Ergo it’s ISRAEL, and not the bombers, who is responsible for the attacks on Jews throughout the world.

      Give me a break. It’s people like you who make me despair of humanity.

      And yes, there are plenty of people who don’t agree with your first sentence.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      What horror! A country with a Jewish majority wants to identify itself as a Jewish state! By this token not many states in the world aren’t “warmongering colonialist ethnic- supremacist states”. France is a French state, Germany is a German state, Poland is a Polish state, Sweden is a Swedish state and so on and so on. Do you hate and loathe all those other countries as much and as irrationally as you hate Israel?

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 16, 2017 at 2:25 am | Permalink

      “Does any rational person believe that Israel isn’t a vicious warmongering colonialist expansionist ethnic-supremacist state?”

      I do!

  15. Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Antisemtisim is often downplayed while “islamophobia” is colonializing the headlines. In many countries, anti-semitic “hate crimes” have become background, even though Jews are the ethnic group targeted the most. Many international observers judge the situation from their home perch and naturally assume that the law and its practice is similar to that of their country. In addition, there’s the feeling that Muslims are treated by a different, more lenient standard, and that their actions are being downplayed. This zeitgeist sets the scene on fire for the recent outrage.

    You are being misled. According to the OSCE, which appears to be a reputable resources, “hate crime” in Germany against Jews comes behind hate crimes of xenophobic nature (including arson), and against targets of Christian or other religion.

    Racism and Xenophobia total: 2447
    Bias against Christians and member of other religions: 339
    Anti-Semitism: 339

    The same list in the same order for arson specifically is 99 (!) for racism and xenophobia, 9 for bias against Christians and other faiths, and 2 for anti-semitic inspired arson. Giving the impression that Jews are targeted more, or that we are on the verge of another holocaust is therefore highly incensed propaganda, or post-factual “journalism”.

    Further, anti-semitism in Germany carries a very different connotation, for obvious reasons. It saddens me that international observers can simulatenously smear together three intoxicated young Muslims from the middle east with Neo Nazis, and a fire damage of 800 euros with the Holocaust, and it strike me as a sinister and hypocritical no-win situation. Had they been treated as Neo Nazis, and Germany has harsher laws for them due to the historical situation (which I deem correct and necessary), and had been applied to these men, the very same people would have run with the “trivialisation” of Holocaust, pointing out that Neo Nazis ought to be viewed in a harsher light by the court.

    In Germany, anti-semitism is such strongly associated with the organized, industrial scale genocide against Jews, and the ideology that made it possible, that this particular label cannot be applied as easily to any case. I can understand that the prototype of Neo Nazi hatecrime is too prototypically in Germany to allow other cases into the category.

    A Vox article, shared by Razib Kahn, similarily filled with dishonest spin, even suggests with bitter sarcasm “[b]ut apparently, not all synagogue burnings are equal. “ Because they aren’t and they should not be. The crimes of the Nazis is a whole own league of evil.

    In that light, I find the argument by James Kirchick at The Daily Beast highly disconcerting. It’s dangerously ignorant of history and the circumstances how another culture might view such matters in light of this most terrible history that was carried out on its soil. According to another spin article, shared, a week earlier some perpetrators (perhaps the same) smeared “Free Palestine” against the same synagogue. That is not the same as the holocaust, or even a step towards, or that kind of anti-semitism.

    Lastly, these articles also give the impression as that the German judges were treating the situation lightly, and some, I’m sure will level that against me, just because we won’t put this case into the same league as Nazi terror. But the judges have specifically ruled it as criminal arson, and not as property damage as the defence wanted it. They have specifically noted the symbolic character of setting fire to a synagogue, they just refused it the same category strongly reserved for fascistic hate crimes.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Corrections: “Anti-Semitism: 339” a doubled number it’s 192, hence placed third. My sentence about prototypical anti-semitism is now tautological, what I meant is that Neo Nazi or fascistic anti-semitism carries such a weight that there’s isn’t much room in the graded category for perpetrators who attacked the synagogue as a proxy for Israel. And a few typos slipped by.

      • Carl
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        How many Jews do you suppose still live in Germany? What percentage of the population?

        • Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          That reasoning you suggest doesn’t work. This isn’t like car accidents.

          Suppose there was just one Jewish person and one jewish building, it would limit opportunity, but not the hatred against them.

          Further, this line of reasoning ignores the whole trust of the argument, which is that anti-semitic hatecrimes in Germany have a strong connotation of Nazi Terror, as it should be, given the history, and which is even disgustingly used by the news stories, even though the perpetrators clearly do not fit that profile.

          • Malgorzata
            Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            I would just like to point out that antisemitism means not only “Nazi terror”. Antisemitizm just means “Judenhasse” – hatred for Jews. When you burn a synagogue or shout “Itbach el Yahud” (Slaughter the Jews – in arabic) you are a pure antisemite even if you never had any warm feelings towards Nazis and do not possess white skin.

            • Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              I agree, though the historical situation is too significant to place “free palestine” perptrators in the same camp as (german) Neo Nazis, and keep in mind that we are talking about a particular assessment. The court did specifically noted the symbolic character of this, and showed proper concern for that. They just didn’t call it anti-semitic, because if the connotation this has in Germany.

              • Malgorzata
                Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

                How very convenient! Antisemitism – oh, no, that’s what Hitler and Nazi did! Never again!
                The hatred toward Jews, physical and verbal abuse today perpetrated by anybody else than neo-Nazist – oh, no! This is not antisemitism! They just simply hate Jews but that’s OK, that’s not Antisemitismus!

              • Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

                Either, the law treats cases equally, or fascism counts extra. You can always frame it one way or the other, hence why I wrote it’s a no-win situation.

                Would Germany scratch the extra anti-Nazism laws, and as you suggest, go about this uniformly, the situation would be worse for Jews, not better.

              • Malgorzata
                Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                There should be absolutely equal treatment whether the person burning a synagogue, shouting “Jews to the gas” etc. is a Palestinian or a neo-Nazi. Definitely not a justification for a Palestinian that this was an expression of his condemning of Israel’s politics. And this equal treatment of expressions of ethnic hatred should be equal, no matter whether the object of hate is a Jew, a Roma, an Arab or a German. And Jew hatred evolved through the centuries and had many names: anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism. It’s an evolving virus of the humankind. Calling it with different names doesn’t change what it is.

              • Posted January 14, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                Germany rightfully has extra anti-Nazi laws in its books, because fascism represents a former state and supporters are not a garden variety enemy of the constitution, as they might be in other countries.

                Further, neither the court nor I dispute historic or widespread hatred against jews, as it comes by its many names. I specifically pointed out how Jews are often the most targeted ethnic group, but are forgotten by the headlines (in favour of “islamophobia”).

                Nonetheless, we have here a news item that is blatant propaganda. Some people want a local court in Germany make a statement on anti-semitism, but they found, not unreasonably, that three drunkards of middle-eastern background are not in the same league as Neo Nazi terror, especially when they (supposedly) smeared “free palestine” against the same synagogue a week earlier.

                Further, once again, the court acknowledged the symbolic significance, yet didn’t deem the word “anti-semitic” adequate. This propaganda news creates such a smokescreen that it disappears altogether that this dispute is over the explanation, not the ruling.

            • Cindy
              Posted January 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

              Exactly.

              What the Nazis did was bad because it is bad. Not because they were Nazis. Not because they were white. Because such behaviour is bad, regardless of *who* does it. Genocide doesn’t cease to exist because the perpetrators are ‘poc’.

    • Posted January 14, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      I think you are downplaying a danger. It is Middle East countries populated mostly by intoxicated Muslims, or to say it more accurately, Middle East countries systematically intoxicating their mostly Muslim population, that have launched several wars against Israel, and wage perpetual terror. Moreover, if today’s white Christian-heritage Europeans want to get rid of Jews, they need no neo-Nazis. The intoxicated Middle-Easterners can do the job just as well. As we know, after a long series of anti-Semitic attacks, French Jews are emigrating.

      • Posted January 14, 2017 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        Many people see many things. This is hyperbolic and extreme distorted propaganda, so far removed from reality that any sane and level-headed discussion was made impossible. Actors like Prison Planet or InfoWars who have a field trip with this don’t make it any better.

        Consider a case where someone was killed by another person. The court sentences the perpetrator for manslaughter, but found that some evidence was missing to put it into the murder category. Far Right news media then report “Man dead. Court found ‘not murder!'” giving off the impression as if they found nothing wrong. Except, nobody says that.

        Keeping with the case at hand, some Right Wing rags write in naked hyperbole that soon the country will be plunged into chaos, as everyone can apparently kill everyone without punishment, “country on the verge of the Purge”, they title.

        Yes, that’s the situation here. It has nothing to do with reality, because cool minds apparently don’t prevail. Any explanation that the evidence is not enough to go with murder will be understood as “murder is okay!” by too many people. I see exactly how this works out, and I find it appalling.

        In fact, the court goes 99% of the way, and only stops short in their statement to declare it blanked Judenhass, because they didn’t find this sufficient. To me, it’s clear why, but I will not make any attempt to explan it. Because, I’m practically lobbying for murder, don’t I?

        This news is too poisoned to continue, and I have no interest in discussing it any further.

        • BJ
          Posted January 15, 2017 at 3:04 am | Permalink

          What you’ve said here is a whole lot of nothing. You have not answered a single point, providing only bluster, obfuscation, and non-sequiturs.

  16. Gabrielle
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    There are individuals here in the US who conflate ‘being Jewish’ with ‘being Israeli’.

    About 30 years ago, I had a friend, a graduate of the U. Wisconsin at Madison, with whom I once mentioned that I was Jewish (I forget how this subject came up). Her response, with a look of puzzlement on her face, was “Does that mean you’re not American?”
    I replied “Don’t I sound like an American? I was born in Pennsylvania, and my father and two uncles fought in World War II.” She still looked puzzled. I have no idea how she came to be so confused to think that Jews can’t be Americans, apparently because we are all Israelis. And she wasn’t some country-bumpkin, but a well-educated person.

    About 20 years ago, just after a major bombing in Tel Aviv, I had a concerned coworker come up to me saying she’d just heard the news and asking how my family was doing. I told her my family was just fine, being as they all live here in the US. She just assumed that I had close relatives in Israel, because apparently all Jews come from Israel. My coworker’s words were meant out of kindness, but it was jarring nonetheless.

    A long time ago, I worked with a man from Egypt, who at that time had been in the US for about 10 years. He also thought that all American Jews came from Israel. I explained to him that the majority of Jewish people in the US had grandparents/great grandparents who immigrated in the early 1900s from Eastern Europe, and how 3 of my grandparents were born in Lithuania. This was all news to him.

    In all 3 vignettes above, I don’t think my explanations made much of a difference. Perhaps people get mixed up because they see symbols like the Jewish star on the Israeli flag, and then they see Jewish stars on synagogue buildings, Jewish community centers, etc,. But I speculate.

    • Cindy
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      When I was a teenager/young adult I really did think that everyone in Israel was a rabbi.

      I met a young hot Israeli friend in the file trading scene and he was pretty much like any western young adult. I told him that I was surprised, since I had always assumed that everyone in Israel was some sort of religious zealot. He laughed and said ‘we are not all rabbis’

      Still makes me chuckle.

      • Cindy
        Posted January 14, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        file trading = mp3s

    • Historian
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Your story about the “well-educated” yet ignorant friend is a testament as to why more than a passing knowledge of history is necessary to understand the world.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 16, 2017 at 2:36 am | Permalink

        But, jeez, it seems like even a “passing knowledge of history” would include knowing that Israel’s only existed since 1948.

        (BTW, a brief googling mentions that Jews have been in the US since at least 1654. Before the US was the US!)

  17. ddg
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Has the Western mainstream media, especially its large exponents, reported on this?

    I found the article through Drudge linking to Jerusalem Post. Here is a google search I just did:

    https://www.google.com/#q=wuppertal+synagogue

    • steve
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      That would be: “No.”

  18. Marilee Lovit
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I recommend “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” by Timothy Snyder 2015.

  19. Richard C
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    It seems obvious to me, at least.

    The ruling party of the Gaza Strip, in their founding mission document, declares their war to be on Jews in general. Their dispute isn’t over borders and settlements; they officially oppose the existence of any Jewish state at all.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas_Covenant

  20. keith cook +/-
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Not to take away the gravity of this post (and i read all the comments) but i just viewed a video of the role of big business (Ford Motors for one and i have yet to subscribe to this) in the rise and upkeep of the Nazi war machine and their role in the concentration camps and then, a photograph of Aborigines cross legged on the ground chained by their necks to each other watched over by a smirking guard.
    Under the photograph was this:
    Australia, until 1960s, Aborigines came under the Flora And Fauna Act, classifying them as animals, not human beings.
    I was horrified by the former and dismayed and upset by the latter… i did not feel so good.
    We talk and write about laws, how it’s applied the left and right bias and as in the above post, when an act is not recognized for what it really is. I wonder some time if details matter more than the thing itself, that thing to me is our morality and in essence the only road ahead if we are to progress.
    It just so happened i also watched Richard Dawkins explain to a religious questioner (of course he did) how we can achieve, or more to the point pursue it with reason and empathetic dialogue. Laws although essential (granted) are like a cage and true freedom (an impossible dream?) would be a universal morality decided by…..? i did feel better, even if i could not find an answer for now.

  21. Posted January 14, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Decisions like this demonstrate why the state of Israel has a right to exist. The idea that the Jews can all just go to the USA or some country in Europe and escape anti-Semitism is a fantasy. No minority has a duty to commit suicide to promote some abstract version of “social justice.” The surrounding Arab states have practiced ethnic cleansing and “apartheid” against Jews since before the founding of the state of Israel. Failure to recognize this fact constitutes a double standard that is the essence of anti-Semitism.

    • BJ
      Posted January 14, 2017 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      An excellent comment.

      Even in the US, Jews have more hate crimes committed against them (by percentage of population) than any other group.

  22. Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  23. Posted January 15, 2017 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    To be a Muslim means to believe in fairy tales as the ultimate truth and the only truth, just as in any Monotheistic religion. By being a believer you oppose all what’s not you. It is truth for all the monotheistic religions, but only Muslims do it in today’s world actively by war. So why opinion opposing Islam and all its symbols should be forbidden, and punishable by death, and the Islam should be untouchable?
    As to the legitimacy of hate crime in general, some are focused against the Muslims, as reaction to violence done by members of this religion against the citizens of countries they live in, and to where their fathers emigrated from their father land, which the philosophy of Islam made unlivable. The Islam is not only against itself, (Suns fight the Shia), but against all the philosophical values that made the European civilization as it is today. The European values did not come out of nowhere. They were created during long process of thousand years if not more by individuals who had to stand up against similar despotism of thought as Islam is. All these want to destroy the contemporary Islamists in the name of Allah and his messenger. As most of the despots, they want to start with the most easy symbol, the Jews, who contributed to the European philosophy unproportionately, yet were the most valuable minority throughout the history. They are happily joined by the salon Lefties, who did not realize until now, that even the most despotic, indoctrinating education system like the communistic system can’t create the ultimate human, full of compassion, altruism and love to others, but in contrary. There is nothing attractive and excusable about what Muslims perform in today’s world. Yet those who cry in the squares of European cities “Death to the Jews”, are not concerned by the misery of Arab people caused by political entities in the world, but to express their hate to everything that is not them. If they would cry out of compassion for the Arab children, they should shout “Death to Islam, or save the children from Islam”, cry that would be much more relevant to their case than the slogans like “death to Israel” or “death to Jews”.


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