Anti-Antisemitism in Germany

Weaponising Judeophobia Against Migrants

Defunding a UN humanitarian mission is hateful and divisive. Not so in Germany.

Palestinians and cops. Charlottenburg, Berlin.

Here, with the support of all major parties from the centre-left to the far right, the government pushed to end its funding for UNRWA, the United Nations organisation that provides humanitarian assistance to over 80% of Gaza.

Since 27 October 2023, when Israeli forces entered the territory, 1.9 million people have been forcefully displaced by war, half of whom are children.

While many Western states cut their funding to UNRWA after Israel provided an unsubstantiated report that 0.0004% of UNRWAs staff might have been implicated in the 7 October attacks, there was no controversy in Germany.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) chair of the German Council on Foreign Relations stated that the UN was discredited” by UNRWA, while the general secretary of government coalition partners Free Democrats (FDP) insisted on dissolving the most important aid provider in Gaza.

Similarly, the conservative opposition demanded an immediate halt to financial support for UNRWA, which the Greens Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, swiftly implemented. This signified centre-left support for a far-right policy.

As early as 11 October, the neofascist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) demanded an end to German funding of UNRWA.  Now, it’s government policy.

The AfD responded, The motion to stop funding the terror support for UNRWA was rejected by all other parties in the parliament […] the only party that really wants to protect the Jews in Germany is the AfD.”

A growing number of journalists note that Germany has […] become among the worlds most ridiculous countries” when it comes to Israel.

But this government’s turn to the far-right is dangerous. It reveals an ideological continuum tying together liberals, environmentalists, socialists, and right-wing extremists.

Following the latest mass protests against the far-right Alternative für Deutschland, this seems absurd.

In January, for example, over 100,000 people protested against a plan spearheaded by the AfD to strip minorities of their citizenship and deport them.

This does not, however, get to the core of what unites supporters of liberal democracy with its enemies: the rejection of immigrant identity.

Despite the demonstrations’ seemingly anti-racist politics, Palestinian solidarity protestors faced discrimination.

You dont belong here,” Murderers go away,” and “Terrorists” were yelled at them. Some were pushed away and gestured to fuck off, as well.

This is because in Germany, criticising Israeli government policy towards the Palestinians is now considered Antisemitic.

The German reaction – anti-Antisemitism – is based on racial resentment. Muslims are barbarians who need to be controlled, if necessary, by force.

Anti-Antisemitism is the common ground that the centre-left shares with the far right – in this case, the current coalition government and Alternative für Deutschland.

This phenomenon is strikingly similar to what Antonio Gramsci described after he witnessed the rise of fascism in 1920s Italy.

Gramsci didnt experience what political parties in Germany fear – a far-right coup.

Instead, he saw the rise of fascism through a tacit alliance with the dominant political groups in the country: the creation of a historic bloc.

According to Gramsci, what made this possible was a cultural consensus that normalised fascist politics and made them appealing to Italians.

Fascism had become culturally hegemonic in the country.

In 2020s Germany, the appeal of anti-Antisemitism exposes a similarly anti-immigrant hegemony.

The racist underbelly of German anti-Antisemitism is evident in recent policy.

Parties from the centre-left to the extreme-right outdid each other with demands to strip immigrants of their civil rights when they did not conform to the exigencies of German anti-Antisemitism.

The AfD functioned as the leader of the debate, demanding to prioritise the fight against “imported Antisemitism” as a threat to the whole Western value system”.

This includes the deportation and denial of citizenship to immigrants who prove to be Antisemitic or anti-Israeli.”

The Greens and Social Democrats are not naïve. They recognise that the strategy of the AfD is to instrumentalise anti-Antisemitism to demonise immigrants.

This perceptiveness, however, is not reflected in government policy.

The governing parties published a plan to deport, cut social support, and prevent the immigration of family members of any non-German citizen who was found to be Antisemitic.

Why should policies combatting Antisemitism be motivated by racism when Germans are highly conscious of their Nazi past and thus sensitive to Antisemitism?

Could these harsh policies reflect actual care for Jews? Sincere concern for the dignity and security of Jews would not instrumentalise Antisemitism like this.

According to the police, over 80% of Antisemitic crimes in Germany are committed by right-wing groups. Yet the far-right blames immigrant violence.

While an award for post-colonial philosopher Achille Mbembe was retracted due to his presumably Antisemitic connections with BDS, the obituary of German writer Martin Walser lauded him for his achievements while barely mentioning his minimisation of the Shoah.

While the Indonesian curators of the Documenta Festival were the target of Antisemitism accusations for their caricatures of Israeli violence, the Nazi roots of Documenta are not mentioned on its official website.

This reveals the staggering blindness of German anti-Antisemitism towards white Germans, venerated German institutions and the actual well-being of Jewish people.

This shows up again and again in the restriction of civil rights of anti-Zionist Jews, obstruction of protests, police violence, and public ridiculing.

In fact, writer Max Czollek observed that Jews in Germany serve mainly a symbolic function: they are actors on the stage of German reconciliation theatre”.

Jews are supposed to play the stereotype of the Jewish victim, who is thankful for the German virtue of remembering the Shoah.

Aside from that, they are not granted an identity or voice of their own, independent of German recognition of their historic crimes.

Similarly, German anti-Antisemitism is less concerned about Jewish people than with the State of Israel.

Accordingly, the government is recommending the use of the controversial IHRA definition of Antisemitism, which encompasses nine examples of Antisemitism, of which six concern criticism of the Jewish state.

While this definition is internationally criticised for conflating Jews with Israel, the German government proposes to elevate it to a guiding principle for German courts.

This step, together with the government’s announced measures on Antisemitism, could mean the loss of social and civil rights for Palestine solidarity politics that rejects the Israeli state.

Again, the government policy is only concerned about Jews when it is about safeguarding Israel – a state that is practising apartheid, as described by Israeli human rights organisations and UN experts.

This is, again, a point that unites the centre-left with the extreme right: unequivocal solidarity with Israel.

Even after the International Court of Justices reprimand towards Israel in January, Annalena Baerbock reaffirmed her support for Israel.

This is support for a war in which the Israeli military has killed almost 30,000 people, of which 47% are children, forcefully displacing 85% of Gaza’s population.

This marks an indifference to democratic values – most of all human rights, civic freedoms and peace – that might have distinguished a democratic centre from an extreme right.

Even though the rhetoric of the centre-left differs from that of Alternative für Deutschland, the effective policies of the government head in the same direction: exclusion, deportation, and war.

Though electoral tactics are sidelining the AfD, there is a trend to integrating far-right policy into the liberal democratic mainstream.

This fits with the larger trend in Europe, where proto-authoritarian and post-fascist governments are integrated into the club of liberal democracies, lauded for their inhumane, violent, and deadly policies towards migrants.

It might very well be that German politicians are genuinely anxious about the well-being of Jews.

Their concerns are, nevertheless, much more pronounced when it entails the disciplining of immigrants – resulting in discriminatory politics and a hostile society.

The struggle against Antisemitism is not intrinsically anti-immigrant, though.

It is only in the German context that anti-Antisemitism emerges out of an anti-immigrant consensus, spanning the centre-left to the far right.

This threatens Arabs, Muslims and Jews alike, as their biggest threat – right-wing extremists – escape efforts to be uprooted.

While Antonio Gramsci observed a conquest of the state by the Fascist party in Italy, we are witnessing a creeping integration of far-right politics into a liberal democracy.

Regardless of which parties end up in power in Germany, anti-immigrant politics result in an erosion of the social and civil rights of minorities and citizens born elsewhere.

That anti-Antisemitism would be used to scapegoat them should make us shudder.

It’s a tragic turn of politics that speaks reams about post-Cold War Germany and the darkness that lies ahead.

Photograph courtesy of Matthias Berg. Published under a Creative Commons license.