Mohanad Kaikanni

Never Again

First and foremost I would like to thank Marion Detjen and Ulrike Wagner as well as the presenters and the speakers for opening the discussion about the current debate regarding antisemitism and migrants, i.e. whether migrants especially Muslims would bring new qualities of hatred to Germany.

Or, the term Anti-Semitism is seriously confusing me. I do not know what is counted as Anti-Semitism and what is not – and by whom? Please allow me to assure you that this is not a rhetorical question.

The existence of Israel is non-negotiable and to question it should no doubt count as Anti-Semitism. Yet, the systematic abuse of human rights in the name of a state is negotiable and should be discussed. In other words, if the rightful rejection of the debate about Israels’ existence is used for a systematic abuse of Palestinians political change is needed. Let me add that the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad also defended his existence and brutality by claiming that Israel would threat Syria and he would be only one to protect the Syrian and Palestinian people.

Moreover, in relation to migrants in Germany, I keep asking myself:  What do we actually know about the level and dynamics of the antisemitic attitude of the migrants? Should we not ask whether the hostility by migrants is directed at Jews because they are Jews or because of the occupation? And finally why mainstream media find it apparently so difficult to distinguish between the attitude and the actions toward the occupation since the state of Israel declared itself as the state of jews?

As to me, the history of the Arabic countries and Europe is not to be separated but needs to be seen as tied up with each other. This connection is reflected in one of the major narratives in the Arabic countries which says: Germany committed the Holocaust and we pay the price for it. We lost three wars against Israel and in each war, we lost our families, relatives, and friends, we also lost our land, all of that because of Germany’s crime against humanity. And today Germany and the other states support Israel with weapons and money and all kind of political support to expiate their crime in the past. They close their eyes or t do not dare to criticize Israel abut its human rights abuse. Of course, it should be remembered that the Palestinians has been also betrayed constantly by the Arabic leaders, too. To know about these narratives is important to understand the attitudes and the action of many people coming from middle-east. Furthermore, I think to criticize Israel is no different from criticizing Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia or China, since any country which abuses human rights should be criticized.

It goes without words that Germany has a special responsibility towards Israel and that it feels guilty about the Holocaust. Yet, I am asking myself whether they should not feel more guilty about Nazism. Why would this shift make a difference? Because first, it would make it easier to take all the victims of the Nazi-Regime and its fatal ideology into consideration and second it might prevent a usage of the Holocaust to cover up for ongoing massacres. For my understanding, the claim that the Holocaust on the Jewish people is unique is true and it is problematic. Does it really help to assure the most important lesson taught that everybody has to do everything that something similar will never happen again? I was impressed by the curator of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, Cameron Hudson, who was responsible for an exhibition entitled: “Syria, please don’t forget us” shown in March 2018. I would like to put his understanding of the systematic violence happing in Syria into your consideration: “Comparing the Holocaust in Europe to the tragedy in Syria is an obvious thing to do, Hudson adds, saying it shouldn’t raise eyebrows.” He is further quoted in Haaretz as follows: “The same crimes being committed then are being committed now – maybe not to the same extent, but with the same level of cruelty. So, yes, the comparison is appropriate, he sums up, and they do so deliberately and with intention aforethought.”

With this quotation, I do not aim to say that what happens in Israel is to be equal to the extermination of Syrians in Syria by the Regime and its Allies. Of course not. Yet, Hudson shows that a tabu of comparison might not allow protecting systematically killed people in an appropriate way.  

Let us go back to the relationship between migrants and the claimed growth of antisemitism in Germany. I would like to ask, what do we know about the refugees who committed acts of Antisemitism? The journalist Emily Dische-Becker has an interesting reading of the incident of refugees burning an Israeli flag in front of the Brandenburger Gate. As to her research, nobody said: “Death to the Jewish people”. She listened to the video again and again and could not hear any slogan like that uttered in Arabic. Most likely it has been added to the published article. If this is correct the protest was foremost against the occupation, not against Jews. To avoid a misunderstanding, I do not say that there is no Antisemitism amongst refugees or Muslims or in the Middle-east. There is. But this incident seemed to be driven above of all by the anger and pain of the decision by Donald Trump to declare Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. To understand the pain of the Palestinian matters to me. Is that Antisemitic? The various losses of the Palestinians, the fact that they are stateless and do not have full civil rights should be taken as important as the protection and the rights of the Jewish people. We should allow playing one side against the other. Yet, the ongoing debate in Germany about Migrant Antisemitism seems neither to protect the Jewish minority better nor to understand the political situation in Israel/Palestine. It seems to be about something else, namely to deviate from the fact that right-wings represent a serious danger for Jewish people in Germany.

The most famous researcher of Antisemitism in Germany, Wolfgang Benz, says in an article entitled “Refugees do not bring a new Antisemitism”: “Nein, es gibt hier keinen neuen Antisemitismus. Es ist der alte, der Bodensatz in der Gesellschaft. Der wird nicht schlimmer, aber es ist schlimm genug, dass es ihn überhaupt gibt.” Furthermore, he claims: “Die Zuwanderer sind nicht gekommen, um Antisemitismus zu forcieren, aber es ist so schrecklich einfach von unserem selbst gemachten, deutschen Antisemitismus abzulenken, indem man mit dem Finger auf andere zeigt.”According to the statistics of the German Bundesregierung there have been 1453 Antisemitic felonies (Antisemitische Straftaten) in 2017. Three years ago in 2015, there were 1366 incidents registered. Almost 95 percent (1377) has been committed by people of the right-wing spectrum. Only 25, i.e. 2 percent, has been committed by Islamists.

I believe that the Holocaust is an atrocious and brutal crime against humanity and its memorial cannot be overrated. It is our responsibility that something like that will never happen again. For me to learn from Jewish survivors about reconciliation is crucial and Hannah Arendt is one of my most precious sources. Yet, today there are others atrocities to be considered, too. To criticize everyone and every state when they are responsible for systematic human rights abuse and killings is one lesson learned from the Holocaust. No matter who are they and no matter which is the state. In my view, this is the only way to achieve peace and an harmonious coexistence between all the nations and all the people. Am I Anti-Semitic?