Published on 12 January 2018

#Crif - Interview with Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany

Since Donald Trump's announcement on the status of Jerusalem, Germany is facing a new wave of anti-Semitism. Crif has been pleased to speak with Josef Schuster, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland), to discuss on the situation of the German Jewish community.

Crif - Many articles are currently released in international media about the rise of antisemitism in Germany, especially after recent Trump announcement on Jerusalem. What is the shape of this antisemitism?

Josef Schuster - We register a rise of anti-Semitism related to Israel. President Trump’s announcement has led to demonstrations throughout Germany. During these demonstrations, protesters were burning Israeli flags and shouting anti-Semitic slogans. This outbreak of hatred reminded us of the anti-Israel demonstrations during the Gaza-conflict in 2014. In times like these, anti-Semitism reveals its hideous face.

Crif - Would you say this current anti-Semitism is mainly motivated by anti-Zionist ideas?

Joesf Schuster - Anti-Zionist attitudes are unfortunately widespread in German society.  A body of experts appointed by the German Parliament determined in 2017 that 40 percent of the German population consent to Israel-related anti-Semitism. However, we must not forget that there are other forms of anti-Semitism, which are equally dangerous. For instance, the majority of anti-Semitic criminal offences is committed by right-wing-extremists. Moreover, studies show that for years a constant number of Germans, namely 20 percent, have been holding anti-Semitic attitudes.

Crif - Like Crif, you are fighting all kinds of hate speeches over the Internet, especially anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist speeches. What are the tools you use to do so? What is your relationship with the big social media platforms like Facebok or Twitter?

Josef Schuster - The Central Council is in close contact with the German government concerning anti-Semitism on the internet. We have shared our views with the German Ministry of Justice, which has introduced legislation obliging social media platforms to review posts that are suspected to contain hate speech within 24 hours. This includes anti-Semitic comments and those denying the Holocaust. We have also been in contact with internet platforms such as Ebay, where Nazi memorabilia has been offered in the past.

Crif - Since January 1st, a new law obligates those big platforms to delete illegal messages or accounts that people have reported within a delay of 24 hours*. Is it a victory?

Josef Schuster - The Central Council welcomes the new law that obliges social media platforms to finally take responsibility for hate speech that is spread via their platforms.

Crif - The recent German election had been very favorable for the far-right party AfD which gained 94 seats in the Bundestag. What is the current political situation about it and do you think, as a leader of the German Jewish community, Jews have to worry of this rise of far-right?

Josef Schuster - As I have expressed in the guest commentary with CRIF-President Francis Kalifat in Le Figaro/DIE WELT**, the Jewish community in Germany is carefully watching the developments in our society. The right-wing populist party AfD is now the third biggest fraction in the German Parliament. Since the election in September 2017, we have not determined a further rise of the far-right. The Jewish community is alert but not fearful. We believe that all democratic forces must unite to fight all attempts to undermine our liberal-democratic order. 

*In Germany, since 1 January 2018, a new law requires large platforms to remove illegal content in less than twenty-four hours. They will be fined 50 million euros if they fail to remove the illegal messages, reported by users, within the time limit. A breakthrough in the fight against hate on the Internet that deserves more attention.

**After the announcement of the results of the German legislative elections - and the 94-seat Bundestag victory for the far-right AfD party - Crif held talks with the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The Presidents of the two organizations then wrote a joint article, published in two national dailies of their respective countries to denounce the dangers of the extreme right.

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