Lu dans la presse
Publié le 4 Juin 2019

Europe/Antisemitism - German Jews fear kippah solidarity is just a PR stunt

Members of Germany’s Jewish community voiced criticism of a government-backed “Germany wears a kippah” solidarity initiative yesterday, suggesting that encouraging people to turn out wearing cut-out-and-keep skullcaps from a tabloid newspaper reduced a complex problem to a one-day publicity stunt.

Published on June 2nd in The Guardian

About 1,200 people attended a march in the German capital that was intended as a defence of Israel and a show of solidarity with the Jewish community, down on the 2,000 who last April joined a “Berlin wears the kippah” protest after a number of high-profile antisemitic attacks.

The march, which was held in response to an annual anti-Israel demonstration, was attended by members of the Jewish and Kurdish community, the Association of Gays and Lesbians, anti-fascist activist network Antifa and the American Jewish Committee Berlin.

Before the march, German citizens across the country had been called upon to wear kippahs as a symbol of solidarity, an initiative supported by tabloid Bild, which printed a kippah in its edition last Monday for readers to cut out and wear. Felix Klein, who was appointed as antisemitism ombudsman a year ago, triggered the latest debate when he told German media last week: “I cannot recommend that Jews wear the kippah whenever and wherever they want in Germany, and I say this with regret.”

But at the protest, many members of Germany’s Jewish community, estimated to be around 200,000 strong, also voiced criticism of the initiative as too flimsy to tackle growing antisemitism in any meaningful way. According to figures published by the German interior ministry last month, antisemitic crime and hate crime rose by about 20% in 2018, to 1,800 incidents.

Judith Kessler, 59, said she felt the cut-out-and-keep kippahs printed by Bild were an “ephemeral” gesture that failed to get to the root of a broader problem of rising prejudice and misrepresented the country’s secular Jewish population.

“When I travel to Neukölln [a district of Berlin with a large Muslim population], I too will hide the Star of David under my jumper”, Kessler said. “But in the long term the only way to address this problem is to educate people, to seek out those with more liberal instincts and win them over against the hardliners”.

“Solidarity is very important”, said Maya Zehden, a vice president of the Berlin branch of the German-Israeli Society. “But solidarity is no good if it only lasts for a day. I appreciate the gesture, but it’s not enough.”

“True solidarity with Israel”, Zehden said, “doesn’t start at an event like this, where you are protected by police, but in everyday situations when people around you start to question Israel’s right to existence.”

“We aren’t Disneyland Jews”, said Lala Süsskind of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and against Antisemitism. “If someone wants to make the case for democracy for everyone, they should carry their engagement in their heart. You don’t have to show it with a kippah.”

Süsskind also told German media that while she believed Klein to be the right man for the government post, she hoped that she would seek a more direct dialogue with the Jewish community. She did not expect a non-Jew to understand “how scared I am”, Süsskind said.

Others felt the march was a meaningful act. “We wanted to make a statement of solidarity,” said Nancy Marie Tanneberger, who joined the march on west Berlin’s Ku’damm boulevard wearing a white kippah. On the way to the march, Tanneberger said, she had been approached by an elderly Israeli woman who had expressed her gratitude for the gesture.

At one point the marchers came face-to-face with those in the other demonstration, the annual “al-Quds” march first organised by Iran in 1979. About 1,200 also people took part in that march, chanting slogans such as “Free Palestine” and “Child murderer Israel”. The turnout was significantly lower than that of 2018.


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