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Antisemitism rose more than 80% in Germany last year, watchdog says

By Thomson Reuters Jun 25, 2024 | 6:58 AM

By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) – Antisemitic incidents in Germany, from graffiti to attempted arson, rose around 83% last year, watchdog RIAS said on Tuesday, surging after the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Around half the 4,782 recorded antisemitic incidents were linked with anti-Israel activism, with many involving a relativisation or denial of the Nazi Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were killed, RIAS said.

While antisemitism has been on the rise worldwide, it is a particularly sensitive subject in Germany, where Jewish institutions are under heavy police protection.

Critics including prominent Jewish-German intellectuals say this has led to German authorities and media failing to differentiate sufficiently between antisemitism and criticism of Israel and as a result curbing freedom of speech.

In the week after the Hamas-led attack on Gaza, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated the idea of Israel’s security as a “reason of state” or matter of national interest for Germany.

In its antisemitism report, RIAS cited incidents such as the destruction of an Israeli flag hung in solidarity with Israel after Oct. 7. In another incident, “Free Palestine from Zionists” was scrawled on a toilet door and the words “Save Israel” and Star of David scratched off.

Felix Klein, the government official charged with coordinating the fight against antisemitism, has said antisemitism was already on the rise before Oct. 7, in part driven by the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

The AfD has said Germany, which has a Jewish population of about 225,000, should move on from atoning for its past crimes, with members accused – and in some cases convicted – of using Nazi language.

Klein said many incidents since then could be traced back to Germany’s growing Muslim community, and urged Muslim associations to speak up more against this.

Anti-Muslim incidents registered in Germany also rose last year, the CLAIM network of NGOs monitoring Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred said on Monday.

Israel says around 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 hostages seized in the Oct. 7 attack. The Israeli offensive launched in retaliation in Gaza has killed more than 37,600 people, Palestinian health authorities say.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh, editing by Hani Richter)