BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s main Jewish leader called on Jews not to be intimidated by a recent spate of anti-Israel demonstrations featuring violently anti-Jewish slogans.
With protests against Israel occurring daily throughout the country — including Monday outside the Israeli Embassy in Berlin — Deiter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a letter to community members and leaders that he could understand their concerns for their safety.
“More solidarity from the German, non-Jewish society would be very nice, of course, and more than appropriate,” he wrote. “But we won’t let ourselves be intimidated.”
While Jews themselves may differ on political issues, “there is no question that Israel must defend itself,” he said, while noting that the wave of anti-Semitism actually has roots far deeper than the current situation in the Middle East.
“After all, what does it have to do with Gaza when synagogues here are vandalized and attacked, when Jews are threatened and when completely unbridled masses on the streets shout that the Jews should be ‘gassed,’ ‘burned’ and ‘slaughtered’?”
On Saturday, police in Berlin managed to prevent a physical attack against an Israeli couple by demonstrators who were shouting “S*** Jews, we’ll get you!” and “Israel: Nazi murderer.”
On Friday, the American Jewish Committee in Berlin filed charges with police after an observer reported marchers chanting “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight.” Two days later in Hanover, pro-Israel demonstrators were violently attacked after unfurling an Israeli flag.
The injuries were minor, but the escalation is clear, said Fabian Weissbarth, who has observed several Berlin demonstrations as public affairs coordinator for AJC Berlin.
Weissbarth described a “really aggressive atmosphere” among several hundred protesters who gathered Monday near the Israeli Embassy. Further demonstrations against Israel are expected this week, he added.