Teen symbol of migration to Germany wants Israel to disappear


BERLIN (JTA) — A teenage girl who has become a symbol of would-be immigrants to Germany has said she actually hopes to live in Palestine.

By Palestine, Reem Sahwil, 14, means “everything,” including present-day Israel.

“I hope that someday [Israel] won’t be there anymore, just Palestine,” the teenager told the German daily Die Welt on Sunday. “The country should not be called Israel anymore but Palestine.”

The teen’s remarks, tantamount to calling for Israel’s destruction, put a new twist on a story that has brought the situation for migrant families into focus.

Sahwil, whose family came to Germany from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon about four years ago, drew national attention last week when she broke into tears during a discussion between youth and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sahwil said that the uncertainty of her family’s situation plagued her; they are still waiting for a decision as to whether they can stay. Meanwhile, she said she wanted to plan for higher education just like her German friends.

Merkel, while comforting the girl, told her that politics can sometimes be difficult, and that not everyone who wants to stay in Germany can do so. Germany is facing urgent needs of refugees from the conflict in Syria, among other areas.

But to stay in Germany turns out not to be Sahwil’s deepest wish.

On her wall is a “historical map of Palestine,” Die Welt reported. Neither Sahwil nor her parents have ever been to the Palestinian Authority or Israel, but Germany apparently is only a stepping-stone along the way to Palestine.

“One day, I will live there,” she said.

When asked whether she is aware that Germany has a special relationship with Israel, and that it is illegal to express hatred against Jews, she answered that Germany “has freedom of speech, and I can say what I think.”

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