The German regional court ruled the arsonists were carrying out a political statement against Israel, not an anti-Semitic hate crime.
The German court in the city of Wuppertal has upheld the 2015 decision of a lower court validating an attempt by three Muslim attackers who tried in 2014 to burn down a synagogue as a means of “drawing attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel.
The attack took place on the anniversary of Kristallnacht – the night in which the Nazis hordes burned down more than 1,000 synagogues in Germany, including the original synagogue in Wuppertal, and killed nearly 100 Jews.
At the time of the attack, the 81-year-old former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, declared, “When synagogues burn, it is time for all leaders to ask, ‘What must we do to protect Jewish citizens!” She also demanded to know why other German citizens were not responding to the anti-Semitic outrages and instead were remaining silent – again – and added, “Whoever is silent now affirms what is happening!”
Several days prior to the firebombing, “Free Palestine” was sprayed in paint on the wall of the synagogue. The case was first reported by Jerusalem Post journalist Benjamin Weinthal.
The German regional court ruled that the actions of the three Muslim perpetrators were governed by “anti-Israelism” and not anti-Semitism. The judge declined to incarcerate the attackers.
Green Party MP Volker Beck protested the ruling, saying, “This is a decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned. What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward anti-Semitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming.”
Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, expressed outrage at the verdict.
“It is unbelievable that attempts to burn a synagogue have been equated with displeasure of Israeli government policies,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC. “This has now given a carte blanche to anti-Semites across Germany to attack Jews because a German court has given them a ready justification.
“This court decision equates to open season on Jews.”
The decision “can also lead to anarchy across Germany because it provides a legal justification for the targeting of any minority, religion and nationality on the basis of a conflict that they could be in some way connected to because of religious or national ties,” Kantor continued. “Is it possible that when Arabs are targeted by far-Right groups then it could be claimed they are reacting to the bloodshed and violence in the Arab world? That of course would be absurd, but like in many other areas, there appears to be a separate rule when it comes to Jews and anti-Semitism.
“In fact, it could be argued that this ruling as it singles out a different way of treating Jews has elements of anti-Semitism,” he said.
A new definition of anti-Semitism was agreed upon last May at a conference of the Berlin-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which Germany is a member of, and which stated that “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” is anti-Semitic.