Can Germany be neutral when it comes to the Gaza war?

Monica Pinna

Antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks are on the rise in Germany, according to human rights groups and organisations tracking discriminatory attacks across the country.

Germany has one of the largest Palestinian communities in Europe; a country that still carries the weight of the Holocaust.

According to RIAS, the ‘Department for Research and Information on Antisemitism’ in Germany, reports of antisemitic threats increased by more than 300 per cent in the month following the 7 October attacks.

Ita, a mother of five, whose synagogue was hit by Molotov cocktails shortly after the war started, told Euronews that the Jewish community is on high alert: “We don’t need empathy, we don’t need therapy, we need security measures”.

The Muslim community also observed a similar trend. Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, but community leaders argue that many alleged Islamophobic attacks go unreported.

Jian Omar is a member of Berlin’s parliament, he explained that he has been subject to attacks because of his Kurdish-Syrian heritage; he claimed threats have increased since 7 October.

“There are right-wing groups that are taking action against Muslims, and against migration as a whole. Some victims have the impression that attacks on Muslims often don’t receive public attention, and as a result, part of the Arab community distrusts the state.”

Pro-Palestinian rallies were banned for approximately one month after the war began. Muslim countries have accused Germany of silencing pro-Palestinian voices. Today activists argue freedom of expression is at stake.

“We have been discriminated against by the German Government, criminalised by the police.” says a Palestinian activist during a rally.

Germany’s support of Israel is explicit, Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared that “Germany’s history and the responsibility it had for the Holocaust” required its citizens to “maintain the security and existence of Israel.”

But some declarations have fuelled controversy; Friedrich Merz, the leader of the opposition CDU party, said, “Germany cannot take in any more refugees from Gaza. We have enough antisemitic young men in the country”.

In December the conservative State of Saxony-Anhalt passed a decree requiring those applying for German citizenship to recognise the State of Israel.

But Tarik Tabbara, a Professor of Law and Economics at the Berlin School of Economics, told Euronews that the move wasn’t exactly legal: “What Saxony-Anhalt is doing needs to be changed by parliament. We have one citizenship law that should be [applied] in all [states]”.

Artists and activists from the Oyoun Cultural Centre also told Euronews that authorities in Berlin revoked their funding due to their stance on Israel after they refused to cancel an event the city did not approve. 

Meanwhile, at the beginning of November, Berlin approved the export of over €300 million worth of defence equipment to Israel, a tenfold increase compared to 2022’s figures.

(Source: Euronews)