(May 1, 2019 / BESA Center)
Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country’s domestic security agency, recently published a 40-page report titled “Antisemitism in Islamism.” This is the first official publication by a national German body that exposes, in reasonable detail, the anti-Semitism prevalent among parts of the country’s Muslim community. Indeed, no European intelligence agency has ever published a report on Muslim anti-Semitism.
The report’s title doesn’t quite reflect its content, but the more accurate title of “Antisemitism and Islam” was no doubt considered politically unacceptable. In many (not all) of the quotes below, “Islamist” should be replaced by “Muslim.”
The report defines Islamism as a form of political extremism that aims to end democracy. Anti-Semitism is one of its essential ideological elements.
Many Muslims are not anti-Semitic, but the anti-Semitism problem in Islam is far from limited to people with extreme political views, or even to religious Muslims. The report notes that individuals with no known prior connections to “organized Islamism” have caused many anti-Semitic incidents. Islamism, the report says, was probably not the direct cause behind a substantial number of incidents.
Just a year-and-a-half ago Muslim anti-Semitism was a taboo topic in Germany, and was certainly never mentioned by politicians. This despite it being generally known that Muslims had been responsible for major anti-Semitic incidents in the country.
The document starts by stating that for historical reasons, and in view of the country’s experience with National Socialism, anti-Semitism was long viewed as being inevitably related to the extreme right. Only gradually has it become clear that right-wing extremists do not hold a monopoly on anti-Semitism in Germany today. The report states that a pattern of common, “daily” anti-Semitism is widespread in the social and political center of German society. In addition, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism exist among leftist extremists.
The authors state that anti-Semitic opinions in Islamism are even more far-reaching. Religious, territorial and political motives combine into an anti-Semitic worldview. All Islamist groups have as a central pillar the concept of Judaism as the enemy.
The report states that the arrival of over a million Muslims in Germany between 2014 and 2017 increased the influence of Islamist anti-Semitism in the country. It cites Anti-Defamation League statistics on anti-Semitism among the populations of Middle Eastern and North African states. Turkey—a country from which many Muslims now living in Germany originated—is one of the least anti-Semitic countries on the list, yet even it is “nearly 70 percent” anti-Semitic. The study mentions that many children in these countries are raised on a steady diet of anti-Semitic indoctrination.
Like other studies, the report sees a turning point in German awareness of Islamist anti-Semitism in a demonstration that took place in Berlin in 2017. At that event, demonstrators carried placards demanding that Israel be destroyed, and set an Israeli flag on fire. The burning of the Israeli flag shocked Germans because they associated it with the far more severe book burnings of 1933, which the Nazi government encouraged.
The video of the flag-burning went viral, prompting a number of brief comments by leading politicians. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany’s responsibility for its history knows “no limits for those who were born later, and no exceptions for immigrants.” He added that “this is not negotiable for all those who live in Germany and want to live here.”
German Health Minister Jens Spahn remarked that the mass immigration from Muslim countries was the reason for the demonstrations in Germany.
Stephan Harbarth, deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU faction in the Bundestag (the German parliament), said, “We have to strongly confront the anti-Semitism of migrants with an Arab background and those from African countries.”
The study states that it is crucial to counteract the spread of extreme anti-Semitism among Muslims in Germany, a task that requires greater public awareness of the problem. This, says the report, should include teachers, social workers, the police and employees of the government office for migration and refugees, as well as relevant officials in Germany’s federal states.
The authors also note that the way Islamists interpret Islam is contrary to basic elements of the German constitution, including the sovereignty of the people, separation of church and state, freedom of expression and principle of equality. This, they point out, is why German intelligence services monitor the activities of Islamist organizations.
The report lists major expressions of Islamist anti-Semitism, such as “Jews control finance and the economy,” “Jews operate with the help of secret agents and organizations,” and “there is an eternal battle between Muslims and Jews.” The report also names various extremist Muslim organizations that are active in Germany, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Hizb Ut-Tahrir, Islamic State, the Turkish Milli Görus and Salafists.muslimfar
The long-overdue study concludes that the more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents officially caused by Muslims in 2017 are most likely just the tip of the iceberg.
Shortly after the report was released, Germany’s Liberal Islamic Association published another, 178-page report entitled “Empowerment Instead of Antisemitism,” financed by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, among others. According to the report, many Muslim teens justify their anti-Semitism with the argument that they have experienced degradation and intolerance due to increasing Islamophobia. It concludes that mebers of the Muslim minority seek a scapegoat in an even smaller minority, the Jews.
This second report came under heavy criticism. Alan Posener, political correspondent at Die Welt, wrote that anti-Semitism among Muslim youths is a pre-existing prejudice, not a response to Islamophobia. Political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad also denied Muslim anti-Semitism is the result of Islamophobia. If this were the case, he argued, the Muslim world would be free of Islamism and anti-Semitism, since Islamophobia is nonexistent in those countries.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a senior research associate at the BESA Center and a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He specializes in Israeli-Western European relations, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and is the author of “The War of a Million Cuts.”