Major Jewish Group Urges German Justice Minister to Condemn ‘Jew-Baiting’ at Maccabi Games
Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) on Monday called on German Justice Minister Heiko Maas to condemn the taunting of Jewish athletes at the Maccabi Games, which is currently being held in Berlin.
In a letter to Maas, SWC’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, urged the minister “to vigorously condemn this Jew-baiting and take all legal measures available to apprehend those who would return us to 1936.”
Jewish athletes have been warned not to wear Stars of David or kippot on their heads “for fear of violence,” Samuels said.
According to the Maccabi Games’ rules of conduct, athletes should not make themselves recognizable as Jews in “sensitive areas of Berlin,” The Jerusalem Post reported.
“This antisemitism targets Jews directly on German soil. It can not be argued away as ‘anti-Zionism’ or ‘anti-Israelism,'” Samuels continued. “The ironic context of Jewish sports reincarnated in Berlin that reawaken dormant phantoms is unacceptable for Jews as for Germans.”
He mentioned the reported antisemitic taunting of Maccabi athletes by German Muslims at the Hotel Estrel, which is hosting thousands of Jewish athletes associated with the Berlin Games, and neo-Nazi threats against them that were posted on the Internet.
Samuels also criticized German journalist Silke Burmester for “deprecating the athletes” when she said, “Jewish sport has again arrived in Berlin. What should that be? A swastika-throw?”
The 14th European Maccabi Games began on July 27th and ends on August 5th. It hosts 2,000 competitors from 26 countries competing in 19 disciplines including basketball, soccer, squash, athletics and swimming. Participants need at least one Jewish parent or grandparent to compete.
Samuels thanked the Justice Minister for welcoming the Maccabi Games to Berlin and calling it “a gift that Germany, after the Holocaust, did not deserve.” He also lauded Federal President Joachim Gauck, who said he was “very moved that the Maccabi Games had chosen Berlin.”
Still, Samuels pointed out, “apparently, not everyone shared those sentiments.”
The SWC letter comes after police in Berlin said on Friday that two youths taunted six Jewish men with antisemitic insults and tossed an object at them before fleeing the scene. The attack took place in the Berlin district of Neukölln, a neighborhood with a large Muslim population, according to The Jerusalem Post.
In a separate incident, police arrested “a man with an Arab background” for yelling antisemitic insults at two security guards at the Hotel Estrel, where athletes from the Maccabi Games are staying.
Authorities also found antisemitic graffiti scrawled on remnants of the Berlin Wall on Saturday, The Huffington Post reported.