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June 5, 2019 4:36 pm

As ‘Kippah Solidarity’ Calls Fall Flat, Jewish Commentator Says Antisemitism ‘Sadly Irrelevant’ to Majority of Germans

avatar by Ben Cohen

A member of Berlin’s Jewish community speaking to journalists at the trial of a Syrian migrant who assaulted a man wearing a kippah. Photo: Reuters / Hannibal Hanschke.

Calls by German politicians for the wearing of kippot as a gesture of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community have fallen flat with the general public, a leading Jewish commentator said on Wednesday.

In an extensive interview with national broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, Michael Wuliger — a columnist with Germany’s main Jewish newspaper, the Jüdische Allgemeine — argued that the vast majority of Germans remained unmoved by the problem of rising antisemitism, despite a 20-percent rise in offenses targeting Jews in 2018.

After Germany’s top official combating antisemitism warned last month that Jews could not safely wear kippot “always, everywhere,” several politicians from across the spectrum called on ordinary Germans to don a kippah as a show of support. The newspaper Bild even published a cut-out kippah for readers to assemble themselves. But when asked by presenter Gerald Beyrodt whether the kippah solidarity calls had produced anything concrete, Wuliger gave a blunt answer.

“Nothing,” he replied. “Absolutely nothing.”

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Wuliger said he had attended last Saturday’s small counter-demonstration in Berlin against the “Quds Day” march — an Iranian-backed annual event calling for the destruction of the State of Israel — and had not seen any kippot in evidence, despite several calls beforehand by politicians for people to wear them in public.

Asked by Beyrodt what his reaction would have been had he encountered “thousands of kippahs being worn” at the Berlin demonstration, Wuliger was again candid.

“I would have liked that,” he said. “It would have left me positively astonished.”

Wuliger said that such a spectacle “would have indeed been a sign that the issue of antisemitism matters not only Jews, but a large part of the population as well.”

However, he continued,  “that was not the case.”

Asked why there was such indifference toward antisemitism in Germany, Wuliger cited the small proportion of Jews in the population — 200,000 out of a total of 80 million — as part of the answer.

“It’s not even true that millions or even hundreds of thousands of Germans can say, ‘Yes, I have Jewish friends here, they are worried and that is why I feel a duty to show my support to those who need it,'” Wuliger reflected. “That’s just not the case. [Antisemitism] is irrelevant to the mass of people, sadly.”

Wuliger’s comments came on the same day as researchers in Munich announced that they had recorded 39 antisemitic incidents in the southern Bavarian city during the last two months.

Incidents documented by the Antisemitism Research and Information Center included the drawing of a swastika alongside the Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” on a poster advertising a Jewish museum exhibition, as well as soccer fans chanting antisemitic songs while traveling on the Munich subway.

In an article for the Süddeutsche Zeitung analyzing the problem of antisemitism in Munich, journalist Martin Bernstein gave an eyewitness account of one man’s Jew-hating rant in the center of the city in broad daylight.

Bernstein said the incident, which occurred in early April, was sparked an elderly married couple who were standing outside the city’s Ohel Jakob Synagogue — opened in 2006 in honor of the victims of the Nazi “Kristallnacht” pogrom of Nov. 9, 1938.

Turning to his wife, the man exclaimed, in a loud voice that indicated he wanted to be heard by everyone around him, “These buildings were made for the Judendreck (Jewish filth).”

After swearing at a passerby who asked him to reign in his offensive comments, the man launched into an impassioned defense of the Palestinian cause, Bernstein wrote.

“The poor Palestinians. Nothing has ever happened to the Jews. Only the Palestinians,” the man insisted.

Meanwhile, “his wife assured us that her husband was not a Nazi,” Bernstein noted.

“Everyday life in Munich?” he asked. “You can’t believe it — and you have to.”

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