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April 6, 2022 10:37 am

Berlin Senate Approves New Plan to Combat Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators clash with German riot police in Berlin on May 15, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Christian Mang

The state senate in the German capital Berlin has approved a new proposal to step up the fight against rising antisemitism in the city.

At a session on Tuesday, the senate — which governs Berlin, one of the sixteen states of the Federal Republic of Germany — gave its backing to a 260-page report submitted by Samuel Salzborn, the antisemitism officer for Berlin, that concentrates efforts in five areas: education, the judicial system, Jewish life, science and research and prevention of discrimination.

Antisemitic incidents in Berlin have risen precipitously year-on-year, registering an increase of 17 percent in the first six months of 2021. Many of the incidents took place during the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza last May, which was accompanied by a wave of antisemitic violence around the world.

Conspiracy theories about the origins and control of the COVID-19 pandemic were another source of antisemitic agitation, as was the appropriation of Holocaust-related imagery by vaccination refusal advocates. “The denial and/or relativization of the Shoah and the Nazi regime were a central component of the demonstrations and a key driver for their radicalization processes from the very beginning,” Salzborn observed.

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Salzborn was highly critical of how antisemitism is taught in Berlin schools, arguing that the topic was appropriate for social studies as well as history classes.

“Antisemitism begins in 1933 and ends in 1945,” said Salzborn, referring to the 12 years that the Nazi regime was in power. “What came before and after is not an issue in schools.”

He added that on the rare occasions that issues connected to the State of Israel were taught in Berlin schools, it was done “extremely one-sidedly,” with an emphasis on the conflict with the Palestinians. Much of the teaching reflected positions hostile to Israel, Salzborn said.

Salzborn argued that anti-Zionism had become a global ideology, uniting elements of the far right, the extreme left and Islamist movements. Its main outlet in the “international context is the antisemitic BDS campaign,” Salzborn said, referring to the effort to isolate Israel from the international community as a prelude to its replacement by a Palestinian state. He urged vigilance against BDS activists attempting to “camouflage” their campaign in more acceptable rhetoric, as the BDS movement was now regarded “relatively clearly as antisemitic by the public.”

A resolution of the German parliament in 2019 denounced the BDS campaign, prohibiting “organizations which express themselves in an antisemitic manner, or question the right of Israel to exist” from using the parliament’s facilities.

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