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September 14, 2022 1:54 pm
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German Police Decline to Prosecute Pro-Palestinian Demonstrator Who Assaulted Elderly Jewish Man

avatar by Ben Cohen

A child is seen carrying a makeshift sign reading “Zionism Kills” at a pro-Palestinian rally in the German city of Hanover. Photo: courtesy of Rebecca Seidler

Police in Germany have declined to pursue criminal proceedings against a Palestinian demonstrator who assaulted a Jewish man carrying an Israeli flag at a rally in the city of Hanover last April.

A spokesperson for the public prosecutor in Hanover told the Welt news outlet on Wednesday that an investigation of the attack committed by the “55-year-old stateless assailant” showed that “intentional bodily harm could not be proven.”

The incident on April 23 at a pro-Palestinian rally involved a 68-year-old former state parliamentarian for the center-left SPD Party, Michael Höntsch, who walks with the aid of both a cane and a mobile oxygen unit. Video of the event showed Höntsch, who attended a small counter protest organized by his daughter-in-law, Rebecca Seidler, being confronted by a man wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh who then punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. The Israeli flag he was holding at the time of the assault had been given to him by another demonstrator.

As The Algemeiner reported last week, Seidler — the director of the Liberal Jewish Community in Hanover — was ordered to pay a fine of 128.50 Euros (about $125) for having staged a counter-demonstration without giving the authorities advance notice.

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Höntsch contrasted the fine leveled against Seidler with the decision not to prosecute his assailant in an interview with Welt.

“It is difficult to understand that the physical attack against me has no consequences while my daughter-in-law is being punished for observing a demonstration,” he said.

Höntsch also revealed that initially, he had not reported the attack out of concern for repercussions against his family.

“Out of consideration for my family, I had deliberately decided not to report it. I was directly exposed to the demonstrators’ willingness to use violence and I was concerned that I might be threatened again,” he said.  “I don’t want to face the man who attacked me again alone.”

Höntsch added that in his view, while there was awareness in Germany about the dangers of antisemitism from the far right, “there is a strange shyness when it comes from the Arab or Turkish population.”

Resurgent antisemitism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in recent years has not been matched by the number of prosecutions against offenders. A recent analysis of the authorities response to the hundreds of antisemitic attacks recorded in Berlin during 2019 and 2020 showed that only 13 percent of cases had resulted in criminal charges.

Julia Bernstein, a sociologist at Frankfurt University, noted that prosecution rates were particularly low with what she called “propaganda crimes”— hateful statements and graffiti directed against Jews.

“In some cases, Jews are not taken seriously by the police,” Bernstein added.

 

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