Since the start of Syria's civil war in 2011, more than 2.7 million Syrians have registered as refugees in neighboring Turkey, making it the largest host country for Syrian asylum seekers. The influx, combined with a rise in terrorist attacks in the country, have become pressing issues in Turkish politics.
ISTANBUL â€" Refugeesâ€¦ They are either drowning in the sea, or a burden on public finances. Their flight from war and drift to someone else's land only requires the art of reconstructing reality. We can write poems about them, take photographs, shoot movies, and conceptualize them until it becomes a work of fiction. But when it comes to pure reality, they stop being human beings and become numbers instead in the lives of us all.
There is, it seems, no shame from those getting rich off war and trying to use the agony of others to accumulate more profit. Then we stand in the face of the bombshell decision of Turkey's government, which flatters itself by presenting all its failures as success stories, to promise Turkish citizenship to Syrian refugees. For a person who thinks itâ€™s an accomplishment to govern a country like a company, it is customary to attempt major moves at the expense of the public alongside his own position and power.
Our leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is busy writing his subjective history. With the simplest calculation, he dreams of turning the Syrian population into an electoral advantage with this impromptu offer of citizenship. For years, he played with the fate of those people, and his own, without any sign of humanitarianism or ethics, but only with profit and loss calculations. He is still playing the same game.
Those who start wars and their subcontractors think that they have the right to play with peopleâ€™s lives. But if they dug under the surface of the civilization they inherited, they would see their dead ancestors still lying underneath the debris of this system and hear the stories of what has happened and what will happen to them.
We are all grandchildren of those countless people who were forced to flee their homelands in the South, North, West, and East during a time of war. The place we call our home is our motherland today, but is actually just a big lie, like ethnicity and religion. These lands belonged to someone else yesterday, are ours today, and will wind up somewhere else tomorrow.
It is tradition to visit the graves of relatives after the holy month of Ramadan. This time, visit the lost graves of your grandfathers and grandmothers, of their mothers and fathers, and of their mothers and fathers. Think of whatâ€™s going on today in terms of the stories of your distant ancestors.
Where are you from?
Where is your fatherâ€™s side from? What about your motherâ€™s side? How many members of your family died in war or were held captive? How many went missing? How many of those were lost on the road during an attempt at migrating, or maybe couldnâ€™t handle the circumstances and went crazy? What about the population exchanges, exiles, just plain misery? Why did your lost predecessors travel all that way from the moment they were born until their death? What did they lose along the way?
This is the way human beings reproduce: By killing and oppressing one another. So, they always reproduce as they risk being diminished. The beliefs change, as does the language, and the skin color. Only the idea is fixed and dangerous. We are all survivors of wars, but we still consider ourselves different from one another.
Now, we look at all those refugees from a distance and think that they are not one of us. From a humanitarian perspective, we want to accept refugees as our own and make room in our lives for them. But from a political perspective we are opposed to it.
Yes, we are right to be opposed, because today, the leaders are loading the dice and taking an ugly and dangerous political gamble with millions of peopleâ€™s lives at stake. Still, trying to keep the refugees out of our lives is not the right response. Instead, we should keep the current government out of our lives. And war, which makes us believe that we are different and always right, should never be used by the government in power to dictate our conscience.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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