Experts Agree, It's A Small World After All

Experts Agree, It's A Small World After All


For the record, I am writing this from home. On a late winter Monday, with most of our crew either off-the-clock or working remotely, I decided to spare myself (and a few others) the day's commute to hash out the news from our office in eastern Paris. So again, for the record: Yes folks, I do have an office to go to each day.

This wasn't always the case. Like the instantly legendary "Expert of All Things South Korean", Sir Honorable Professor Robert E. Kelly, whose live interview on the BBC was hilariously interrupted by his kids, I used to work from home. It could sometimes make a man (especially a man, I believe) doubt himself. This was occasionally made all the more odd on those occasions when, like Professor Kelly, I was called on to do similar kinds of impromptu interviews wearing the vest (and tie?) of "Expert of Entire Nation X" — Italy, in my case. And yes, I too might have had a young child or two lurking somewhere in the apartment as I waxed self-importantly about a pope or prime minister, always in 90 seconds or less.

As our whole world keeps getting smaller, its component parts continue to close in on themselves.

Unlike Professor Kelly, I am no longer an expert on any nation, but rather a humble news editor. Hack of all subjects, master of none. The beat we cover at Worldcrunch is limited by neither geography nor topic — hard news, as we say in the business, and soft. And so when that video from Seoul popped up at our Paris office on Friday, we knew it wasn't your usual bit of blooper virality: In just half-a-minute, so much of what is happening in our daily worlds (first world, at least) came waltzing on the stage. Working parents and dividing responsibilities, the possibility to connect and the expectation to always remain connected. Gender roles and border crossings, international marriages and the beautiful truth that kids will always be rascals everywhere (read here for some extra deconstruction of it all).

The fact that Kelly was being interviewed about national political riots and the world's most dangerous nuclear power is almost lost on the moment. Somehow, Asia never seemed so close and faraway all at once.

Back in old Europe, a new week means new, previously unimaginable stories for us to wrap our heads around. The first major national election since the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's win is about to take place in the Netherlands, with a flamboyant, far-right candidate eyeing victory. But it has taken an extra edgy turn in the final days, as a diplomatic standoff has erupted between the Turkish and Dutch governments that is somehow linked to an equally unsettling national referendum back in Turkey. The details are here, but the context (once again) is how, as our whole world keeps getting smaller, its component parts continue to close in on themselves.

One other example here in France that hasn't yet made international headlines is the so-called "Molière rule" that requires the French language to be spoken on job sites for public works contracts. It may very well become a point of debate in this country's own crucial national election, with another far-right candidate rising in the polls. Depending on where you sit, the language requirements for public work contracts is somewhere between justifiable home economics and deplorable xenophobia. Plenty to discuss tomorrow at the office, in English of course.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

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.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


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.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

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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