A R A B I C A ارابيكا
PARTY LINE, TAKE ONE
Hezbollah-backed Al-Manar broadcaster reports on Prime Minister Najib Mikati, an ally of Hezbollah, defending his stance that Lebanon should not judge events in Syria. "This position is consistent with the Lebanese position of not interfering in the affairs of other countries," Mikati told reporters. His comments follow Lebanon's refusal to sign on to the UN Security Council's condemnation of official Syrian violence against unarmed civilians.
PARTY LINE, TAKE TWO
The siege in Hama intensifies, with tanks shelling the center of the city and the military seizing the main square that has served as the epicenter of protests. The death count rises. Meanwhile, Syria's official news agency hailed President Bashar al-Assad's decree allowing the formation of political parties "to exist alongside the Baath Party." The move has been universally derided by the regime's opponents, who note that any true opposition parties will have no chance at governing Syria.
Indeed, the decree includes the caveat that the ruling Baath Party will remain "the leader of the state and society." Still, the agency's website followed up its lead story with the headline: "Political figures and academics: legal decree on parties and elections ensure political participation and guarantee freedom and democracy for all."
WORD FROM THE STREET
With voices altered and faces of interviewees obscured, Al Arabiya aired a short documentary on the Syrian revolution here. The military focus may be on Hama, but the army is occupying numerous towns and cities across the country. In a clip said to be filmed in the port city of Latakia, two armed soldiers and an armed man in civilian clothes are filmed from a window above. The man in civilian clothes opens fire several times in the street. "Scumbag, pimp," the person filming says, offering a variety of other curse words.
THE REVOLUTION, IN FLEMISH
The Syrian Revolution Facebook group, the engine of the uprising, features a new banner on its home page. Written on a poster of a vintage photograph of the city of Hama, known for its creaky, centuries-old water wheels, are the words: "Friday, August 5th. God is with us. Are you?" The group has expanded and gone international. It now exists in Turkish, French and Flemish as well as English and features a separate group just for video clips. The latest post from the French/Flemish group in Belgium, called "De Syrische revolutie in België": "Nous n'acceptons pas la négociation et le dialogue syriens. Notre objectif est de renverser le régime," or "we will accept neither negotiations nor dialogue with the government. Our objective is to overthrow the regime."
August 5, 2011
photo credit: illustir
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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