A R A B I C A ارابيكا
By Kristen Gillespie
KILLERS IN SYRIA
The situation in Syria appears to be worsening further as intellectuals and doctors are being assassinated. Opposition activists blame the government for the deaths they say are an attempt to stoke sectarian tensions while the government continues to blame unnamed "armed terrorist groups funded by an external conspiracy." Among those who have been assassinated in the past two weeks are a thoracic surgeon, a nuclear engineer and the deputy dean of the architecture school at Homs University. In the latest incident, a professor from Aleppo University, Mohammed al-Amr, was gunned down while in his car. With him was the 21-year-old son of the Grand Mufti of Syria, the highest Sunni religious authority in the country.
DEFENDERS IN EGYPT
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council currently ruling Egypt, is defending testimony he gave to the court in the trial of ex-President Hosni Mubarak. The former president is on trial for the deaths of more than 850 protesters during the January 25th revolution. Tantawi testified that no one ordered the army to fire on protesters, and that no Egyptian soldier fired on protesters. Tantawi said the military's role now is to keep the country on track so that parliamentary elections can take place in November as scheduled, followed by presidential elections next year. "No one will stop us from completing our mission and moving forward," Tantawi said Monday. "We are a united people." He defended martial law currently in place "not because we want it, but because security conditions in Egypt require it."
DOCTORS IN BAHRAIN
Nada Dhayf is a Bahraini doctor sentenced last week to 15 years in prison for treating injured protesters during a wave of unrest earlier this year. The government tried her and 20 other medical professionals in a closed security court for "plotting to overthrow the regime." Dr. Dhayf is speaking out publicly, saying her torturers used electric shocks on her ears and face, adding the explosive claim that a member of the ruling Al Khalifa family "personally supervised my torture."
PUMPKINS IN JORDAN
A video of a session of parliament is making the rounds in Jordan because lawmakers are paying closer attention to a bag of pumpkin seeds being passed around than the matters at hand. A man speaking at the session is widely ignored as smoking lawmakers focus their attention on a man walking around with a bag of seeds, or bizr, in Arabic. Hands are held out and men line up for their helping of bizr, while the larger debate is for the most part ignored. Most commenters mock the parliamentarians as an embarrassment. One commenter writes, "where is the Pepsi and dessert?" Another writes, "It reminds me of high school."
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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