TEL AVIV â€" A whole lot of money is involved in the current Palestinian political struggles, with some suggesting that the ability to bring in the bucks is a non-official competition for the title to be the next president of the Palestinian authority. And no better way to judge that than to measure how notable weddings are being celebrated.
We see, for example, that the current president Mahmoud Abbas marked his 80th birthday by celebrating his eldest grandsonâ€™s wedding in Qatar.
At the same time, Abbasâ€™s bitter rival Mohammed Dahlan was celebrating his daughterâ€™s wedding in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The wedding season of recent weeks in the Palestinian territories thus became a way for the two leaders to compete with each other for who will grant more money and sponsorship to the young newlyweds.
Clearly, it isnâ€™t their money. It is money raised from countries in the Middle East, the Gulf, and beyond. A month ago, for example, a huge ceremony was organized in Gaza, where 2,000 couples got married on a soccer field, all sponsored by Turkey. Every couple received $2,000.
According to Palestinian sources, Dahlan was the man behind this enormous event. He also donated $5,000 from the UAE to each family who lost a member in the war last summer. His wife, Jaleela, donated generously to public institutions in Gaza with Hamasâ€™ authorization. Analysts see these recent moves as a possibility that Dahlan is trying to reconcile with Hamas, which could undercut Abbas's rule in Ramallah.
The fattest check
Abbas responded to the mass soccer field wedding by organizing a ceremony where hundreds of couples got married in the sacred Al Aqsa square in Jerusalem, and went to Jericho to celebrate afterwards. The rings and the celebrations cost $4,000 per couple.
Mahmoud Abbas is a wealthy man who has property both in Qatar and Amman, the capital of Jordan. Five years ago, Dahlan openly accused him of corruption carried out through his sons' business. Similar accusations have been made against Dahlan. In his early years as head of preventive security in Gaza, he was accused of collecting protection money from every truck that entered Israel. It is also said that some of the funds given by the United States to fight Hamas went through him.
Hamas has banned Dahlan from Gaza, and in 2011 he was thrown out of Ramallah and expelled from the Fatah party that runs the West Bank. He owes his success to the leaders of the UAE, with whom he also helped invest billions of dollars in a project in Belgrade, Serbia. As recognition, Dahlan and his family and close associates were granted Serbian citizenship.
Dahlan has significant support in the Palestinian territories and in Gaza. Abbas suspects certain key players will cooperate politically with Dahlan, such as Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister in Ramallah up to 2013.
Last week, security forces in Ramallah raided the offices of the Fayyadâ€™s Association "Palestine Tomorrow," which had received millions of dollars in funding from the Gulf for projects in the West Bank. The suspicion: money laundering.
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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