What do you want? - World Jewish Congress

What do you want?

What do you want?

There can be no two sides to antisemitism. An outcry in the face of violence and hatred writes WJC Executive Vice President Maram Stern in the Berlin-based Der Hauptstadtbrief.

Rarely has so much hatred manifested itself as in the past few days. When the terrorist organization Hamas began firing rockets at Israel two weeks ago, people in European capitals took to the streets. Unfortunately they  rarely stood by the country under attack – but rather demanded its destruction.

Social media is overflowing with anti-Israel propaganda. And the distinction between anti-Israeli and antisemitic statements is increasingly becoming an academic quibble; indeed, it is almost superfluous.

The reality is this: graffiti is defacing Israeli embassies, synagogues, Jewish community centers, cemeteries and memorials in numerous European countries and - in many cases - in Germany. The swastika is also a popular motif. Accompanying actions run the gamut from vandalism, stone throwing, burning of Israeli flags, mass insults and threats to Jewish people to frequent physical attacks on people believed to be Jews.

Although the official definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is very cautiously formulated, it is easy to classify: the supposedly pro-Palestinian demonstrations are, to a large extent, antisemitic marches to begin with. The distinction between Jews and Israel has long since disappeared. Holocaust denial and glorification are part of the usual repertoire. The frenetic tone and sheer hatred of the incited crowds make even by-standers shudder. Is it even possible to be "uninvolved" in this issue? I don’t think so.

I also can no longer abide the talk anymore that ‘both sides’ have to give in. There cannot be two sides when it comes to antisemitism. There cannot even be neutrality. Those who ignore the background of the ‘pro-Palestinian’ demonstrations - those who choose not to see the antisemitism - become accomplices. 

A large part of the demonstrators are of foreign ancestry. Often they are young men. Those who are sympathetic to them like to point out their lack of integration in German society. Though this may be an explanation, it is no excuse. Integration also includes the much-quoted German reason of state, and I am particularly grateful, along with other politicians, to Cem Özdemir, who put it most clearly: "Anyone who wants to live in this country must profess Israel's right to exist."

"But the Israelis ...". My attention wanders when someone starts a sentence like that, because it is seldom based on factual knowledge. A million Germans who have neither seen Israel nor any of the neighboring countries and know neither the history nor the acting political forces of the region are suddenly experts on the Middle East. "The settlement policy of the Israelis ...". Shut up! What do you know? What do you want? As soon as details about the complex situation on the ground are required, all of these self-proclaimed experts turn out to be completely clueless. Shall I tell you what set off the current conflict? A tenant dispute. A few people coordinated and simply stopped paying their rent. The landlords sued to evict them. Hamas propaganda turned this into forced displacement. It was staged from the beginning.

But well, we can talk about eviction. When the United Nations decided in 1947 to create an Israeli and an Arab Palestine, and the State of Israel was formed the following year, it was invaded by all the neighboring Arab states and other Arab countries on the very night of its creation. Israel won its war of independence. But the war led to displacement and evacuation on both sides: about 850,000 Arab Palestinians left Israeli territory, and Jews in equal numbers fled Arab countries for Israel. And yet: about 20 percent Arab Israelis live in Israel today. They are represented in parliament, the government, universities, the army and the supreme court.

The number of Palestinian refugees has increased significantly over time. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in 1950 as a temporary relief program to care for 500,000 officially registered refugees.

Today, there are 5.7 million refugees. The status of refugee is a hereditary one, based on paternal lineage - you do not have to be an actual refugee yourself. About two million such "refugees" live in the Gaza Strip. The population there doubles every 20 years, and half are younger than 15. They are grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who - possibly - once fled or were evacuated. In Gaza, there are no Jews. Gaza is "Jew-free." And there are about one thousand Christians, too, making up about 0.5 per thousand of the population. Gaza is almost "ethnically pure."

Those who parade through Berlin waving flags and chanting "Free Palestine!" should reconsider which social model it is they are actually propagating. Gaza is the prototype of the "Islamic State." Since the coup by the terrorist organization Hamas in 2006, there have been no elections. Torture is practiced in the prisons, and indoctrination is carried out in the schools, which are of course separated by gender. And the primary focus is always on the destruction of Israel and the Jews, the official goal of Hamas. Even young children are educated in terrorism. In Gaza, antisemitism is a matter of state policy. Here lies the real drama. There is no positive political goal, there is no constructive idea of what mutual co-existence could look like.

But Hamas's antisemitism also comes at the expense of the Palestinians themselves. Seventy percent of the population in Gaza does not have enough money for food; almost half of the population is fed through UNRWA, financed by donations and especially by the German state. Meanwhile, Hamas is still sitting on an arsenal of at least 15,000 rockets, even after hundreds to thousands were fired daily at random targets in Israel for almost two weeks.

To all those now demonstrating against Israel, the question must be asked: What do you want? "Free Palestine?" Start in Gaza. Free the people there from the fanatical antisemitic terrorists, the oppressors and bread robbers, instead of continuing to label them as “freedom fighters.”

Once again, what do you want? What should Israel do? What concessions should Israel make to an enemy demanding its destruction? How should Israel have responded to the daily bombardment by hundreds of rockets? And what do you expect from the Jews in Bonn, Düsseldorf or Munich, who, from the same geographical distance as you, want nothing more than peace and lasting security for Israel?