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German intel agency warns antisemitism is filtering into mainstream discourse

BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang says hateful imagery present at protests over COVID restrictions, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Russia’s war in Ukraine

Illustrative: A man wears a kippah at a demonstration against an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Illustrative: A man wears a kippah at a demonstration against an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said Wednesday that antisemitic offenses are continuing to rise and those that come to light are only “the tip of the iceberg.”

The head of the BfV agency, Thomas Haldenwang, said it is alarming that antisemitic narratives are sometimes embraced by people in “the middle of German society,” serving as a link between social discourse and extremist ideologies.

He said his agency has seen that increasingly in protests against coronavirus restrictions or over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in a few cases, in connection with Russia’s war in Ukraine. The internet serves as “fertile ground” for antisemitism, he added.

A report from the BfV, its second on the subject, said that 2,351 antisemitic offenses, including 57 acts of violence, were reported in 2020 — compared with 2,032 and 73, respectively, the previous year. The overall figure for offenses has risen steadily since 2015, and the 2020 figure was the highest since counting started in 2001.

Haldenwang said in a statement that “this is only the tip of the iceberg.” He said the number of incidents that for various reasons don’t lead to a criminal complaint is believed to be “significantly larger.”

The government’s antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein, told the Welt newspaper that “the pandemic acted like a fire accelerant for antisemitism, also in that it linked together many environments that previously stood for themselves.”

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