German lawmakers vote to install commissioner to fight anti-Semitism

Creation of post comes as ruling parties prepare legislation to expel migrants who express hatred of Jews or question Israel’s right to exist

Illustrative image of neo-Nazi graffiti in Dresden, Germany. (CC BY Kalispera Dell, Wikimedia commons)
Illustrative image of neo-Nazi graffiti in Dresden, Germany. (CC BY Kalispera Dell, Wikimedia commons)

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers voted Thursday to install a commissioner who would coordinate government activities against anti-Semitism.

The lower house approved by a wide majority a motion proposed by four of the six parliamentary groups to install the official, who would be chosen by independent experts. The center-left Social Democrats called for the commissioner to be installed at the chancellery.

The decision follows a recommendation by a panel of experts and comes amid concern over anti-Semitic incidents during recent pro-Palestinian protests.

Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Union bloc, told lawmakers that far-right motives are behind the bulk of anti-Semitic crimes but there’s been a rising number of acts by migrants. He said “we must not allow either of these things.”

Volker Kauder, parliamentary group leader of the CDU/CSU speaks to reporters as he arrives for a meeting with the leaders of the conservative CDU/CSU and Social Democratic Party on January 9, 2018, in Berlin. (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

Amid growing over anti-Semitism among migrants from Muslim-majority countries, Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin city government official who is Muslim, suggested earlier this month that everyone living in Germany, including migrants, should be obliged to visit a former Nazi concentration camp at least once.

Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, told Deutschlandfunk radio the idea is “good in principle” but there are questions over details. He said it wouldn’t work simply to summon people to concentration camp visits.

Schuster said well-prepared visits would be “absolutely important” for older schoolchildren and for asylum-seekers.

The suggestion comes as Germany’s ruling parties are preparing legislation that could see migrants who express anti-Semitic views deported from the country, the daily Die Welt newspaper reported earlier this month.

The CDU-CSU conservative alliance led by Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes to present the new bill by International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

The draft legislation states that “absolute acceptance of Jewish life” is a “benchmark for successful integration” in Germany.

“Anyone who rejects Jewish life in Germany or questions Israel’s right to exist can not have a place in our country.”

Stephan Harbarth, deputy chairman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group, told Die Welt that Berlin “must resolutely oppose the anti-Semitism of migrants with an Arab background and from African countries.”

Migrants found guilty of anti-Semitic speech could face deportation under the bill.

German officials reacted with outrage in December after protesters in Berlin burned Israeli flags to protest the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that although Berlin opposed the move by US President Donald Trump, it strongly condemned protests where “hatred” of Israel and Jews was expressed.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared himself “shocked and shamed” by the incidents and said rejection of anti-Semitism was a “non-negotiable” condition for living in Germany.

A recent study found that anti-Semitism is rampant among Muslim refugees in Germany and requires urgent attention.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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