Israeli professor attacked by Palestinian in Germany

Assailant shouts ‘No Jew in Germany’ at visiting scholar and knocks his kippa off his head; victim defends himself but is beaten by police, who mistake him for instigator

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: A participant wears a kippah during a 'wear a kippah' gathering to protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House on April 25, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images via JTA)
Illustrative: A participant wears a kippah during a 'wear a kippah' gathering to protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House on April 25, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images via JTA)

A US-based Israeli professor of philosophy was assaulted Wednesday in Germany by a man of Palestinian origin, who knocked his skullcap off and shouted at him that there should be no Jews in Germany.

The Israeli defended himself but was then set upon and hit in the face by police, who thought he was the instigator of the altercation. The local chief of police later apologized for the incident.

The 50-year-old professor from the University of Baltimore, who was not identified in reports, was visiting the city of Bonn as a guest lecturer. Together with a companion he took a walk in a local park, when he was confronted by a 20-year-old German described in local media as having “Palestinian roots.”

Although initially arrested after the incident, his assailant has since been released and is waiting for criminal proceedings on suspicion of incitement and assault.

According to local German media reports the assailant knocked the Israeli’s kippa off his head several times, hit him on the shoulder, and shoved him.

He also shouted, “No Jew in Germany” at the Israeli, who defended himself against the assault.

The Israeli’s companion called police, but when officers arrived the attacker fled, with the Israeli in pursuit.

Police initially thought the Israeli was the aggressor, and when he failed to heed to their calls to stop they tried to detain him, leading to a scuffle in which he was hit in the face and wrestled to the ground. Only after the situation was clarified by the professor’s companion did police arrest the Palestinian, who reportedly was under the influence of drugs.

The attacker, who is known to police for drug and violence offenses, was sent to a psychiatric clinic but later released, as the institute could find no reason to hold him, reports said.

Bonn police chief Ursula Brohl-Sowa apologized personally to the professor.

“A terrible and regrettable misunderstanding in the field, for which I have expressly apologized to the professor concerned,” she said in a media-reported statement. “We will examine exactly how this situation came about and do everything possible to avoid such misunderstandings in the future.”

The mayor of Bonn, Ashok Sridharan, also commented on the incident on Thursday afternoon, saying, “I strongly condemn the attack and apologize to the scientist for the fact that this happened to him here in Bonn.” According to a report from the General-Anzeiger Bonn website, the city will hold a “Kippa Day” next week against racism, an event in which participants will wear a kippa as a sign of unity against prejudice, and in particular anti-Semitism.

The Rheinische Post website reported that the anti-Semitism commissioner of the Federal Government, Felix Klein, said he was “deeply disgusted” by the attack.

“I expect that the alleged Palestinian culprit will now be quickly investigated,” Klein said. “We have to show that every form of anti-Semitism in Germany is immediately sanctioned.”

There is growing concern in Germany over rising anti-Semitism.

On Sunday German police arrested 10 people over an alleged anti-Semitic attack in a Berlin park. Police did not give the names or nationalities of the suspects or the victim, but German daily Welt reported those involved were Syrians.

Germany was shocked by a case of anti-Semitism in April involving a Syrian migrant who lashed out with his belt at an Arab Israeli man wearing a kippa. A video of the street assault, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, sparked widespread public revulsion as it spread on social media, and triggered street rallies in solidarity with Jews.

Earlier this week, dozens of Jewish organizations in Germany called on the government to crack down on anti-Semitism, including among Muslim immigrants, following a string of anti-Jewish attacks.

In an open letter signed by 38 groups, the country’s Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA) outlined a policy statement, urging Berlin to condition funds for civil and religious organizations on them issuing public declarations distancing themselves from anti-Semitism in all its forms.

Agencies and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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