World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel on securing a fourth term in Sunday’s federal elections, calling her “a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.” But Lauder also sharply denounced the entry of “disgraceful” reactionary party Afd (Alternative for Germany) which is set to enter the Bundestag, the federal parliament, for the first time, as the country’s third largest party.
NEW YOK/BERLIN (EJP)—World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel on securing a fourth term in Sunday’s federal elections, calling her “a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”
But Lauder also sharply denounced the entry of “disgraceful” reactionary party Afd (Alternative for Germany) which is set to enter the Bundestag, the federal parliament, for the first time, as the country’s third largest party.
Merkel’s conservative bloc (CDU and CSU) won 32.5 percent of the vote, according to the ARD exit poll — sharply down from 41.5 percent in 2013.
The Social Democrats (SPD) led by former president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz slumped to 20.0 percent, a new post-war low, according to the exit poll, down from 25.7 percent four years ago. The AfD party appears to have received more than 13% of the vote according to exit polls.
“I have met with Chancellor Merkel on many occasions over the course of her 12-year leadership, and witnessed firsthand her sincere and unyielding commitment to combating anti-Semitism and defending the State of Israel. She is a true friend of both Israel and the Jewish people,’’ Ronald Lauder said.
“Anti-Semitism – both on the far right, and with its new mask of anti-Zionism on the far left – is rising across the globe, including in parts of Germany.
“It is abhorrent that the AfD party, a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past and should be outlawed, now has the ability within the German parliament to promote its vile platform,’’ he added.
The Alternative for Germany, which rails against immigration and Islam, becomes the country’s first hard-right nationalist party to clear the five-percent hurdle and enter parliament in the post-war era.Close to France’s National Front and the UK Independence Party, the AfD is an anti-establishment party that harnesses xenophobia and popular discontent about what it labels unaccountable political and media elites.
The AfD is dominated by white men, is strongest in Germany’s poorer ex-communist east, and has flirted with far-right groups, breaking a taboo in post-Holocaust Germany.
Its leaders have sparked outrage by saying German border guards should as a last resort open fire on illegal immigrants, calling Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame”.
Amid these disturbing trends, Chancellor Merkel has shown remarkably strong signals of dedication to protecting the Jewish citizens of her country and cracking down on hateful rhetoric and action.
Germany already has some of the strongest laws against hate speech in the world and the German government recently put into place even stronger policies to combat anti-Semitism in its various forms, both on social media and in the public sphere.
Last week, the government announced its decision to adopt a new and far-reaching definition of anti-Semitism in line with the international definition proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and an unprecedented law will go into force in Germany next month imposing fines on social media networks that fail to remove ‘’manifestly unlawful’’ hate speech content within 24 hours.
Around 200,000 Jews live today in Germany. Official figures show anti-Semitic crimes reported to the police rised 4 percent to 681 in the first eight months of 2017 against the same period last year.
Nearly 93 percent of reported anti-Semitic crimes were linked to far-right extremism, despite predictions that a large growth in the Muslim population since Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis could fuel attacks or discrimination against Jews.
“Police statistics and new private reporting sites report a growing number of anti-Semitic crimes. In addition, we have the impression that anti-Semitic sentiments are being expressed without reservation on social media,” said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
The group has urged political parties and non-governmental organizations to work together to combat right-wing extremism. It has also backed calls for the German government to appoint a special commissioner for anti-Semitism.
“Merkel’s government last year declared BDS to be ‘coarse anti-Semitism’, reminiscent of the Nazi boycotts against Jews in the years leading up to the Holocaust, and she has said unequivocally that desecration of Jewish property is an attack on Germany and its culture,’’ Lauder said.
“These are all critical measures for identifying, measuring, and dealing with anti-Semitism, no matter how trivial the manifestation may seem.’’
“The World Jewish Congress is encouraged by Chancellor Merkel’s dedication and confident that she will continue with these crucial efforts in support of the Jewish community and the State of Israel, and resist any attempts to the contrary within her own parliament.’’
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called the election, which brought the extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party into the Bundestag , “a disturbing milestone in modern German politics.”
‘’AfD’s entrance into the Bundestag as the third largest party is a disturbing milestone in modern German politics. The AfD is proudly extremist, anti-immigrant, and anti-minority. Its leaders have made anti-Semitic statements and played down the evil of the Nazi regime,’’ said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt.
He said that Chancellor Merkel ‘’has a strong track record of protecting the Jewish community and other minorities.’’
‘’We appreciate that she has excluded the possibility of AfD joining her coalition, and we count on her strong leadership going forward to diminish the appeal of AfD among German voters,’’ Greenblatt added.
Originally published on September 24, 2017, at European Jewish Press