BERLIN (EJP) – A group of suspected neo-Nazis attacked a booth distributing pro-Israel material during an otherwise peaceful “I like Israel” event, in the west German city of Siegen on Saturday.
A 25-year-old man was arrested after masked anti-Israeli radicals stormed a stand, belonging to German pro-Israel initiative “neveragain” at the nationwide annual event taking place across 64 German cities, injuring two women and a man.
“I Like Israel” aims to promote solidarity with the Jewish state and celebrate its independence and counts the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, as its patron.
According to the movement’s chairman, Sacha Stawski, although anti-Israel polemic is nothing new, “this is the first time property was destroyed and people were physically hurt.”
Stawski, who is also head of the Frankfurt-based pro-Israel media watchdog, Honestly Israel and a staunch supporter of Israel, told EJP: “Anyone organising Israeli events in Germany is prepared for anger, although we aim to focus beyond political lines. We are not prepared, however, for physical attacks – when that happens, it’s a big shock.”
He admitted to being “relatively disappointed” by the attitude of the police to the attack – “firstly, for not preventing the attack, and then for leaving the stand unsecured for half an hour, whilst they chased the perpetrators.”
“The boundaries between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel are shrinking rapidly. In Germany, this is becoming apparent. Five people storming a booth is not acceptable,” he continued.
Daneca Ganharevt, a member of “neveragain,” one of the pro-Israel organisers of Saturday’s even, said:”It was very surprising for us, although Israeli initiatives are often targeted. It happened very quickly as we packed up at the end of the event. They were four or five young men, apparently of German origin – their faces were covered so you could only see their eyes. There was no other opposition to the event – it was fantastic otherwise, with a peaceful and positive message.”
She went on to say: “We are overwhelmed by the support we have received from across the community and the media, following the attack.”
The attack followed a visit to Washington by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, during which he pledged to take a firm stand against anti-Semitic incidents in Germany.
In an address to the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum, the minister spoke of the legacy of the Holocaust for German society:”The memory of their fate (Holocaust victims), the memory of the racist perversion of German thought and German actions of those years, will stay with us through the ages. Our country and our culture have been poorer ever since.”
“Together with Israel we are committed to preserving the memory of the Holocaust for future generations and to countering anti-Semitism across the globe,” he added.