August 31, 2014
On August 31, an estimated 3,000 demonstrators gathered at Frankfurt am Main's central plaza protested the large number of antisemitic incidents of recent weeks. National and local politicians denounced the antisemitic manifestations as a threat to the security of Jews and all minorities. Numerous speakers emphasized that criticism of Israeli government policies or of any other country cannot be used as an excuse for antisemitic expressions. Hundreds of members of the Kurdish Israeli Friendship Association attended the rally to express support for Jews and Israel. AJC's Deidre Berger called for coordinated European political action to counter antisemitism. The full text of her speech can be found below and is also available in German.
Dear Dr. Graumann,
Dear Ambassador Hadas-Handelsman,
Dear Mayor Feldmann,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to see such broad participation in today’s rally, including members of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, representatives of the political parties, friends and supporters of Israel. Today we stand together!
I would like to give special thanks to the Kurdish-Israeli Friendship Association members who are here today – our thoughts are with you. We do not look away when Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria are persecuted, expelled and murdered.
Nor do not look away when antisemitism and hatred rear their ugly heads. And that is precisely what has happened in the last weeks and months. Whether in Frankfurt, Berlin or Essen, whether in London, Paris or Brussels, We have heard a torrent of antisemitic chanting, synagogues were attacked and there were even attacks against counter-demonstrators and bystanders.
We already see the results of the ongoing anti-Israel and antisemitic protests. There is greater anxiety about attacks in the Jewish community, security measures have been heightened and Jewish life has been curtailed. This is not just a matter for us in Frankfurt but everywhere in Europe, even in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Australia. For this reason, the growing number of antisemitic incidents have been the subject of increased attention in the American public, the media, Congress and the government.
As an American, this is my response: Our common transatlantic values can leave no room for antisemitism!
Therefore, we need to meet the challenges together. Antisemitism, particularly in Europe, has reached a level of everyday normality that many of us did not expect to happen again. There are concerns showing Jewish symbols in public in some places; there are concerns being public about demonstrating support for Israel.
If Europe can no longer guarantee the security of Jewish minorities that have lived here for more than 2000 years, Europe will lose part of its identity. This cannot continue. The flare-up of antisemitism in the past weeks and months is a wake-up call – but we are still waiting in vain for Europe to jolt to attention. Europe is at a turning point: What kind of society does it want to be? Will it be a community in which minorities are responsible for their own fate or does it want to be a community in which all minorities can live safely and securely? We are gathered here today to call on Europe to deal more seriously with the protection of all its citizens.
Despite 14 deaths the past two years due to antisemitic attacks in Toulouse, Burgas and Brussels, there has been no perceptible political reaction.
Why has there been no special meeting of all interior ministers to coordinate security measures and strategies?
Why has there been no special meeting of all education ministers to decide on new educational programs to fight antisemitism?
Why hasn’t the European Parliament set up a working group, a special commissioner and an action plan against antisemitism?
In Germany as well, beyond statements, there has been little undertaken in parliament or in the government. There have been no special sessions or meetings. Despite the outrage of past weeks, not one cent more has been allocated for programs against antisemitism.
This is not due to a lack of ideas. For three years now, the recommendations of a governmental expert commission on antisemitism have been consigned untouched to the shelves. We have lost three valuable years in which there has been almost no funds for research or programs to fight antisemitism. Three critical years in which NGOs have been forced to lay off employees, instead of gathering further expertise and experience amongst law enforcement authorities and in schools, sports clubs and other key institutions.
There is a larger problem with antisemitism amongst Muslim communities in Europe, due as well to the spread of Salafism and the problem of returning European jihadists from Syria and Iraq. These are European citizens and we need new answers as to how to confront this dilemma. On the right, the left and in the heart of society there are new facets as well of antisemitism, yes, also obsessive Israel criticism, that are too little researched in order to counteract effectively. Antisemitism is an age-old hatred but it needs new answers - and that demands time, money, experience and political attention. Three years have been wasted. We cannot allow a further year, a further month, not even a further week to go by without taking action. A signal is going out from civil society in Frankfurt today that we will allow no further delays in responding to antisemitism – we expect political consequences!
Dear Friends, dear Frankfurt residents,
The rally today is most encouraging. It is the largest protest to date in Europe against the most recent wave of antisemitism. Frankfurt is demonstrating its well-deserved reputation as a city of tolerance and co-existence. Here in Frankfurt today, we are sending a message to Europe: Peace and security in a democratic Europe is possible only when we stamp out antisemitism, hate and intolerance.