“I cannot recall a moment where we have seen this kind of openly expressed antisemitism.” Dr. Remko Leemhuis, AJC Berlin Director, sums up the state of antisemitism in Germany post-October 7 with this chilling statement. Hear from Leemhuis, along with Asia Pacific Institute (API) Assistant Director Hana Rudolph, and AJC Abu Dhabi Director Marc Sievers, on how the October 7 Hamas massacre of Israelis has impacted Jews in Germany, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the United Arab Emirates.

*The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC. 

Episode Lineup: 

  • (0:40) Hana Rudolph
  • (7:18) Remko Leemhuis
  • (15:20) Marc Sievers

Show Notes:

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Transcript of Interview with Hana Rudolph, Remko Leemhuis, and Marc Sievers:

Manya Brachear Pashman:

American Jewish Committee has 14 international offices around the world. This week, we checked in with some of those offices to learn what they're seeing and hearing on the ground since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. In an earlier installment, we took you to Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Our journey continues today in Asia, Berlin, and Abu Dhabi. 

We started in South and East Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Since the director of the Asia Pacific Institute (API) [Shira Loewenberg] was en route to Indonesia, we caught up with Assistant Director Hana Rudolph.

Hana, let's start with Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, the country with the world's largest Muslim population. In fact, where AJC has made tremendous inroads in recent years engaging with faith and political leaders. What has the response to the October 7 attacks been there?

Hana Rudolph: 

The Indonesian government doesn't have ties with Israel, though it does support a two state solution. So we don't expect there to be a vocal kind of support for Israel. But the anti semitism and the conspiracy theories, the false narratives happen incredibly alarming. There was a rally on November 5, a pro Palestinian rally, and rally organizers think that there were 2 million people who turned out for that. So we're talking huge numbers. 

The prevailing narrative there is really that Israel is the indiscriminate aggressor, they are just killing women and children for no reason in Gaza. There's very little mention of Hamas’ massacre on October 7, and that's the narrative. 

AJC has taken several delegations of Indonesians to Israel for our Project Interchange. A lot of our alumni had been receiving death threats. And we're not talking about death threats for posts that they're actively making right now in support of Israel. We're talking about death threats because, you know, some long time ago, when they were on this delegation, they posted something that was seen as something pro-Israel, and now they're receiving this kind of pushback and hate and condemnation for it.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

You mentioned the dominant narrative. Are there other narratives developing?

Hana Rudolph: 

One of the most, I think, notable and disappointing reactions across our region has been China. China refused to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7. And there has been a notable uptick in antisemitic rhetoric across Chinese social media platforms, which, as you know, are heavily censored when the government chooses to do so. So here the government is choosing not to censor. And in fact, several state-run institutions are actively promoting radically antisemitic content. So I'll give you a few examples. CCCB describes Jews as accounting for 3% of the US population and manipulating and controlling, in their words, 70% of the country's wealth. The China Internet Information Center compared Israel to the Nazis. 

And these are, of course, narratives that, you know, once they're once they're put out there, they're being actively promoted and popularized by other social media influencers. So the content that's being generated, you know, as a result goes far beyond even those examples. We've noticed that there are several major Chinese map platforms that are no longer labeling Israel as a country, you know, they'll demarcate the borders, they'll identify cities, but you don't see Israel labeled. 

Most likely, China is seeing the current conflicts within the context of the US versus China and this whole conflict is just another opportunity to champion itself as the leader of the developing world. You know, it's a continued strengthening of the China, Russia, Iran, North Korea bloc of malign actors. 

It's just very laughable, really, that China is maintaining what is described to be a position of neutrality, when one, it won't condemn Hamas’ attack; two, it won't condemn antisemitism. But instead, it'll explicitly denounce Israel for quote, going beyond self defense, and, again, in the foreign minister’s words, collectively punishing the Gaza people in its counterstrike. 

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

What are we seeing in Australia, where the Jewish community numbers about 100,000? I know historically, antisemitic incidents per capita have remained low there. 

Hana Rudolph: 

The Australian government has, by and large, really supported Israel in the same way that the US has. But the politics and public sentiment also look a lot like here. So there's been growing pressure for the government to call for a ceasefire, things like that. The uptick in antisemitism also looks a lot like here. It's been very alarming. There's actually a very sizable Jewish community in Australia. It's about 100,000, and Australia has the largest number of Holocaust survivors per capita, just to give some context. 

Since October 7, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has documented 221 incidents of antisemitism, so we're just talking about one month. This includes threats to Jewish schools and synagogues, property damage, even a few physical assaults. There has also been large pro-Palestinian demonstrations. I think the one that probably everyone signed in the news is a demonstration on October 9. So we're talking just two days after the attack. Outside of the Sydney Opera House where pro-Palestinian protesters were chanting ‘Gas the Jews.’

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Remarks and resolutions coming out of the United Nations General Assembly have shown little support for Israel since the beginning of this conflict. There was a resolution calling for a truce this week. There's one calling on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, the buffer between Israel and yet another hostile neighbor, Syria. How have the nations in the Asia Pacific voted on these resolutions? 

Hana Rudolph:

I would say that the most kind of encouraging signs coming out of some of these countries have really been in terms of the government's position. So I want to especially highlight Japan, South Korea, and India. These are all countries that have joined the U.S. in condemning Hamas’ attack on October 7, affirming Israel's right to self defense. They all abstained from a recent UN General Assembly resolution that called for an immediate humanitarian truce. And the reason why they abstained is because there has been a Canadian amendment to unequivocally condemn Hamas terrorist attacks and demanding immediate release of hostages. 

This amendment was backed by the U.S. but was rejected by the resolution. And so these three countries all abstained. We see it as a positive. The Marshall Islands and Micronesia Islands, both Pacific Islands, voted against it. They have always been strong supporters of Israel. We're incredibly grateful for that relationship.


Manya Brachear Pashman:

Since October 7, AJC Berlin director Remko Leemhuis has taken two German delegations to Israel to speak with hostages' families, to see the homes raided by Hamas, and understand the military operation underway there. Remko joined us from Berlin to speak about those missions, but also to talk about what he's seeing and hearing back home.

Remko Leemhuis: 

We had an attack on a synagogue here in the center of Berlin that was attacked with Molotov cocktails, even though there was police protection. We had the homes of people marked with a star of David. You know, where members of the Jewish community live. And these are the things that happened sort of outside of demonstrations–we had people that have been threatened, because they were wearing a kippah or are visibly Jewish. And when we look at the demonstrations, we see what we've seen, this is nothing too new. All sorts of expressions of antisemitism beginning with, from the river to the sea. People chanting that. We're also seeing that they compare what's happening in Gaza with the shoah, so, Holocaust trivialization. 

Again, we see attacks on police officers, and thinly veiled, classic antisemitic stereotypes. You know, they're not saying the Jews but saying, you know, the Zionist. And that’s also something not too new, but the how forceful these things press. 

We're also seeing attacks against the press, and saying that the press is lying, and they're always, you know, portraying them in the wrong way and using chants that are hard to translate, but that, up until now, we've mostly seen right wing manifestations. So it's very weird to see how they're now using the same slogans. 

We've seen it across the board, in every region in every major city. We don't have numbers, over the past month or so. But I can tell you that, for example, in the first week, after October 7, we had 202, antisemitic incidents that were recorded by a different NGO. And that was just the first week after, after October 7. 

And we had until the end of October, 80 antisemitic crimes that have been registered with the police and the authorities. So we've seen it across the board and online, but especially during demonstrations, so called pro-Palestinian demonstrations, where we have seen violence–violence against the police, but obviously also expressions of antisemitism and very clear expressions of antisemitism.

That's been frightening, to be honest, because we have seen, you know, these kinds of before during other rounds of conflict between Hamas and Israel, but this time, it's just the sheer number and the openness is pretty stunning. And I cannot recall a moment where we have seen this kind of openly expressed antisemitism.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Are you also hearing it from government leaders?

Remko Leemhuis: 

I have to say that, especially for Germany, that the government, the ministers, they are all very clear in their support for Israel. And this is obviously not a winning theme for them, oftentimes, but the chancellor is very straightforward in his support for Israel, on numerous occasions. 

The Economy Minister Habeck, has put out a video that got a lot of attention, where he very clearly addresses antisemitism. Antisemitism coming from the left, so sort of his own, he's from the Green Party. So when he's talking about antisemitism from the left, he's sort of talking about where he is coming from. And I think that's always a good starting point for people when they talk about antisemitism always, start by addressing it in your own sort of political spectrum and not pointing fingers at others. 

And so I think that this is a very good sign. And today, we're weeks after October 7, and they're still very forceful in their support for Israel, which, again, given the pictures that we unfortunately see coming out of Gaza, I wouldn't have imagined that it would be the case, but it still is. So that is, that is good. 

What is still lacking, in my opinion is, or something that we've seen over the past years, and now seeing much more, that there's a gap between sort of the political class, if you like to call political class and or politicians and mainstream society. 

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

But then again, government leaders have had the opportunity to see the battleground firsthand, right? I mean, you've taken two delegations now, can you tell us what they've seen, what they've heard? 

Remko Leemhuis: 

I was on two missions. The first mission, this was a delegation with members of parliament, members of the European Parliament and other national parliaments in the European Union, including two German Members of Parliament. That was my first mission to Israel since October 7. 

And I can say that, obviously, seeing it firsthand among, you know, we had obviously political meetings and meeting with lawmakers in Israel, members of Knesset, but we also went to Kfar Aza, one of the kibbutzim that was attacked on October 7.

And we met with survivors' families from there, with families whose loved ones have been abducted, and are now hostages in Gaza. And I think that seeing this firsthand, hearing it firsthand, from the families there's nothing that can substitute for that. 

You can read a lot, you can watch everything that's in the news or on TV, but being there yourself really has really an impact on people and gives them a better understanding of what Israel is facing and what the enemy is that Israel is facing.

My second trip was with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and again, it's someone to be there and be able to go into one of these, you know, small houses which seem like frozen in time. And I mean, nothing has been touched and it looks like it looked on this Saturday morning and in some houses you think, the inhabitants or the people who live there are just out for a while and will come back.

Then you go through these houses and then you get to the safety room or the security room and bomb shelter. And you see what happened in that house and that obviously people have died there. And then again, speaking to the families, to the survivors, and seeing how desperate they are. 

It's something that no one will ever forget who was there and will impact everyone going forward and obviously will also have an impact on how they view the ongoing military operation in Gaza, differently than somebody who's just seeing it from the news.


Manya Brachear Pashman:  

In addition to its Jerusalem office, AJC also has a Middle East presence in Abu Dhabi. With us to discuss how Israel’s Abraham Accords partner United Arab Emirates has been reacting to the news is AJC Abu Dhabi Director Marc Sievers. Marc, welcome to People of the Pod.  

Marc Sievers:

Hi, Manya. Great to be with you.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

You are right there in the region, in the neighborhood, if you will. Tell us what you're seeing or hearing and do you feel safe? What's top of mind there?

Marc Sievers:

Certainly there's a great concern about the potential for escalation. We hear that, it comes up in almost every discussion. Certainly, it's bad enough to see the combat and the situation in Gaza. But there's been concern from the beginning that it could spread to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, with Syria, even potentially, to Iran directly, although I think that's quite unlikely. But it's not entirely out of the realm of the possible. 

But I think the US military presence in that sense, in the two aircraft carrier groups that are in the waters in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. There is a significant US military presence that's been brought into the region to help deter an escalation, an expansion of the fighting to Lebanon and Syria.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

Does the tiny Jewish community there feel safe?

Marc Sievers:

First of all, threatening or commenting in a hostile manner toward people here because of their race or their religion or their nationality is a crime. It's taken very seriously. There have been a few cases of Jewish people. Not anyone I'm directly involved with, but I heard about who took some complaints to the police and the police took legal action. So there is a legal basis to ban any expression, public expressions of antisemitism.

The messages we've received are to keep a bit of a low profile, you know, avoid being obvious or provocative. But other than that, everything's normal. I walk around the city, I drive myself, I go to a lot of public places. I feel perfectly comfortable. I don't feel any particular tension. I'm sure if there were any threats, specific threats that we would be notified. I'm not aware of any. 

Look, it's a difficult period and emotions run high. And certainly emotions are high in Israel, but they're also high across the Arab world. There is a lot of, as I said earlier, a lot of concern for Palestinian civilians. I think, to some extent, Hamas has managed to project itself, particularly through social media, as the embodiment of the Palestinian people in a way that's kind of hard for us to understand, but it's out there. And that is a factor. 

Here the Israeli embassy is open and functioning. And there's also a consulate in Dubai that is open and functioning. My understanding is that at least Israeli ambassadors in the other countries, including Egypt and Jordan have been asked to come home, not because they've been kicked out, but out of security concerns. So I think it also speaks highly of the environment in the UAE, that the Israeli diplomatic missions are still here.

Manya Brachear Pashman:  

But will the relationships that AJC has built, that Israel has built through the Abraham Accords, are they strained? Or is your work continuing through all of this?

Marc Sievers:

As I keep saying this is a difficult period. But I think we're all hoping that we'll all get through this together and that there will be a new situation after the military campaign is completed, that we want to see the hostages released safely. And that's very much on people's minds. 

A number of people here have family or friends who either died on October 7, or in some cases were kidnapped or they know somebody who was. So we share that concern and hope with all of the Jewish people around the world. That's certainly on our minds, but I'm very hopeful still that we will get past this and that there will be new opportunities to rebuild some of what's been disrupted. And there's no question that things have been disrupted, that's just a fact.

Manya Brachear Pashman:

Marc, Remko, Hana, thank you all for joining us. Be sure to listen to our previous episode from earlier this week featuring updates from Paris, Latin America, and Africa. And last week, before fighting resumed, we spoke with AJC Jerusalem Director Avital Leibovitch about Israel's efforts to root out Hamas and bring the rest of the hostages home.