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Germany

Anti-Semitism Debate Stews Online

The anti-Semitism debate sparked by the deputy leader of Germany's Free Democrats has shifted. As political and media discussions appear to be quieting down, public arguments have found new ground on the Internet.

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The Internet can be the perfect place for anonymous extremism.

For weeks, German intellectuals, politicians and media had their say about Jürgen Möllemann’s criticism of Israel and the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Now, those voices are turning to other issues.

But the so-called "anti-Semitism debate" is continuing – at least virtually. According to a report by the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, the bulletin boards on all German party websites are overflowing with contributions on the topic.

The site of Möllemann's party, the Free Democrats (FDP), is getting the most "input". Since the discussions began, more than 4,000 users have posted some 25,000 contributions on the site, the paper said.

Jumping on the bandwagon

Unfortunately for the FDP, some of the postings are not what the party would like to see, as they contain right-wing extremist content. Some users are taking advantage of the debate to voice their anti-Semitic sentiments. The FDP webmaster has been scrambling to get these statements off the page as quickly as possible.

The party has even introduced new regulations for participating in the online debate. In a note to bulletin board users, the FDP's webmaster writes that the current debate had led users to "abuse the protection of anonymity" in order to post "unacceptable statements and slander".

New users can now no longer register with freemail addresses without providing clear identification. Also, each user is only allowed to open one new topic daily on the bulletin board.

But users themselves are also battling the right-wing input. "Claerus" writes that he is "honestly ashamed" of the postings.

"Why isn’t anyone waking up? So many people are writing about 'the Jews' here on this site and practically no one knows the first thing about Jewish religion, culture, traditions or societal structures."

Other messages posted on the party site sought to support Möllemann by disentangling his recent criticisms of the Israeli government and Michel Friedmann, the deputy head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, from allegations of anti-Semitism.

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