German anti-Semitism commissioner idea backed by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere | News | DW | 17.12.2017
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German anti-Semitism commissioner idea backed by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere

Germany's interior minister has joined the chorus of politicians expressing concern over the burning of Israeli flags in Berlin. Germany's Central Council of Jews has been calling for an anti-Semitism commissioner.

Acting Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with German national newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he supports creating the position of anti-Semitism commissioner in the next German government.

The conservative De Maiziere said his support for the commissioner went beyond the most recent incidents — in which Berlin protesters burned Israeli flags to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital — and was also based on the recommendation of an independent commission of experts.

Germany's Central Council of Jews has also called repeatedly for an anti-Semitism commissioner to be part of the chancellor's office.

In the interview, de Maiziere expressed his concern over the increase in anti-Semitic agitation in Germany.

"Each crime motivated by anti-Semitism is one to many and shameful for our country," he told the paper. He also said that occurrences of derogatory comments, inappropriate jokes and discrimination towards "our fellow Jewish citizens" were on the rise.

"Hatred towards Jews must never be allowed to take hold again in Germany," he added, alluding to Germany's historic responsibility for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed.

Flag burning condemned

His words on the subject of anti-Semitism were the latest to emerge from a German politician in the aftermath of protests in front of the US Embassy in central Berlin and in the immigrant-heavy Neukölln neighborhood.

The minister spoke out in favor of cracking down on protesters' actions that demonstrate a hatred of Israel, including through police action when possible.

"We cannot tolerate it when a country's flag is burned in public," he said. "It is the symbolic annihilation of a country's right to exist."

Read more: Opinion: Burning the Israeli flag has nothing to do with freedom of speech

Current German law makes it illegal to burn flags and symbols of a foreign state that have been officially installed. Burning homemade or non-official flags is not a crime, though incitement to violence against Jews is.

Read more: German laws on burning the Israeli flag: What you need to know

De Maiziere said that he found the burning of homemade flags comparable to burning official ones. "I consider the burning of imitation flags to also be a disruption of public security and order."

De Maiziere's fellow Christian Democratic (CDU) politician and acting Chancellor Angela Merkel also has denounced the burning of Israeli symbols.

Fewer migrants expected

In his Bild interview, de Maiziere also said Germany could expect that fewer than 200,000 immigrants will have arrived in the country by the end of year. The total would put it under the desired total limit that the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), had pushed for in the past months.

The issue has been a point of contention between the two Union parties as they attempted to show a unified front in forming a government after the September election. After the first round of exploratory talks shattered, an incoming government has yet to be agreed upon.

The minister also stressed that monetary incentives for rejected asylum seekers who opt to leave the country seemed to be "positive" thus far and advocated additional measures.

cmb/aw (dpa, KNA, AFP, Reuters)

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