Head of German Jewish Council calls for stronger laws against anti-Semitic protests | News | DW | 12.12.2017
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Head of German Jewish Council calls for stronger laws against anti-Semitic protests

The call follows incidents of protesters burning an Israeli flag in response to the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Some conservative lawmakers also want to see legal changes.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster (pictured), called on Tuesday for changes to German law to prevent or quickly break up anti-Semitic demonstrations.

The demand follows incidents of demonstrators burning Israeli flags in response to the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel over the weekend.

"Those who burn Israeli flags question Israel's right to exist or deny it," Schuster said in an interview with Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung daily.

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

"These types of actions with a clearly anti-Semitic tone should not be approved … They cross the boundary of what is permitted by the right of assembly," Schuster added.

Schuster said police should be able to intervene during these demonstrations. If existing laws do not allow them to do this, the government should "urgently examine possible changes to the law," he told the newspaper.

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

Germany - Demonstrators burn a flag with the Star of David in Berlin (picture alliance/dpa/Jüdisches Forum für Demokratie und gegen Antisemitismus e.V.)

Demonstrators burned a flag with the Star of David during a protest in Berlin on Sunday

Weekend of flag burning

Over the weekend, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Berlin's Neuköln district and in front of the Brandenburg Gate near the US Embassy to protest US President Donald Trump's controversial decision.

Multiple images emerged on Sunday showing some protesters burning a flag with the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism and the state of Israel.

Police detained at least twenty people for offenses, including disturbing the peace. But Berlin police told DW that they could not prosecute those who had burned flags.

"Burning a flag is not a crime, whether it be Israeli or American or from any other nation" Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said. "The only exception is, for instance, when a flag is taken from an official building like an embassy and burned."

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the act on Monday, saying: "We oppose all forms of anti-Semitism and xenophobia." But she stopped short of calling for changes to the law, adding, "the state has to use all available legal measures" to combat similar incidents in the future.

Read more: Chancellor Angela Merkel condemns burning of Israeli symbols in Berlin

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@dwnews - German lawmakers condemn Israeli flag burning

Politicians call for change

Politicians from Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have also called for changes to the law to combat anti-Semitic demonstrations.

"If these anarchists try to stage the next intifada in our city centers, it is the police's job and our country's historical responsibility to put them in their place," said the CDU premier of the state of Hesse, Peter Beuth.

Stephan Mayer, a senior member of the CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, told the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung the inability for police to prosecute flag burning meant that "a change to existing laws is urgently needed."

amp/jm (AFP, dpa)

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