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Berlin: German lawmakers join Israel solidarity demo

Alex Berry
May 20, 2021

A wide array of groups and organizations called for the demonstration against rising antisemitism. Leading lawmakers are taking part, including Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

Olaf Scholz in Berlin
Olaf Scholz addresses the protesters during a rally to express solidarity with Israel in Berlin.Image: John Mcdougal/AFP via Getty Images

Leading German politicians joined around 1,000 people to demonstrate against antisemitism and in solidarity with Israel on Thursday evening.

The event — which started at 7 p.m. (17:00 UTC) in front of the Brandenburg Gate — was organized by an array of different groups, including the Jewish Community of Berlin, the Kurdish Community in Germany, and the German Trade Union Confederation.

The list of speakers included Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats (SPD), the leader of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Lindner, General Secretary of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Paul Ziemiak, as well as Green lawmaker Cem Özdemir and parliamentary leader of the Left Party Dietmar Bartsch.

Scholz told those in attendance that whoever attacks Jewish life in Germany attacks the identity of German society, and "thus attacks us all."

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was not asked to talk at the demo, according to the event's description on social media.

A spike in antisemitic attacks

The event was organized to counter the rise of antisemitic attacks following the intensification of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

"Hamas aggression isn't just having an impact in the Middle East," the callout for the demonstration said.

"Serious antisemitic attacks have also taken place in Germany in the last few days. The safety of Israeli and Jewish people and establishments has once again come under threat," it added.

Germany condemns antisemitism

Germany has witnessed nationwide protests over the recent conflict with thousands of people taking to the street to decry the violence.

Some participants at pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests have also chanted antisemitic slogans or attacked Jewish synagogues.

Jeremy Issacharoff speaks to DW

Chancellor Angela Merkel told broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk on Thursday that the antisemitic attacks in Germany are "to be condemned in the strongest terms."

She clarified that criticism of Israel is one thing, but "when Israeli flags are burned and synagogues are attacked, then that must be severely opposed," the chancellor said.

Berlin police said on Thursday that 53 people had been arrested at an anti-Israel protest on Wednesday evening, AFP reported. Police said that were repeated instances of antisemitic chants during the protest attended by around 3,000 people.

German lawmakers in the Bundestag roundly condemned the antisemitic incidents on Wednesday evening.

During a visit to Israel on Thursday, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas repeated Germany's commitment to Israel's right to self-defense while also calling for an end to the conflict.

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