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Germany's Scholz to Israel: 'Germany is at your side'

October 8, 2023

There was horror, anger and indignation in Germany about the Hamas attack against Israel. Berlin has assured Israel of its support, but not all political camps are speaking out.

Pro-Israel protesters in Berlin
Berliners came on on Sunday to show solidarity with IsraelImage: LIESA JOHANNSSEN/REUTERS

The attacks against Israel have caused shock, horror, and outrage in Germany. Around 2,000 people joined a solidarity rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sunday, a scene marked by a sea of Israeli flags.

"Berlin stands firmly on Israel's side," Kai Wegner, mayor of the German capital, told the crowd, as all the speakers reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself in the face of terror.

"There is no spiral of violence, but rather an attack by Hamas terrorists on Israeli civilians," emphasized the president of the German-Israeli Society (DIG), Volker Beck, adding that Israel had to "ensure that Hamas is no longer able to commit such crimes again." The DIG invited several Jewish organizations to the event.

Berlin rally in show of solidarity with Israel

Outrage over pro-Hamas celebrations

Rallies in support of Israel were also scheduled in other German cities on Sunday, including Cologne. Events are planned for Monday in Hannover and Würzburg, while on Saturday evening, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was illuminated with the Israeli flag.

But on the same evening there were other scenes that caused outrage nationwide. In the Neukölln district of Berlin, some members of the Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun handed out candy in joy over the terror against Israelis. 

The Berlin police has already filed charges against several suspects and Israel's ambassador Ron Prosor has called for tough action against the network.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about the security of Jewish institutions in Germany. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said that security precautions for Jewish and Israeli institutions had been increased.

Police protection for morning prayers

One sight from a Berlin district on Sunday morning may illustrate what that meant: A rabbi making his way through the quiet neighborhood, on the way to morning prayer in the synagogue, while a few meters behind, a police car followed to keep him safe.

Meanwhile, at a political level, the leaders of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), as well as the Greens and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) made a rare joint statement expressing solidarity with Israel.

"The security of the State of Israel is our obligation," they said, stressing that the two countries were joined in "in a democratic community of values."

Scholz calls attacks 'barbaric' 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz made similar comments in a statement on Sunday afternoon. He pointed out that the Israeli flag had been hoisted outside the chancellery, as well as in front of the Bundestag and the residence of the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

German chancellor: Germany stands by Israel's side

"Israel's security is a German reason of state. This is especially true in difficult times like these. And we will act accordingly," said Scholz. He called Hamas' attacks "barbaric," and, addressing the people of Israel, he promised that "Germany is on their side.”

Scholz added that he had already spoken to several Western heads of government and would talk to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday. A "wildfire with uncontrollable consequences" for the entire region had to be prevented, he said. 

Germany's foreign minister also found firm words against terror and a clear language of solidarity with Israel. Annalena Baerbock denounced "perfidious terror" of the Hamas attack, spoke of "heinous" crimes and said Israel had the right to defend itself under international law.

As of Sunday afternoon, it was striking who did not comment though: There was no prominent voice from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on the matter and barely any comments from the socialist Left Party.

Funds to Hamas?

Many of the social media posts, newspaper commentaries, and political statements in Germany demanded that all financial support for the Palestinians be stopped if it might be used to fund Hamas terror.

Perhaps this was also why German Development Minister Svenja Schulze, from whose budget some money goes to the Palestinian territories, made this statement on Sunday: "We have been careful to ensure that our support for the people in the Palestinian territories serves peace and not terrorists," she said.

And then she called the attacks on Israel "a terrible turning point. We will therefore put our entire commitment to the Palestinian territories to the test." During this review, her house wanted to talk to Israel about possible development projects in the region.

This article was originally written in German.

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Deutsche Welle Strack Christoph Portrait
Christoph Strack Christoph Strack is a senior author writing about religious affairs.@Strack_C