German Court Rules Setting Synagogue on Fire Legit Protest

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A German regional court ruled that the setting fire to a synagogue was not an anti-Semitic act, but rather was intended to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict.”

As such, the three men convicted of the crime – identified only as Muhammad E., 31, Ismail A., 26, and Muhammad A., 20 – were given suspended sentences. The men threw a firebomb into the synagogue in Wuppertal which caused $850 of damage in the summer of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s response to continuous rockets and missiles fired into its territory by Hamas. 

In the ruling, the court noted that the men had been drinking alcohol and that no one was injured. The fire was contained when a 13-year-old boy who lived near the synagogue saw the blaze and called police. The ruling upheld a similar decision made by a lower court.

German lawmaker MP Volker Beck, a leader of the Green Party, disagreed with the court ruling.

“This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned,” he said, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post. “What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward anti-Semitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming.”

Beck is correct. One only wonders what the response of a German court would have been if a Christian who had been drinking firebombed a mosque as a way of registering a protest against Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Ironically, the original synagogue in Wuppertal was set ablaze by the Nazis in 1938 on Kristallnacht, a night of programs against Jews, Jewish business and homes and synagogues throughout Germany. It is a sad day in Germany when the firebombing of a synagogue is once again a state-sanctioned political act.   

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org