Imported hatred or indigenous scaremongering?

Imported hatred or indigenous scaremongering?

About the construction of the anti-Semitic Arab

Statement by the Salaam-Shalom Initiative. English translation by Phil Butland and Deborah S. Phillips.


In recent months, various parties have expressed concern about refugees from Syria and Iraq bringing problematic attitudes into the country. It is assumed that refugees hail from countries in which an anti-zionist stance is part and parcel of government policy. This would require the implementation of “upper limits” for refugees, as well as their committing themselves to Israel’s right to exist, while also giving priority “integrating” refugees to familiarise them with so-called German values.

The paternalistic tone of such arguments against newcomers shows one thing above all: social inclusion is not aimed at. The picture being painted is one of a threat which can only be answered with education enforced from above.

Moreover, the sweeping presumption of an “anti-Semitic culture”, which Arab and/or Muslim refugees allegedly “import”, is exceedingly cynical: these people are fleeing from violence and misery in their own countries. In Germany, they are not only confronted with daunting bureaucracy; they also experience assaults on their accommodations and hostile attacks from the local population nearly every day. In 2015, the police reported 880 racist-motivated assaults on refugees and migrants; in 2016 this figure is expected to rise. At the same time, the vast majority of anti-Semitic violence and criminal offences reported to the police are, and always have been, carried out by right-wing extremists. Attributing anti-Semitism to refugees thus says more about the people leading this discourse than about the refugees themselves: While refugees are fighting for survival and have little time to think about the Jews living in Germany, it seems that for some people the “fight against anti-Semitism” focusses on legitimizing their political influence: they are not interested in getting to know refugees, who are both socially and religiously a very diverse group. Instead, they want to justify rigid asylum policies by making ample mention of  “anti-Semitism of Others”. As if an upper limit for refugees, which is already legally dubious, were essential for dealing with „imported anti-Semitism.“

This reasoning is all the more absurd, as anti-Semitism itself, discourse and Stigmata are central components of the “Occident” developed by “enlightened” Christianity. People who attribute an “anti-Semitic” culture to all those from “Muslim” countries who have migrated to Germany, lack a certain cultural self-enlightenment: Germans with Christian backgrounds must also be aware of and account for their own heritage.

Furthermore, the definition of anti-Semitism on which these arguments are based is questionable. The premise, which is rarely explicitly formulated, is that refugees are anti-Semitic because any criticism of the State of Israel is seen as such. We should remember that rejection of Zionist movements had been a central component of Jewish discourse until much of European Jewry was decimated by the Nazis. Although this is largely overlooked, a genuine Jewish anti-Zionist tradition is a historical fact.

Additionally, equating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism inevitably leads to a de-legitimization of the history of the Palestinian people and their aspirations in light of this history. It is understandable that many Palestinian refugees (especially those who lost their homes in wars in and around Israel) have a completely different perspective of Israel than Germans who feel, per se, bound to the state by historic responsibility. Some refugees‘ rejection of the Jewish state is thus not necessarily motivated by hatred of Jews: it is, on the contrary, an expression and a consequence of a political conflict in which a non-Jewish indigenous population lost a great deal of land and property. This is a matter of historic rights. The occupation is still going on and those who live in the occupied Palestinian territories have no semblance of legal security. They are subjected to reprisals, and lack control of and access to resources.

Anti-Semitism in the mainstream of German society is politically and sociologically different to the anti-Zionist sentiments of some refugees. Clearly, such opinions can potentially be accompanied by anti-Semitism. This does not mean, however, that every criticism of the Jewish nation state is motivated by anti-Semitism. German civil society, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish or religiously unaffiliated must find ways of dealing with historic and present day anti-Semitism, while simultaneously acknowledging that the Palestinian people have paid and are continuing to pay a huge price for the safety of the Jewish state.

We need to fight and will fight anti-Semitism – whenever and wherever. It appears. We cannot, however, fight anti-Semitism by automatically branding anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, belittling the historic narrative of the Palestinians and denying their historical suffering in the name of a Jewish historic narrative. Quite the opposite: we must listen to each other and accept the existence of more than just one single perspective of the Middle East.


Zu Hause in Deutschand @ BODDINALE

Grafik (c) 2016 Johannes Müller

We are proud to announce that the short documentary „Zu Hause in Deutschland“ by Johannes Müller and Rebecca De Vries has been selected to be screened at this year’s BODDINALE Film Festival!

Please come and join us for this wonderful underground film festival and watch our movie followed by a discussion with us, the filmmakers.

Some infos regarding our project:
„Zu hause in Deutschland“ is a short documentary focusing on the personal experiences of everyday-racism in Germany of four Berliners with different cultural and ethnical background. The film looks at the concept of home, the development of identity and the challenges of feeling part of German society as members of a minority.

The film was produced for the inter-cultural initiative Salaam-Schalom.

The movie will be screened on the 18th of february parallely on 5 screens. We will be the second movie of the evening. So the screening will take place around 19.00.

Length: 14min
Language: German with English subtitles
Entry: free

For more infos please visit the official festival website:

Einladung zum monatlichen Brunch / 12.4.15


Du willst die Leute hinter der Salaam-Schalom Initiative kennenlernen? Du hast Fragen oder Kritik zu unserer Arbeit oder unseren Statements? Oder willst du dich gar bei uns engagieren?

Komm am 12. April zum monatlichen Salaam-Schalom Brunch!

Wir ermutigen alle, Snacks mitzubringen. Der Brunch ist vegan und alkoholfrei. Praktischerweise halten wir so automatisch alle jüdischen und muslimischen Speisevorschriften ein.
Kinder sind auch willkommen!

Ort: Neuköllner Leuchtturm (Emser Straße 117, 12051 Berlin)
Datum: 12. April 2015, ab 11:00

In Kooperation mit der Neuköllner Bürgerstiftung.

Want to get to know the people behind the Salaam-Schalom Initiative? Have questions or criticism of our work or public statements? Or do you want to get involved?

Come to the monthly Salaam-Schalom brunch on the 12th of April!

All are encouraged to bring snacks. The brunch is vegan to automatically comply with all Jewish and Muslim dietary laws.
Children are also welcome.

In cooperation with the Neuköllner Bürgerstiftung.

Wir sind nicht Charlie Hebdo / We are not Charlie Hebdo

(The English translation of the statement follows below.)

Im Nachspiel der Tragödie und des Entsetzens über die Charlie Hebdo Morde, und der Diskussionen, die diese losgestoßen haben, beobachten wir eine Eskalation des Hasses auf Muslime und Migranten. Die Auswirkungen der Diskurse, in deren Fokus ein vereinfachter Gegensatz von “Islam kontra Freiheit” steht, haben globale, nationale und lokale Konsequenzen, und berühren unausweichlich das Leben und die Sicherheit derjenigen, die unter uns in Berlin leben.

Wir glauben fest an das Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung, und daran, dass auf Grund der Aussage konträrer Meinungen niemandem jemals das Leben genommen werden darf.  Gleichzeitig lehnen wir die Instrumentalisierung des Angriffes auf Charlie Hebdo, die weiteren Hass gegen Muslime und Migranten schürt, durch jedwede politische Partei oder Medieneinrichtung ab. Die brutalen Morde von Paris bringen uns nicht von unserer ethischen und politischen Überzeugung ab, dass das erneute Publizieren rassistischer Komiks über diejenigen, die in unserer Gesellschaft marginalisiert und unterdrückt werden, falsch ist. Derartige Reaktionen führen zu zunehmender Feindlichkeit, Diskriminierung, Entfremdung, Unterdrückung, zu Gewalt und Hass gegen die in Deutschland lebenden Muslime und Migranten.

Das erste Mal seit Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges wird in unserer Gesellschaft der Hass auf eine religiöse Gruppe offen akzeptiert. Als Juden, Muslime und Christen, als säkulare Menschen, und als Menschen unterschiedlicher Herkunft, stehen wir solidarisch zusammen, gegen Rassismus, Marginalisierung, Vorurteile und Hass, gegen die Dämonisierung des Islams und der Muslime. Wir sind nicht Charlie Hebdo.

In the aftermath of the tragedy and horror of the Charlie Hebdo murders and the discussions that have been triggered, we observe an escalation of hatred towards Muslims and migrants. The repercussions of discourses focusing on simplistic binaries of Islam vs. freedom have global, national and local consequences, and therefore inevitably affect the life and security of people living among our midst in Berlin.

We firmly believe in the right to free speech and that no one should ever be deprived of their right to life for expressing disagreeable views. However,  we reject the instrumentalization of the Charlie Hebdo attacks by any political force or the media to further incite hatred against Muslims and migrants. The brutal murders in Paris do not suspend our political and ethical belief that republishing racist cartoons of those already oppressed and marginalized in our society is wrong. Such reactions lead to increased hostility, discrimination, alienation, oppression, violence and hatred against Muslims and migrants living in Germany.

It is the first time since WWII that hatred against a religious group is openly accepted in our society. We as Jews, Muslims, Christians, seculars and people of various origins and beliefs stand in solidarity and resistance against racism, marginalization, prejudices, hatred and the demonization of Islam and Muslims. We are not Charlie Hebdo.