Israel, German Presidents Condemn Anti-Semitism

May 12, 2015  

The presidents of Israel and Germany warned Tuesday of growing anti-Semitism as they marked half a century of diplomatic ties, 70 years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust.

“I am very worried. Worldwide anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish slogans are on the rise,” said Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who was on a state visit to Berlin to mark the anniversary of bilateral relations.

“In the entire free world – and especially in Europe, given its not too distant past – alarm bells should be ringing,” he said in comments to Germany’s Bild daily and Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Rivlin’s German counterpart, Joachim Gauck, shared in the joint interview concern about rising hate speech against Jews and the state of Israel, both in his country and elsewhere in Europe.

“In Germany too, during demonstrations last year, we saw anti-Semitism, some of it cloaked as criticism of Israel, some of it open,” he said, referring to street protests against Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

“In addition to a ‘traditional’ anti-Semitism we are increasingly confronted with anti-Semitism from immigrant families,” he said, adding that this “made me and the overwhelming majority of Germans feel deeply ashamed.”

The presidents, who are both aged 75, stressed that German-Israeli ties had grown strong despite the enduring dark legacy of the Holocaust during which Nazi Germany killed six million Jews.

Rivlin said that “you won’t find a Jew in the world who doesn’t think of the Holocaust when it comes to Germany. We carry the Holocaust with us. I think it’s the same for many Germans when they think of Israel.

“But from the ashes of the past has flourished a wonderful partnership” in fields such as science, medicine and commerce, he said, praising today’s Germany as “a beacon of democracy in the world.”

Gauck also touched on the issue of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, saying that he wished Israel “will be safe in the future and at peace with its neighbors.”

“For me, that includes finding a peaceful way of living together with the Palestinians,” he told Bild. “The basis for that is a two-state solution, of that I am convinced.”

Rivlin was later due to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then attend a ceremony at the capital’s main orchestra hall, the Berliner Philharmonie.

AFP contributed to this report.

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