NewsGermany's president urges Muslims to disavow Hamas amid concerns for Jewish security

Germany's president urges Muslims to disavow Hamas amid concerns for Jewish security

Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Images source: © PAP | CLEMENS BILAN

8:56 AM EST, January 17, 2024

On Wednesday, November 8, Steinmeier called for a meeting with Jewish and Muslim community representatives in Germany at Bellevue Palace in Berlin. He delivered a speech about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and reactions to it in Germany. He expressed satisfaction with those who stand in solidarity with Israel while expressing concern about contrary reactions.

Among other things, Steinmeier drew attention to the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that have been ongoing in German cities for weeks. He voiced concern about anti-Semitic attacks, hate speech, and questions about the rights of Jews to their state in the Middle East.

Steinmeier urged Muslims in Germany to distance themselves from Hamas. As he reminded his audience, Hamas is seen as a terrorist organization and has been held responsible both for the recent conflict that started on October 7 and for Palestinian casualties.

"Since October 7, Israel has not been the same. The terrorist attack by Hamas marks a severe turning point and has deeply traumatized Israelis. Rocket attacks, brutal killings, mutilation, and hostage-taking have triggered a new war - a war that Hamas is inflicting even upon its own people, who have tragically become hostages. Thousands of innocent people have already fallen victim, and their suffering deeply moves us and also reverberates in Germany," said Steinmeier.

Steinmeier's address to Jewish community

Steinmeier also remembered the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the brutal pogrom against Jews in the Third Reich. He mentioned the shocking statistics: 91 people were killed, 26,000 were imprisoned in camps and synagogues, as well as shops, cemeteries, and Jewish homes were destroyed.

"Tomorrow is November 9th. It's unbearable that 85 years after the pogroms of November 9, 1938, Jewish women and Jews do not feel safe in our country. They're afraid to send their children to school and have their houses marked with the Star of David."

He addressed the Jewish community in Germany, promising, "This country will not rest until you feel safe. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in our country: neither old nor new, neither from Christians nor Muslims, neither from the left nor the right!"

Steinmeier's call to opposition against terror

He appealed to Palestinians and the broader Arab community in Germany, "You should have the space to express your pain and despair about civilian casualties in Gaza. Our constitution guarantees the right to do this publicly and peacefully. There is also no room for anti-Muslim racism or general prejudice against Muslims."

However, he was clear about terrorism, "Incitement and calls for the destruction of Israel are not part of these guarantees. Hamas does not speak on behalf of Palestinians - they are victims of Hamas's terror. I urge the Palestinian and Arab communities not to allow Hamas to exploit you! Speak out in your own name! Express your opposition to terror!"

Steinmeier's comments on historical knowledge in Germany

Steinmeier also acknowledged the strife among diverse communities in Germany, but emphasized their right to express their views peacefully. He made it clear that freedom has its limitations when it breeds violence and hatred. He specifically condemned anti-Semitism, attacks on synagogues, and burning Israeli flags.

"Everyone who lives and wishes to continue living in this country must abide by our rules of peaceful coexistence. They must be aware of our history. I said this at the Brandenburg Gate and I repeat it now: Everyone living in Germany must know about Auschwitz and the responsibility that comes with that knowledge. Protecting Jewish life in Germany isn't just a state task, it's a civic duty applicable to everyone who lives in our country. I firmly believe this message needs to be stated more clearly than ever. In times of terror and hatred, mere verbal declarations aren't enough."

Steinmeier's views on school situation

He also addressed the challenges faced by schools attended by Middle Eastern students, recognizing that the conflict in the Middle East often fuels tension in these institutions. He urged policymakers to offer unyielding support to teachers and school administrators in this difficult situation.

In his speech, Steinmeier welcomed his guests - representatives of Jewish and Muslim communities in Germany who work towards their reconciliation. Prominent among them was Margot Friedländer, a Holocaust survivor, who celebrated her 102nd birthday on Sunday. To her, the president expressed gratitude and extended his best wishes on her birthday.

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