North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of the Interior, Herbert Reul, has attributed partial responsibility for anti-Semitic attacks in Germany to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He said it was “totally likely” that Erdoğan’s sharp criticism of Israel had caused people of Turkish origin to take part in protests in West German cities over the past ten days. “I bet that,” Reul told the Home Affairs Committee of the North Rhine-Westphalia state parliament on Thursday, “but I can’t prove that.”
Earlier, Reul had again reported how, in the early hours of Wednesday evening last week, a group of about one hundred people had marched to the synagogue in the centre of Gelsenkirchen. This “anti-Semitic mob”, said Reul, had waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanted anti-Jewish chants on that May 12. A police cordon had prevented the crowd from entering the synagogue just in time. Erdoğan had declared on the same day that Israel should be taught a “strong and deterrent lesson”. A few days earlier, he had called Israel a “terrorist state”.
From May 10 to 18, the North Rhine-Westphalian security authorities counted 62 “incidents” with an anti-Semitic background, including insults, threats or the burning of Israeli flags. According to a ministry official, 36 of the 111 suspects have now been identified by name, and most of them are “of Arab origin”.
Reul warned of “strange alliances” of anti-Semitic groups: for example, immigrants from Iraq or Syria were “making common cause” with right-wing extremist “Grey Wolves” from Turkey, Islamists with a migration background were among them, as were German right-wing extremists. What they all have in common, according to Reul, is “a deep hatred of Jews”.
In the plenary session of the state parliament, speakers from all parties assured Jewish citizens of protection and safety. In the debate, head of government Armin Laschet rejected accusations by the AfD that the established parties were ignoring attacks by suspects with an immigrant background: In addition to anti-Semitism from the right and the left, there is “also anti-Semitism from immigrants”, said the Prime Minister.
Interior Minister Reul conceded in the debate that the police would not be able to protect every Israeli flag in the country at all times: “If the flag is burnt, then it’s burnt – then the next one will be put up.” Each city should keep ten in reserve: “But we will not take them down!