“The object of agitation is interchangeable”

Several Jewish members of the AfD plan to found their own association "Jews in the AfD" next Sunday. Not only the Jewish community warns of the consequences.

Since it became known, the news has caused consternation – not only among representatives of Jewish communities in Germany: on 7. October 2018, AfD members of the Jewish faith want to establish the association "Jews in the AfD".

Among others, federal board members Beatrix von Storch and Joachim Kuhs are expected to attend the founding meeting, as well as the party's spokesman on religious policy in the Bundestag, Volker Munz.

Erika Steinbach is to give a welcoming address

As stated in the "Declaration of Principles Jews in the AfD", the author and current personal assistant of party leader Alexander Gauland, Michael Klonovsky, is to give a speech at the event. Furthermore, a greeting by Erika Steinbach, who has been chairwoman of the AfD-affiliated Desiderius Erasmus Foundation since March, is planned.

According to the initiators, they initially want to agree on 20 founding members. So far, only a few of them are known, such as Dimitri Schulz, who is running as a direct candidate in the state elections in Hesse. By his own admission, he comes from the former Soviet Union and grew up in a "large Christian-Jewish family".

AfD politician from Baden-Wurttemberg

It is also possible that the AfD politician Alexander Berezovsky from Baden-Wurttemberg, who also comes from the former Soviet Union and is, according to his own statements, a member of the Jewish community, will be among them. In addition, the AfD chairman of the Lorrach district association, Wolfgang Fuhl, is one of the founding members.

From 2007 to 2012, Fuhl was chairman of the upper council of the Jewish Religious Community of Baden and thus a member of the board of directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Jewish community expresses incomprehension

Representatives of the established Jewish communities reacted to the announcement with clear criticism: Central Council President Josef Schuster expressed his incomprehension. AfD stirs up hatred and resentment, he said. "Of course, Jews don't just make smart decisions," Schuster said.

In his eyes, however, parts of the AfD are right-wing extremist. Therefore, he said, observation of the party by the Verfangsschutz is also justified. Schuster said he perceives an increasing insecurity in Jewish communities.

Sharp criticism of foundation

The spokespersons for religious policy of all the other parties in the Bundestag also voiced sharp criticism and were in part appalled.

According to Felix Klein, the federal government's anti-Semitism commissioner, the AfD as a whole is not anti-Semitic, but tolerates anti-Semitic outbursts such as the relativization of violent National Socialist crimes. The motivation for the commitment of Jews within the AfD, according to Klein, is not known to him and raises some questions.

Islam criticism and destroyed family image as motives

The policy statement itself cites two motives in particular for founding the "Jews in the AfD": criticism of Islam and the "destruction of the traditional, monogamous family" through "gender mainstreaming" and "early sexualization". Both topics are also found in the group of "Christians in the AfD", but there less polemically formulated.

So it goes on in the new policy statement with criticism of an "uncontrolled mass immigration" of young men from the "Islamic cultural circle" with "an anti-Semitic socialization" and with a massive Merkel scolding. The relationship with Israel is mentioned exclusively with regard to the threat posed by radical Islam. And Fuhl emphasizes when asked: "Violence against Jews comes almost exclusively from Muslims."

No substantive reaction to criticism

The statement admits that there are "anti-Semites like Wolfgang Gedeon" in the AfD, but their influence is "overestimated beyond measure". Fuhl, when asked, also criticized Bjorn Hocke's "Dresden speech" and Gauland's "Vogelschiss" statement – as a "linguistic blunder". But both had apologized. The so-called funeral march of Chemnitz had been a "quiet funeral march".

The "policy paper" does not counter the criticism of the Central Council of Jews in terms of content, but with a reference to a "certain conformity" to the state, because the Central Council receives state funding similar to state churches and dioceses: "What bread I eat, that song I sing," Fuhl said.

Minorities in danger

Organized Judaism is by no means alone in its concern. In a "position paper" of the Jewish magazine "Yalta", which in the meantime has been signed by many individuals in addition to numerous Jewish institutions and organizations, the authors warn: "In a society such as that envisioned by the AfD, all minorities" are in danger and ultimately all democrats.

"We consider such partisanship a great danger to our security, to Jewish and thus inseparably to migrant life in Germany," it continues.

The AfD has a "personal and ideological" proximity to neo-Nazi organizations. The high point for the time being was the "funeral march in Chemnitz" because Hocke demonstrated there side by side with Pegida functionaries and "cadres of the neo-Nazi scene who are known nationwide".

"Completely abstruse"

Extremism researcher Wolfgang Benz considers such a grouping, as it is now to be founded, "completely abstruse". Benz went on to say: "Do these Jews not realize how many anti-Semites there are in the AfD and how hostility toward Jews can be expressed with impunity in this party??"

At the same time, he warns, "Whoever incites against a minority for racist or other reasons, like the AfD, also has something against other minorities. The object of agitation is interchangeable. That is simply a result of the resentment research."

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Christina Cherry
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