Three German Palestinians convicted of arson after hurling firebombs at a synagogue in Germany were motivated by trying to bring “attention to the Gaza conflict,” according to the judge who convicted them on Thursday, Jerusalem Post journalist Benjamin Weinthal reported.
The judge in the case did not believe the men were guilty of anti-Semitism, according to outraged Green Party deputy Volker Beck, who told media he wrote to the prosecutor in the case to file a legal objection, reported.
Several days prior to the firebombing, “Free Palestine” had been sprayed in paint on to the wall of the synagogue as well.
The rebuilt synagogue in Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia was undamaged in the July 29, 2014 attack, which sparked a solidarity rally outside the building that same night. Dieter Graumann, then-president of the German Central Council of Jews, condemned the attack as did Germany’s Central Council of Muslims.
The synagogue was attacked in the middle of the wave of anti-Israel and anti-semitic demonstrations that occurred in Europe last summer during the Gaza war, which were accompanied by many other attacks upon individual Jews and Jewish institutions.
|Firebomb attack: Police officers at the synagogue in Wuppertal (Photo: dpa)|
How can attacking a synagogue with firebombs not be an antisemitic act? A synagogue is a specifically Jewish place of worship. It is not a representative of the state of Israel.
Graumann said, “We have seen … during the war in Gaza, demonstrations of pure primitive hatred against the Jews that broke out again. It is very hard for me to talk about it but, when there are calls in the streets of Germany, ‘Jews to the gas,’ it hurts us greatly,” he added."
Further from Benjamin Weinthal's article in the Jerusalem Post (German Judge: Torching of Synagogue not motivated by anti-Semitism):
The Wuppertal court sentenced the two men, ages 24 and 29, to a suspended prison term of one year and three months. The two men, along with an 18-year-old juvenile, in July tossed Molotov cocktails at the synagogue in Wuppertal, a city in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with a population of nearly 344,000. The court ordered all three to perform 200 hours of community service.
Beck said on Saturday the “attack on the Synagogue was motivated by anti-Semitism” and blasted the court for issuing a decision stating that the goal of the attack was to bring “attention to the Gaza conflict.” Israel, last summer, was involved a 50-day war in the Gaza Strip.
“This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned. Therefore, I have written the prosecutor and called for the filing of a legal objection,” he said, adding that the burning of a synagogue in Germany because of the Middle East conflict can be attributed only to anti-Semitism.
“What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward anti-Semitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming.”
The three German Palestinians caused €800 damage to the synagogue. The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Germans during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.
A 13-year-old who lived near the synagogue and noticed the flames informed the police. Several days before the fire, a person sprayed “Free Palestine” on a wall of the synagogue.The city of Wuppertal is about 35 kilometers away from Bochum. It would take me about an hour to get there by train. The synagogue in Bochum was not attacked during the summer, but there were at least two anti-Israel demonstrations in the city, both accompanied by chants of "child murderer Israel," "Free Free Palestina," and "Terror-Staat Israel," along with Muslim chants like "Allahu Akbar."
An increase of German anti-Semitism had prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to speak at an anti-Jew hatred rally in September.
The Taz reported on the trial on January 14, 2015 - the defendants claimed they were drunk and did not intend to set the synagogue on fire.
The Suddeutsche Zeitung from August 8, 2014, reported on the firebombing:
A small yellow car drives by the Wuppertal synagogue, and the windows are rolled down, with young people screaming "Free Palestine." This has been happening for weeks, and Artour Gourari finds it perfectly fine (völlig in Ordnung), at least to some extent. "This is part of the freedom of expression," says Gourari, from the council of the Jewish community in Wuppertal.Reading further in the story, it appears that passersby did not just scream "Free Palestine," but other more vile insults. If I were him I would not have found this "perfectly fine," since Jews, especially in a German synagogue, should not subject to verbal assaults and blamed for what the state of Israel does.
What is not covered by the freedom of expression, one can see behind him on a spot on the floor and on the outer wall of the synagogue, smelling of gasoline and oil. Last week, three young people of Arab descent threw Molotov cocktails at the synagogue, and two suspects are sitting in detention. You could read in the past week that it suffered no damage. It sounded as if nothing happened.
"You have to imagine what kind of a symbol this is. Once again a synagogue has burned in Germany," says Artour Gourari. "We are all in shock." To date, they have not found a way to clean the gasoline from the entrance to the synagogue. Youcan not just spray around with the pressure washer, the Bergische region is a protected area for drinking and the groundwater beneath the synagogue is particularly sensitive. It flows into the magnificent ritual bath of which they are so proud, which is unique in the region. It would be bad if a Jew had to bathe in the attacker's gasoline. So the remains of the fire simply stay where they are.
"It's a shame that synagogues need to be guarded," says Minister
On Tuesday evening, the North Rhine-Westphalian Integration Minister Guntram Schneider lays down a bouquet down and says, "Jewish life in Germany is fragile, it is a shame that synagogues must be guarded." Earlier, the police had only come by on a regular patrol, now a patrol car is parked regularly outside the door.
This is now a reality in Wuppertal, but it is not so brand new. When the synagogue was opened in 2002, neo-Nazis marched through the city. But then as now, the people of Wuppertal stand against them. Immediately after the arson attack last week, people flocked to the synagogue, and demonstrated against the violence. "It was very well done," says Gourari. The representatives of the Mosque Association condemned the action immediately.
Wuppertal was a model of integration for a long time in North Rhein-Westphalia. From Solingen and Bonn the Salafists are attracted "to Syria and Iraq...." In Wuppertal, says Mohamed Abodahab from the Mosque Association. "We live peacefully and amicably together. The Palestine conflict cannot be solved in Wuppertal." They do not want it.
.....If one is only a couple of minutes away from the synagogue, then there is already quite a lot of screaming and brawls: "Free Palestine" is the most harmless.
From 60 to 2,300 members
Gourari says his life has changed a lot since the new war in Gaza. He now appears to people to be an expert. "All the time I am asked how I stand on Israel's settlement policy. It is, however, my human right not to have a stand on settlement policy. What is more interesting for me is German health care reform." But it is not so simple for him these days.
Gourari came many years ago from the former Soviet Union to Germany, and has long had German citizenship. And yet people look at him funny when they ask him about his home and he says "Remscheid". Without people like him there would be no more Jewish community in Wuppertal. In the late 1980s, there were only 60 members, all of whom were quite old. For many traditional prayers there were not even enough men. On Chanukah there were no more children to give presents to. "We were about to join the community in Dusseldorf," says Ruth Yael Tutzinger, the chairman of the council. Then the Iron Curtain fell, now the community has 2,300 members, a private sports club, a chess club and a kosher café.
At the end of the 1990s the community grew so strong that they needed a new synagogue. Johannes Rau, who comes from Wuppertal, made the case, and the Protestant community sold a plot of land for a symbolic euro. Now the Protestant city church and synagogue stand side by side. There is no fence, the summer festivals are celebrated together. After the arson attack, the Protestants were on the spot immediately to show their solidarity.
"This has been infinitely good for us," says Artour Gourari. "But we would like that other parts of society would take a stand against anti-Semitism. It is often expected that we Jews do it ourselves. Because we are considered experts for such things. But anti-Semitism is a problem of the whole society."
A car drives by. "Free Palestine" echoes through Wuppertal.