Tale of hate that shocked world
OUR STORY about the family in Berlin whose teenage son was subjected to antisemitism by Muslim classmates took the international media by storm.
With this story, a door opened for people to talk about a festering topic. And talk they did. Since the story was published in the JC, it has been covered by at least 18 German news organisations, and this week appeared in the Sun and the Times.
One reason the story drew attention: it confronted an issue with complex political implications: antisemitism among German-born Muslim youth.
It is now common in Germany to recognise and condemn the antisemitism of the extreme right — which is responsible for most violent crimes against minorities in the country — as well as that of the extreme left and within mainstream society.
But discussing Muslim antisemitism is more taboo. Some people fear being accused of stereotyping. Some avoid the issue because they suspect that what others call antisemitism is simply criticism of Israel.
On the other side, there are people
waiting to use stories of Muslim antisemitism to feed negative stereotypes and push populist political agendas. This is a frightening trend, especially in Europe’s current political climate.
But to deny that there is a problem of antisemitism in the schools is equally dangerous.
After all, in Germany we’ve been hearing about the problem for years from teachers, parents, pupils: the popularity of “Jude” as an insult in playgrounds; children whose parents, immigrants from Arab countries, will not allow them on a class trip to a concentration camp memorial; kids who repeat conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel and 9-11 — and so on.
The problem has been recognised as real by numerous NGOs, museums, Jewish organisations and Holocaust memorials — too many to name here — that have been working in schools in Berlin and elsewhere on issues related to antisemitism and xenophobia; some groups specifically partner Jews and Muslims in such efforts. Most of these projects work on shoestring budgets. Virtually all of them deserve more support, because they must multiply their efforts. This despite the fact that their suc- cess is hard to gauge quantitatively – because the problem does not ever go away. Journalists or other observers are rarely allowed to sit in on school programmes, supposedly because classroom dynamics can so easily be upset by a stranger’s presence. But, anecdotally, the efforts pay off: pupils do learn to recognise how easy it is to be manipulated to hate. They cross a threshold to self-awareness. And become partners in the effort to raise awareness among peers.
Since so much happens behind the scenes, it is easy to ignore or forget about Germany’s school playground antisemitism. Most such stories are not told: Parents want to spare their families media attention, schools want to avoid bad publicity.
By going public, this Berlin family made a bigger commitment: to openly confront a very real problem without falling prey to small-minded political agendas or being used in people’s games. Anyone who hoped to find in them a poster-family for anti-Muslim rhetoric will be disappointed.
What they care about is, above all, their son’s well-being. A politically liberal Jewish family, they had wanted their boy to be in a school with children of many backgrounds. And they still believe change is possible – just not with their son as the guinea pig.
People fear being accused of using stereotypes
Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule, Berlin school where the boy was bullied