A regional court in Germany ruled that the firebombing of a synagogue in Wupperthal, a region east of Düsseldorf, was an act of criminal arson that was not anti-Semitic. The court ruled that the firebombing was a protest against Israel. The ruling upheld the finding of a lower court that determined that three young Palestinian Muslim residents of Germany had decided to “call attention to the Gaza conflict” by preparing and tossing gasoline bombs at the synagogue in July 2014. The attack injured no one but caused approximately $1000 in damages. The three men were given suspended sentences.
Just day before the incident, the words “Free Palestine” appeared on a wall of the synagogue.
A spokesperson in Germany noted to BreakingIsraelNews that the men did not target the Israeli embassy or a consulate but a Jewish temple of worship. “The ruling judges ... found that it was somehow logical that if you were angry with the state of Israel you would choose [to attack] a synagogue, because there are no objects of the state of Israel to protest,” said Deidre Berger, who directs the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. “It’s very difficult for us to get a sense of the dimensions of the problems of anti-Semitism in Europe when cases of anti-Semitism are not characterized as such.”
Berger said the firebombing “created a tremendous feeling of insecurity.” She added, “The entire community became very concerned about their safety.”
When the lower court first handed down its finding in February 2015, Der Spiegel reported the Jewish community was terrified. “I thought the time of packed suitcases was over forever,” Leonid Goldberg told Der Spiegel. “I am now wondering — when would be the right moment to pack them again.” The Wuppertal synagogue was burned by German Nazis in 1938 but rebuilt in the late 1990s.
Anti-Semitism has been on the rise throughout Western Europe. In mid-2014, when Israel invaded the Gaza Strip to stop rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists, anti-Semitic ballooned throughout Europe. According to a report by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the European Jewish Congress, 766 acts of anti-Semitism were recorded in 2014, an increase of 38 percent from the previous year. A dramatic surge in anti-Semitic attacks was noted in 2014. Protesters at rallies across Europe exchanged the word “Jews” for “Israel.”
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.