08:24 GMT07 April 2020
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    The upsurge in the number of Jews leaving Germany comes as little surprise. This is according to Felix Klein, a newly-appointed special envoy in charge of tackling antisemitism in Germany. Sputnik discussed the issue with Dr. Gunther Jikeli, a historian and expert at Indiana University's Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.

    Sputnik: Why has there been an upsurge of anti-Semitism in Germany and where is it coming from?

    Dr. Gunther Jikeli: There's a number of different factors, so Jewish communities in different countries in Europe are getting more and more nervous about the rise of antisemitic incidents. In Germany the extreme right is still strong, they have incidents like the desecration of cemeteries or even attacks on the streets; people from the extreme right take it out on Jews, and then you have the rise of the populist right, and then you have sometimes a discourse that is revisionist, that questions the role of Germany in the Second World War, wanting to put a better image of Germany, and sometimes there’s an Antisemitic discourse coming with it.

    And then you have the extreme left with its strong Anti-Zionism against Israel, and where all Jews are then suspected of being with the demonized state. And then you have more and more people with a Muslim background that have hatred towards Jews and even resort to violence on the streets, not all, but some factions of the Muslim population apparently have very hostile views against Jews.

    Sputnik: Earlier Chancellor Merkel blamed the Arab migrants for bringing a new form of Antisemitism to the country, what’s your particular take on that?

    Dr. Gunther Jikeli: In 2014-2015 many refugees came to Germany, mostly from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Iraq and also from other countries. In many of these countries, antisemitism and hatred of Israel and Jews were just common and were even taught in schools, so I'm not surprised that people who come from these countries, many of them, bring this kind of thinking. It will be a major challenge to confront them with reality that, in fact, Jews do not control the world, are not responsible for all the wars in Syria, in Iraq, and in the Middle East in general; that's it’s more complex, so it’s a worry what will be with the people who came, most of them will stay in Germany in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the war in Syria, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is not so good that people want to go back there, I can understand them.

    READ MORE: German Music Award Abolished Over Anti-Semitism Dispute — Reports

    Sputnik: You personally conducted a study which analyzed migrants' views towards antisemitism and integration, can you tell us a little bit more about your findings, is there a chance to change this sentiment, do you think?

    Dr. Gunther Jikeli: Yes, absolutely. I think first of all there is a difference between minorities from Syria, for example, many of the Kurdish population, Yazidis, they don’t have any negative views of Jews at all. They even see the Jewish people as a positive example of what can be achieved, at least the Kurds. They sometimes say, well the Jewish people have achieved their own country, they are protected and are not subjected to discrimination anymore. So they see it as a model.

    And then you have others with an Arab background, who will come to Germany and might have had all this propaganda in Syria, but when they come to Germany and learn about the Holocaust, for example, they are generally surprised and want to learn more. They say it wasn't right, ask why do people hate one particular country and demonize it, or one particular people. So yes, especially among the young people, there’s a lot of willingness to rethink ideas, but they have to be challenged, and this is the problem, they’re not challenged.

    Sputnik: How successful do you think the newly appointed envoy for the position will prove to be in his endeavors to tackle the problem, it’s in endemic in terms of the percentage, leveling off and staying at 20%. You would think that with new generations, the intensity in terms of the indifference would wane, would falter, and would fade away. But it doesn’t seem to be the case, so it’s very strong feeling and sentiment in Germany, isn’t it?

    Dr. Gunther Jikeli: That’s right, but it has always been the struggle with this challenge of antisemitic ideas, which is not only bad for the Jews, it's bad for the whole society, it comes with a perception that the world is governed by Jews and your fate isn't in your own hands, so people have to do something about it, and some politicians have seen that and they’re acting against that, and we will have to see what Felix Klein can do. I think he’s the right person for the job but it depends on how many people have success, he’ll be taking with him, the politicians, and I think most importantly in schools, how do teachers deal with that in the classrooms and if they need more help to do that.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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