BERLIN (JTA) – Refugees who want to become part of German society today must take up the fight against anti-Semitism, Germany’s foreign minister told a conference on combating anti-Semitism.
‘This applies to whoever lives with us, whether they have been here for years, whether they are staying or just temporarily here: Anti-Semitism is against our constitution, against our civilization, against everything we believe in and all we have learned,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday at the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism, addressing some 140 parliamentarians from nearly 40 countries.
Germany has taken in about 1 million refugees, mostly from Muslim countries, in the past year, in an open door policy that has cost Chancellor Angela Merkel much political support – as demonstrated in last Sunday’s elections in three states, where an anti-immigrant party posted major gains.
Jewish leaders, including Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, have said they are worried that many Muslim newcomers have been schooled in anti-Semitism in their home countries and are now bringing this to Germany.
Both Steinmeier and Merkel, who addressed the conference on Monday, sought to reassure Jews in Germany that they recognize the problem and intend to address it. Merkel specifically defended Schuster, who has come in for criticism for his remarks.
“It is perfectly legitimate for someone to share his concern,” Merkel said Monday, noting that many refugees “have grown up with certain stereotypes.”
Steinmeier noted that anti-Semitism in Muslim societies “is an important theme” at the conference.
“Especially now and here, with the many thousands who are currently seeking shelter here, fleeing from war, terror and violence in the Middle East,” he said.
He said the integration of the refugees would have to include “taking the fight against anti-Semitism to heart. Because it is clear: As we see it, there is no place and must never be a place for anti-Semitism in a free, democratic and tolerant Germany.”
The third Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism conference took place against a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in Europe. Participants discussed issues such as Internet hate, community relations and anti-Semitism in sports, as well as legal, parliamentary and governmental responses to anti-Semitism.
Model programs for combating anti-Semitism and specific programs addressing people of Muslim background were presented.
The conference is taking place during Germany’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.