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Anti-Semitism group without Jews sparks row

Sabine Devins · 13 Feb 2015, 15:26

Published: 13 Feb 2015 15:26 GMT+01:00

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The American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and the Moses Mendelssohn Centre released a critical letter against the Anti-Semitism Commission to be set up by Interior Minister Thomas de Mazière for its complete lack of Jewish members.

The IM responded by saying they would add to the committee, but ministry spokes woman Pamela Müller-Niese told The Local on Friday that it wasn't sure how many new members would be added to the Anti-Semitism Commission or when the addition would be named.

AJC spokesman Fabian Weissbarth told The Local that putting an extra person on the board was merely a bandage over the ministry's mistake.

"You can't just put Jewish person on the committee and declare that a solution. You also have to discuss how the oversight happened in the first place," he said from his office in Berlin.

He confirmed that his organisation had been contacted by the IM to set up discussions in coming weeks to fill the gap on the committee, but the AJC in Berlin hopes that they also centre on why the Germany still has no committee on anti-semitism in 2015.

"This is really, an old issue," he said, citing a previous attempt by the federal government to establish a political body to combat anti-Semitism in 2008, which, after being declared necessary fell between the cracks of government, until 2013, when the same declaration was made, resulting in the establishment of the current Anti-Semitism Commission.

"Someone needs to take political responsibility for this."

Further, the addition of once Jewish voice on the commission isn't enough to represent the myriad of encounters Jewish people have with anti-Semitism in Germany.

"There are so many perspectives and experiences that Jewish people have in Germany and  the commission has to make sure there are channels to hear them all," Weissbarth said.

"This is a unique scandal," said Julius H. Schoeps, founding director of the Moses Mendelssohn Centre for European Jewish studies based in Potsdam.
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"No one would think to hold a conference on hatred directed at Muslims without Muslims or a round table on discrimination against women without women sat at the table," said president of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation Anetta Kahane.

The Anti-Semitism Commission held its first meeting in January with the mandate to "combat anti-Semitism and continue to promote sustainable Jewish life in Germany."  

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Sabine Devins (sabine.devins@thelocal.com)

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