2018-10-10 / Editorial

Chancellor Merkel shows leadership against hate during her Israel visit

At a time when anti-Semitism poses a growing danger across the globe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown leadership by stressing her country’s “everlasting responsibility” to remember the Holocaust and combat all forms of hatred.

The leader of Germany since 2005, Merkel made her point crystal clear during a visit to Yad Vashem last week.

“Nearly 80 years ago, on the pogrom night of Nov. 9, the Jewish people in Germany faced unprecedented hate and violence,” she noted in reference to Kristallnacht, during a diplomatic mission to Israel in which German and Israeli leaders hashed out differences about Iran, settlements and other issues. “But what followed were the unprecedented crimes of the Shoah and its break with civilization. From this comes the everlasting responsibility of Germany to remember this crime and to oppose anti-Semitism, xenophobia, hatred and violence.”

We praise Merkel for her stance. Considered the de factor leader of the European Union, she provides a contrast to other world leaders, including Jeremy Corbyn, the head of Britain’s Labour party. Corbyn, who has a credible chance of becoming Britain’s prime minister over chaos caused by Brexit, has refused to fully adopt widely accepted examples of anti-Semitism as suggested by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Claiming the principles of free speech, he has rejected the notion that it is anti-Semitic to compare contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis or that Israel’s very existence is a racist endeavor.

Among lessons learned by the Holocaust, hate will fester and grow if people – especially leaders – do not speak out against it. The was a central theme of our South Jersey community’s March of Remembrance, which took place on Sunday, Oct. 7 and was led by survivors.

To be sure, Merkel’s strong words alone will not diffuse dangerous situations — and she has much to grapple with in her own country

Over the past year, Germany has witnessed an increase of anti-Semitic attacks. Recently, video of a Syrian refugee attacking a man while calling him a Jew in Arabic prompted public outrage in Berlin. The suspect later surrendered himself to police in the German capital.

“The fact that no nursery, no school, no synagogue can be left without police protection is depressing,” Merkel noted at Yad Vashem.

Like Corbyn and many other European leaders, Merkel is not in agreement with policies favored by Israel. In particular, she was opposed to the U.S. pullout of the Iran nuclear deal and views settlement programs in Israel as dangerous to a two-state solution for peace between Israel and Palestinians. Yet, what sets her apart from many is her ability to disagree on such policies without resorting to anti-Semitism and unwavering voice against all forms of hate.

Chancellor Merkel deserves our praise for combatting hatred. s

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