Great Synagogue of Berlin (Illustration)
Great Synagogue of Berlin (Illustration) Hadas Parush/Flash90

A German regional court has ruled that an attempt by three Muslims to burn a synagogue was motivated by 'anti-Israelism', not anti-Semitism. The perpetrators will not be jailed.

The ruling is akin to a “carte blanche for attacks on Jews,” and is itself anti-Semitic, according to the European Jewish Congress. The organization reacted with "outrage and disbelief" to the decision.

The German court in the city of Wuppertal, affirming a lower court decision, ruled that a violent attempt to burn the city's synagogue in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies in Gaza. The attack took place on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a Nazi pogrom which left almost a hundred Jews dead and where over 1,000 synagogues – including the original synagogue in Wuppertal – were burnt and destroyed.

“It is unbelievable that attempts to burn a synagogue have been equated with displeasure of Israeli government policies,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC. “This court decision equates to open season on Jews.”

The local Wuppertal court panel said in its original 2015 decision that the three Muslims wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel. The court deemed the attack not to be motivated by anti-Semitism, and handed down suspended sentences for the three.

“This court decision can also lead to anarchy across Germany," said Kantor, "because it provides a legal justification for the targeting of any minority, religion and nationality on the basis of a conflict that they could be in some way connected to because of religious or national ties. Is it possible that when Arabs are targeted by far-right groups, it could be claimed they are reacting to the bloodshed and violence in the Arab world? That of course would be absurd, but like in many other areas, there appears to be a separate rule when it comes to Jews and anti-Semitism.”

German politician Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP, agreed. “This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned,” he was reported to have said. He noted that the burning of a synagogue in Germany can only be defined as anti-Semitism.

“What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward anti-Semitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming,” said Beck.