Germany’s far-right party AfD launched a “Jewish” group within its ranks which it says will battle against mass immigration of Muslim men with anti-Semitic views, sparking an outcry.
The party said a group of 19 have formed “Jews in the AfD”, and that anyone joining must be a card-carrying member of the party who is either ethnically or religiously Jewish.
The move drew a backlash from Germany’s Jewish community, which blasted the AfD as a “racist and anti-Semitic party”.
Some 250 people, many from Jewish organisations, also held a protest Sunday in Frankfurt against the new group.
“You won’t get a Kosher stamp from us,” said Dalia Grinfeld, who heads the Jewish students Union in Germany, at the protest.
Leading members of the AfD have come under fire repeatedly for comments that appear to play down the Holocaust.
Party co-leader Alexander Gauland in June described the Nazi period as a mere “speck of bird poo in over 1,000 years of successful German history”.
Another leading AfD politician, Bjoern Hoecke, has criticised the sprawling Holocaust memorial in Berlin, branding it a “monument of shame”.
Ahead of Sunday’s launch, Jewish organisations including the Central Council of Jews in Germany issued a statement condemning the AfD.
“The AfD is a party that provides a home for hatred for Jews as well as the relativising, or even denial of the Holocaust,” it said.
The AfD’s deputy parliamentary group leader Beatrix von Storch hit back in an interview published Sunday by broadsheet Welt am Sonntag.
Taking aim at the Central Council of Jews, von Storch compared it to “official churches”, which she dismissed as “part of the establishment.”
The AfD positions itself as a group offering voters an “alternative” to mainstream established parties.
Capitalising on discontent over an influx of asylum seekers in 2015-2016, the AfD is now the biggest opposition party in Germany with over 90 seats in parliament.
The deputy parliamentary group leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, Stephan Harbarth, called the AfD’s bid to start a Jewish wing “hypocrisy”.
“Whoever calls the Holocaust a speck of bird poo in German history does not fight anti-Semitism, but mocks its victims, and definitely does not stand on the side of the Jews,” Harbarth told Sunday’s edition of daily Bild.
‘Anti-migration, anti-Islamic, pro-family’
Germany’s Catholic KNA news agency, reporting on the Wiesbaden formation, said the JAfD’s statement of principles cited two motives: the “uncontrolled mass immigration of young men from the ‘Islamic culture circle’ and the “destruction of traditional, monogamous families through ‘gender-mainstreaming” and ‘premature sexualization’.”
The head of the AfD’s Christian organization, Joachim Kuhs, is to speak at the JAfD’s launch event, which about 20 “founding members” are expected to attend — though Kuhs downplayed the importance of the number.
“It doesn’t matter how many people turn up,” he told DW. “With the Christian group, we were around 20, and now we’re more than 10 times as many. These are people who have the courage to start it, and they are getting quite a lot of flak, and we support them and welcome it that they are organizing that.”
Responding to the comments by Knobloch and other Jewish leaders, Kuhs said: “I’m really shocked, honestly. That doesn’t apply at all to what we are. The AfD is not an anti-Semitic party; we do not tolerate any anti-Semitism in the party. If that arises, if we notice it, then these people are thrown out.”
In its founding statement, which was sent to DW, the JAfD acknowledged the scandal, but said Gedeon’s influence on the party had been “massively exaggerated.” The statement also acknowledged that there may be “individual anti-Semites” in the party, but added that “the AfD’s desire for Germany to become a self-confident country again does not contradict Jewish interests.” In fact, despite the words of Gedeon, Höcke and Gauland, the group’s founding statement pitches the AfD as a bulwark against the perceived anti-Semitism of “Muslim youths” in Germany. Kuhs claimed that anti-Semitism was rife in Arab countries. “It’s normal for them,” he said. “Why should they be different when they get here?”
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
October 8th, 2018