Jewish Affairs

Misguided Court Verdict

A regional court in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has upheld the bizarre and troubling verdict of a lower court.

Last week, the regional court ruled that the firebombing of a synagogue in the town of Wuppertal, in the summer of 2014, was an act of criminal arson rather than antisemitic animus.

The synagogue in Wuppertal

The synagogue, consecrated in 2002 to serve the needs of Wuppertal’s growing Jewish population, was firebombed by three Palestinian Arabs to call attention to the war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.

The perpetrators, classified as German residents, threw Molotov cocktails at the synagogue, injuring no one but causing more than $1,000 in damages.

Astonishingly enough, they were let off lightly with suspended sentences.

The verdict is senseless.

Opponents of Israel, particularly Palestinians, often make a distinction between Israel and Jews, claiming that their antagonistic to Israel is not a sign of their dislike of Jews.

But is the firebombing of a shul, thousands of miles away from Israel, exclusively a manifestation of anti-Israel rage?

Absolutely not.

It’s an antisemitic outrage, pure and simple.

The criminals who firebombed the synagogue could have chosen an Israeli target like Israel’s embassy in Berlin or one of its consulates in Germany. Alternatively, they could have vented their anger on, say, an El Al office or an institution associated with the state of Israel.

They may have thought of striking any one of these targets, but instead they singled out a synagogue in Wuppertal, a town of 350,000 inhabitants near the city of Dusseldorf. As a result, they acted like antisemitic hooligans.

View of Wuppertal

Historically, antisemites have lashed out at Jews by physically attacking them or by setting fire to their communal buildings and  synagogues.

In November of 1938, during Kristallnacht, a mob in Wuppertal burned down a synagogue at the instigation of the Nazi government. Throughout the rest of Germany, scores of synagogues were desecrated or destroyed by antisemitic mobs during that fateful month.

The wholesale destruction of synagogues in Nazi Germany was, as historians agree, profoundly antisemitic and a prelude to the Holocaust.

The Palestinians who maliciously tossed Molotov cocktails at the synagogue in Wuppertal exhibited deeply antisemitic behavior. True, the war in Gaza emboldened them to commit this disgusting crime, but the crime itself was nothing less than anti-Jewish.

“Maybe Auschwitz was just helping the Arabs defeat Zionism,” a friend of mine quipped after reading a news story of the regional court’s baffling decision.

Its verdict is all the more insulting considering the fact that this incident occurred in Germany, where the Holocaust was conceived and planned.

Germany has made amends for its crimes against humanity and continues to do so today unflinchingly. But all its efforts to come to terms with the past courageously and honestly are tarnished by such myopic court verdicts.

The Palestinians who willfully damaged the synagogue in Wuppertal are guilty of far more than arson. They committed an antisemitic act, period, and their despicable hate crime should be recognized for what it is.



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