My Berlin contact Dror Dayan alerted me yesterday to a worrying case: An agent of the American Jewish Committe (AJC), a Jewish Israeli named Yonatan Shay, has visited a refugee housing block in Berlin, attempting to find evidence that would implicate mostly Syrian refugees in being inherently anti-Semitic, making the case that “Jews are being put in danger, when there are so many refugees here”, with an obvious agenda of riding the nationalist xenophobic wave.
When the article went up, the AJC Berlin immediately tweeted: “Unser Yonathan Shay (AJC) war mit Kippa unterwegs in einem Flüchtlingsheim” – “Our Jonathan Shay (AJC) wearing a kippa walking around in a refugee housing block”, linking to the article.
— AJC Berlin (@AJCBerlin) January 25, 2016
The ACJ states on its website: “For more than a century, AJC has been the leading global Jewish advocacy organization. With offices across the United States and around the globe, and partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide, AJC works to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and to advance human rights and democratic values for all.”
Interestingly, the Jerusalem Post took up the story on the same day. In reference to the Die Welt article and on the Post’s own initiative as well, we get some colorful twists. The Post’s title is “Israel native encounters swastikas, anti-Semitic slurs while visiting Berlin refugee camp”. It continues with a second headline: ‘”I’m not afraid, but I’m on guard,” German paper quotes Israeli Yonatan Shai as saying before visiting former Nazi airport-cum-refugee center.’
Why the Nazi issue now? Germany did have a Nazi regime at a point, but it was still Germany. The airport is not a Nazi airport – it’s an old German airport. The Nazi-twist of the Jerusalem Post is apparently meant to add to the austere anti-Semitic ‘atmosphere’ of the whole story.
The Post mentions that “the visiting Israeli came across anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled across the walls” where one could get the impression that it’s all over the place. And true, we see a swastika and a star of David with ‘666’ marked near it, at the beginning of the video. But that’s all we see that could really support the ‘anti-Semitic’ allegation. The other graffiti which shows a map of historical Palestine with the colours of the Palestinian flag, requires more effort from Shay in order to make the ‘anti-Semitic’ accusation credible. It may be ‘anti-Israeli’ – but is it thus anti-Semitic? (Interestingly, such maps showing the whole of Israel without differentiating Israel and Palestinian occupied territories, are to be seen in Israeli textbooks. It doesn’t need the Israeli flag painted over it – it’s tacitly understood by default. Does this directly mean ‘hate of Palestinians?’)
Now in order to bolster his point, Shay resorts to the tactic of trying to put words in the mouth of a boy whom he encounters. “All Palestine? No Israel?”
The boy kind of agrees, though it’s not clear whether he fully understands.
Shay continues: “So Jews all back to Europe? But not here, here no Jews”.
This is the part which the Post apparently refers to with the following: “Yet in a more hostile encounter, Die Welt reported that one young refugee boy had menacingly gestured and told Shai “the Jews must get out of the country.””
This is enough for Shay:
“This is proof that antisemitism is present here. Especially the young refugees are indoctrinated, and they can´t break away from those opinions, from this hate, from those views. Which they grew up with, and unfortunately they import it to Germany. It´s terrible. Germany, after the holocaust, after what happened because of the German nation, yes they have the historical responsibility to take all the refugees of the world, OK good, but there are also other factors to consider: Jews live here, and those Jews are being put in danger, when there are so many refugees here, who grew up with the opinion that all the evil and bad of the world comes from Jews and Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post further notes that there were “grown men ominously whispering “Jew.”” So, is that an indication of anti-Semitism?
Given, Shay saw some anti-Semitic graffiti on one wall filling about a square foot in total. The thing is, that Shay’s “operation” is so thin, that it has very little substance. Shay seems to have a wish to stir up some commotion with his kippa, but as the video in article notes, “Yonatan was not attacked verbally or physically on this day.” The Post says “According to the Tel Aviv native, who moved to Berlin a year ago, he planned the visit as a means for open dialogue”, whilst on the video Shay clearly says that this is an “experiment” to see how they would “react”. As an apparent compensation for the lack of action in the video, we get added text in reference to Yonatan’s allegation where he “reports that he was attacked several times by Arabs in Berlin because of his Kippa.”
The greater concern than the mere thinness of the case, is not only how it is inflated from nearly nothing to something by mainstream media – but also its suggestion and apparent agenda:
To make a case against refugee influx from war-torn countries, on the supposition that this will end up endangering Jews. This is a dangerous generalisation, which if taken seriously may have effect upon people who are in real need.
That an American Jewish advocacy organisation, through its foreign Berlin branch, supports making such a case seems to me distasteful to the extreme, where its purported goal of advancing advancing “human rights and democratic values for all” seems to be superseded by its other goal – to “enhance the well-being of the Jewish people”. It would seem that for AJC, the latter must come at the expense of the former.