German Court: Burning Synagogue Justified, No Punishment for Palestinian Arsonists

January 14, 2017

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Last Friday, a German regional court affirmed a lower court’s decision that firebombing a synagogue was not anti-Semitism, but a valid form of anti-Israel political expression.

Three German Palestinians threw firebombs at the Wuppertal synagogue in July, 2014, after consuming alcohol. No one was injured in the attack but the fire caused approximately $800 in damage. The local court said in its 2015 decision that the attack was not anti-Semitism. The court recorded that the three men, identified only as 31-year-old Mohamad E., 26 year-old Ismail A. and 20-year-old Mohammad A., wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel. The court gave the three suspended sentences.

Several days before the fire, a person spray-painted “Free Palestine” on a wall of the synagogue. The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazi Germans during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.

At the time of the arson attack, Israel was involved in an incursion into Gaza in response to hundreds of rocket and mortar attacks targeting urban centers.

After the local Wuppertal court decision in 2015, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP,  said the “attack on the synagogue was motivated by antisemitism” and publicly criticized the court for its decision that the goal of the attack was due to the war in Gaza.

“This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned,” he said, adding that the burning of a synagogue in Germany is clearly motivated by antisemitism.

“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.

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