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Feb. 6, 2024 - 27 Sh'vat 5784

02/06/2024 01:56:38 PM


Streets in many cities have been filled with protestors throughout the past year. Early in 2023, Israelis started their mass action against the now sidelined proposals to move certain powers of the Israeli Supreme Court to the ruling coalition cabinet. Following the tragic events of October 7, streets in Tel Aviv were quieter, but in recent weeks, Rosh haMemshalah—Prime Minister—Bibi Netanyahu has faced renewed outpourings in favor of the remaining hostages in Gaza. 

Street demonstrations are not limited to Israel alone, of course. Many US cities have seen massive outpourings supporting the cause of Palestinians, not a few of which have made the intellectual shift from political opposition to Israel to the intolerable field of antisemitic calls against Jews, organized Jewish life, and visible Jewish institutions. To a great extent, the governmental institutions at every level have reacted vigorously against these violations of American inclusiveness. I would be remiss not to note the close, cordial, and helpful support our congregation and the Jewish community of Tarrant County regularly depend upon. I am thankful for that.

Less noted in the American media, other nations are also seeing vocal opposition to a growing presence of extreme politics. Last November, Gert Wilders and his party took a plurality in Dutch parliamentary elections. He did not become prime minister because he lacked coalition partners. Shortly thereafter, in Poland, following many years of a government that had crushed the independent courts, but found its center when Ukraine came under attack from Russia two years ago, lost its control of government allowing former European Union President Donald Tusk to come into office at the start of a renewal of democracy in Poland that has already taken effect.

Between those two European democracies, the broad expanse of Germany has now moved into focus. The current Prime Minister, Olaf Scholtz—leader of the Social Democratic Party—leads a so-called ‘traffic light’ [Ampelkoalition] coalition with the Christian Democrats and Greens. The result has been a centrist tone with fiscal conservative leanings. And, recently, an apparent recession in the highly structured economy.

Yet, not all is either well nor quiescent in Germany: in the decades since re-unification, agitation from ultra-nationalists that arose in the underprivileged former East German provinces, has coalesced into a growing party, the Alternativa für Deutschland or AfD. Recent reports have demonstrated that leaders of this splinter party have met in private conferences with known agitators against democracy, immigration and diversity. Many refer to these known bad actors as neo-Nazis.

This image above caught my eye as I scrolled through the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung over the weekend. With the restored Reichstag as a backdrop, and symbols representing the span of the coalition against the AfD and all that it represents on display, under the headline “Hundreds of Thousand Demonstrate Against Right-Wing Radicals” [] the extensive text follows up on days of similar, peaceful actions by ordinary citizens in Germany whose discomfort with the extremists seems to be an inherited allergy to the evil perpetrated in their name—the evil Jews know as the Shoah and the world knows as World War II. Their reaction is, no doubt, visceral; this is learned behavior.

At the heart of these protests is a call for an invidious policy known in German as “Remigration”—the forceable removal from the national borders of immigrants to elsewhere.  Just keying in that sentence gives me goosebumps—because of the many resonances across history from the days of Nebuchadnezzar, through two millennia of Jewish diaspora, but equally in the Trail of Tears for the Cherokee Nation [ca 1830], and in innumerable mass exoduses. The human capacity for inhumanity is evident on 6 continents.

The German Chancellor is cited from his X account:

“Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) calls the multiple demonstrations of the weekend a ‘clear symbol’ in support of democracy and the Basic Law. Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach posted a photo of the demonstration in Berlin on X that show him, along with the SPD co-chair Saskia Esken and the SPD vice president of the European Parliament Katrina Barley. The broad majority of the protestors oppose the AfD and half-nazis, refusing to give up democracy or the good life it provides, according to his post.”

The article concludes with this telling addition:

“The chair of the Green Party, Ricarda Lang also posted a photo of herself at the Berlin demo[nstration] on X.  ‘The AfD lives on the lie that it represents a silent majority. Nonetheless, the majority is now to be seen. And it is very noisy: against rightwing extremism and for democracy,’ is Lang’s caption.”

For those who are wondering, why Germany—of all places? In brief, long ago most of forebears lived as Jews there; it was the birthplace of the modern movements in Judaism (Reform, Orthodox and Conservative). Of all Europe’s nations—for and despite the 12-year aberration of the Third Reich—post-war Germany has been Israel’s steadfast ally. 

The dark side—Kabbalah calls it sitra achra—like the very human yetzer hara—evil inclination is an unavoidable reality. Today, I did not need to change any names—the guilty are well-known.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784