The Washinton Post

Anti-Semitism in Germany: Prime your sources, Israel-Iran conflict could make it far worse

Anti-Semitism in Germany: Prime your sources, Israel-Iran conflict could make it far worse

The supreme irony of German anti-Semitism is that it took the horrors of the Holocaust and the near-total destruction of German Jewry to banish it from wholesale public acceptance.

These days, anti-Semitism still has a bad name in Germany, at least under the law. It's illegal there to incite hatred against Jews (and other ethnic and religious groups) or to deny and even minimize the nation’s Nazi-era Holocaust crimes.

But that hasn't been enough to keep anti-Semitism from reemerging in Germany in a big way of late, particularly among the far-right and Muslim immigrants. I’ll say more below, but for now just keep this in mind: the Israel angle.

Germany, of course, isn't the only European nation to fall prey to a re-run of what many over the years have labeled the world’s oldest hatred. Examples abound in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and elsewhere.

Nor is rising anti-Semitism in the West confined to Europe. It's being more freely expressed in the United States -- remember Charlottesville? -- and in Canada, as well.

By way of illustration, here’s a bit from a recent story from Poland by JTA, the global Jewish news wire service. (Journalists and others with an interest in Jewish-related news should read it regularly; it's free.)

Things went from bad to worse following a row between Poland and Israel over Warsaw passing a law in January that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. The dispute unleashed the worst wave of anti-Semitism since the fall of the Iron Curtain, according to Rafal Pankowski, co-founder of the Polish anti-racism group Never Again.

In the wake of the fight over the law, he told JTA: “In the space of one month, I have seen more anti-Semitic hate speech than in the previous 10 years combined.”

Ah, another Israel-angle tease. But first, a personal aside to make my bias clear.

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'Thoughts and prayers': Yet another fight over whether religious faith is 'real' or not

'Thoughts and prayers': Yet another fight over whether religious faith is 'real' or not

Why are so many people mad about the "thoughts and prayers" angle of the tragedy at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas?

That was the question that host Todd Wilken asked at the start of this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in).

The short answer is that many Americans think that "prayers" are not real, if the goal is solving a problem in the real world, while gun-control legislation is "real," since it is linked to government and politics. As I wrote in my national "On Religion" column earlier this week, after interviewing Tim Stewart, a professional editor-writer who who created the "Dictionary of Christianese" website;

It's obvious, explained Stewart, that many Americans believe that this kind of prayer talk after disasters or tragedies is meaningless, a kind of emotional fog that helps public leaders avoid action on tough issues.
It only makes matters worse when these criticisms of "thoughts and prayers" language turn into nasty attacks. After all, millions of believers sincerely think that prayer is the first step to any faithful effort to help others through charity, ministry, political activism or any other strategy in public life.

In other words, this controversy is -- stop and think about it -- another way of looking at the decades of debate among editors and reporters about how and why religion news should or should not be covered in the first place. The bottom line: Politics is "real" and "public," while religious faith is "private" and "spiritual."

I'm not sure why, but I found myself thinking , earlier this week, about a famous event in the life of the man who would become St. Pope John Paul II. It was during his work as an archbishop of Poland, wrestling with the powers that be in the Communist party.

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