Critical Pragmatism – Attack on synagogue not motivated by antisemitism says German court!

On 18 January 2016, an appeals court in Wuppertal, a city in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, reviewed suspended sentences against two of the three arsonists who were charged in an arson attack on the Wuppertal synagogue at the end of July in 2014. The prosecution moved against the district court ruling in an appeal requesting a judgment with no parole.

Two of the perpetrators came from a district west of the Jordan River and the third one from the Gaza Strip. Ismael A. (29) has been residing for 15 years as an asylum seeker in Germany. Mohamad E. (25) and Jamil A. (19) have provisional residency permits. On that day in July 2014 they claimed to have drunk large amounts of alcohol, and then in the early morning hours, hurled six self-made Molotov cocktails at the Wuppertal synagogue. Two of the arsonists had at first escaped capture, while one was apprehended at the scene. He was filming the fire with his cell phone while making comments in Arabic.

The district court was convinced that the attack on the synagogue was not motivated by antisemitism. According to the arsonists, they merely wanted to draw public attention to the conflict between Israel and Gaza. The court was sympathetic to that explanation and therefore the fire-bombing of the Wuppertal synagogue was declared as having nothing to do with antisemitism!

If the right-wing extremist group “Hooligans against Salafism” hears about that court decision, then mosques in Germany may face some big problems. Any hooligan who commits an arson attack against a mosque can justify his crime by pointing out disagreeable policies in Iran. The district court in Wuppertal couldn’t possibly describe the crime as an anti-Muslim hate crime!

If an arson attack on a synagogue is not considered anti-Jewish, but is somehow understood to be criticism of Israel, then by using the same logic, arson attacks on asylum shelters may just merely be criticism of Germany’s policies on refugees.

In the initial judgment Wuppertal’s district court ordered 200 hours community services and property damage costs to be carried by the convicted men. In the appeals decision the earlier suspended sentences were increased by several months, but the probation decision was upheld.

(Translation by William Wires)

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