April 27, 2018 / 4:30 PM / 24 days ago

Germany needs to do more to combat anti-Semitism, official says

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany must do more to tackle anti-Semitism and should set up a national database to record anti-Semitic incidents that are not included in crime statistics, the country’s first anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein said on Friday.

The former diplomat, who will take up the newly created position next month, also said anti-Semitism was still rooted largely in extreme right-wing ideology and was not only being driven by Germany’s growing Muslim population.

Anti-Semitism is a highly sensitive issue in Germany, whose Nazi-era government murdered more than 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

“There are many things going on to combat anti-Semitism but all the efforts have to be coordinated and sharpened,” Klein told Reuters.

“I hear from Jewish communities that they feel that anti-Semitic attacks and incidents have risen but that there is not yet a serious database that underlines and supports that perception.”

He said a national database should include everything that is not considered criminal, such as vulgar behavior and “stupid” comments. By drawing a more detailed picture, that would help authorities devise measures to combat anti-Semitism.

Last week, an Israeli Arab who wore the Jewish cap, or kippa, in Berlin as an experiment was subjected to verbal abuse by three people and was lashed with a belt by a Syrian Palestinian. A video was posted on the internet.

That followed reports of bullying of Jewish children in schools. Thousands of Germans wearing Jewish caps took part in nationwide rallies on Wednesday to show solidarity with the Jewish community.

Official figures for the first eight months of 2017 showed nearly 93 percent of reported anti-Semitic crimes were linked to far-right extremism, despite predictions that a big jump in the Muslim population since Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis could fuel attacks or discrimination against Jews.

Klein stressed that anti-Semitism had been a problem in Germany long before the refugee influx and added that Jewish institutions here and in other countries had needed police protection before migrants started coming in large numbers.

“Anti-Semitism is not only Muslim-driven in Germany,” he said. “Of course we have a new challenge and new forms of anti-Semitism which we have to address and combat, but the great problem also rests with right-wing anti-Semitism and we have to develop good strategies to combat that, as we did before.”

Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Catherine Evans

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