Chancellor Merkel has vowed that Germany’s new immigrants will have to respect German laws and customs—including those against anti-Semitism. Bloomberg reports:
Chancellor Angela Merkel said anti-Semitism has no place in modern Germany, including among the record influx of refugees arriving this year.
Addressing concern voiced by Germany’s Jewish community that asylum seekers from Syria and other Muslim countries may spread hatred of Jews, Merkel said “people have to respect our laws and our constitutional order wherever they may come from.”
“That includes rejection of any form of anti-Semitism,” she said Wednesday in a speech at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, where she received a German rabbinical school’s award. “I will always take it seriously when you express your concerns about anti-Semitism.”
We wrote about those concerns last month, when the head of the German Jewish community asked for caps on the refugee intake out of concerns over anti-Semitism. The Chancellor appears to think, though, that she can have her cake and eat it too: The newcomers will be welcome, but they will be so rapidly assimilated that the anti-Semitism so prevalent in the Muslim world won’t be a problem in Germany.
Anti-Semitism, however, is deeply ingrained into the Arab worldview right now, and eliminating it would involve an extensive cultural makeover. Although good, recent data on Syrians is hard to find, roughly 2-3 percent of citizens in neighboring Arab countries hold favorable views of Jews, according to Pew. We wonder whether Merkel fully realizes the scale of what she’s asking. Moreover, anti-semitism is already present in Germany. To note this is not to raise the specter of Nazism, the crimes of which Germany has repented of. But it’s hard not to notice that during recent Israeli conflicts, protestors in major German cities have been seen chanting anti-Semitic, as well as anti-Israel, slogans.
Anti-Semitism isn’t just a moral failing in its own right; it’s also a sign of sickness in a society. A society that blames “the Jews” for the state of the Arab world or the economy doesn’t understand how geopolitics or economics work. In those circumstances, wealth, peace, and success all become harder to obtain. So anti-Semitism among Arab refugees isn’t just an ugly prejudice. In addition, it’s a sign of just how hard it will be for many to adjust to life in the West—at least, that is, for as long as the West retains its own grip on reality. Clearly anti-Semitism is not currently as big of a problem in German society as it is in the Arab world (hence the Chancellor’s statement and the challenges facing assimilation). But the German anti-Semitism that does exist is a sign of Europe’s own crisis of confidence, on matters economic and even spiritual.
So good for Chancellor Merkel for having the right impulses. But we hope that she realizes—or does soon—the scale of her request. Assimilating the new refugees is a huge, necessary, and by this point unavoidable task. Feel-good policies and quick fixes won’t solve these thorny cultural problems.