A regional court in Germany ruled this week that an attempt to set fire to a local synagogue in 2014 by three Muslims was an act meant to express criticism against Israel’s conduct in its ongoing conflict with Hamas, and was not an expression of anti-Semitism.
The court sentenced the three men – Muhammad E, 31, Ismail A, 26, and Muhammad A, 20 – to suspended sentences for tossing firebombs at the synagogue and causing €800 (£700) worth of damage.
The picture above shows them in court with faces blurred, accompanied by an interpreter.
Johannes Pinnel, a spokesman for the regional court, said that the three men wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel and deemed the attack not to be motivated by anti-Semitism.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 to stop Hamas rocket attacks into Israeli territory.
The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazis during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.
Wuppertal has a population of nearly 344,000 and is located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The court noted that the men had consumed alcohol and there were no injuries to members of the synagogue.
A 13-year-old boy who lived near the synagogue and noticed the flames called the police. Several days before the fire, a person sprayed “Free Palestine” on one of its walls.
After the court’s ruling, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP, insisted that the “attack on the synagogue was motivated by anti-Semitism” and blasted the court for issuing a decision stating that the goal of the attack was to highlight the war in Gaza.
This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned. What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward anti-Semitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming.
Earlier in their trial the men confessed to the arson attack and expressed remorse for what they had done. They explained they had committed their crime under the influence of alcohol, following a celebration at the end of Ramadan. They said wanted to use bottles of diesel used in the attack to direct interest to what was going on in Gaza at the time, the Israeli offensive.
They said they weren’t aware that by throwing them they could burn the synagogue or injure other people.
Leonid Goldberg, Chairman of Wuppertal’s Jewish Cultural Association, said:
That is just an excuse. If you ask me, it was pure anti-Semitism.
He said that open enmity against Jewish people existed in German and European cities before both the Wuppertal arson and the Paris supermarket attacks, noting that several thousand Jews left France for Israel last year alone. In his community, however, not a single member has left the country, he says. That doesn’t mean, however, that nobody has entertained the idea.
Many community members, he said, have expressed concern for their own security because they are Jewish.
For years now, our rabbis haven’t worn their kippahs in public as they go through Wuppertal. Jews that do wear their kippah in public attempt to hide it by wearing a hat on top so that they don’t have to hear insults from young Muslims, most of all.
He says young Muslims have constant access to anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic medeia coverage. As a result, anti-Semitism among young Muslims has grown strongly.
In 2014 news traveled around the world that Muslim men in Wuppertal were patrolling the streets.
Seven Members of the Muslim patrol were arrested but, according to the BBC, a German court ruled last November that the men who formed a Sharia street patrol did not break laws against political uniforms.
The group sparked outrage in Wuppertal when they approached people in orange vests bearing the words “Sharia Police”. They demanded that locals stop gambling, listening to music, and drinking alcohol.
The group’s alleged organiser, Sven Lau, above, is a well-known Islamist preacher.