Still, we're talking about Germany, the country of the perpetrators: is this perceived differently in Israel?

Zimmermann: You′d think so,, yet it's absurdly not the case. Israel has learned to see anti-Semitism and racism only whenever Israel feels criticised. Because the AfD hasn't been criticising Israel – just like other right-wing populist parties in Europe – Israel has lost its sensitivity and is looking on calmly from the sidelines. It's absurd: it just couldn't have happened 30, 40 years ago.

But Gauland did say that he had problems with Angela Merkel's statement that protecting Israel's security is part of Germany's raison d'être.

Zimmermann: And? Did you hear any reaction from Netanyahu about it?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo: dpa/picture-alliance)
Vague warnings about increased anti-Semitism, no mention of the AfD′s electoral gains: initially Benjamin Netanyahu′s reaction to Germany′s recent election was restricted to extending his congratulations to Angela Merkel on her fourth term in office. Only later did he criticise the "increase in anti-Semitism in recent years among political elements to both right and left, not to mention Islamic elements" in Germany


Zimmermann: Because there wasn't any. Netanyahu is a realpolitiker. His first consideration is always: is this directed against Israel's politics or not? As long as the AfD avoids taking a clear position against Israel, then it all remains the same. Mr. Gauland has also said that Germany needs to support Israel. He only has a problem with Mrs. Merkel's statement. Netanyahu took two days to react to the vote on 24 September and then he said: we are against anti-Semitism from the left and the right. He didn't even mention the word AfD once.

What reaction were you hoping for from the Israeli government?

Zimmermann: The Israeli government must clearly state how concerned it is about the success of a far-right party, especially in Germany – a party tolerating racist, anti-democratic statements. Jews cannot accept this. That's the least we can expect. It should be clear in stating that Israeli politicians will have no contact with AfD politicians.

The AfD's polemics tend to focus on Muslims rather than Jews. Did the anti-Semitism of this party perhaps go unnoticed?

Zimmermann: That's the thing they have in common with right-wing populists in Europe and outside of Europe as well. The common enemy is Islam, the Arabs. Everything else can be marginalised. That's how it is perceived here, unfortunately.

Germany′s integration commissioner, Aydan Ozoguz (photo: Aydan Ozoguz)
Fond of defaming German celebrities with an ethnic background: following the UEFA Cup in 2016, top AfD candidate Alexander Gauland said than no-one would want to have German national player Jerome Boateng as their neighbour. Moreover, he was also keen of "disposing" of Germany′s Integration Commissioner Aydan Ozoguz (SPD) in Anatolia

In your book, "Deutsche gegen Deutsche" (Germans against Germans), you describe what the Nazi period meant for German Jews in particular. They were Germans and suddenly they were robbed of their identity and their own neighbours fought against them. Is there a risk of this happening again – but this time with Muslim Germans?

The theme "Germans against Germans" based on my historical observation of the developments of the 1930s, has been going on in Germany for a long time – even though the Jews are not the target this time around. AfD politicians do say that anyone with a German passport is a German, no matter if they have foreign roots or not. Yet they formally restrict this definition as soon as it comes to double citizenships. A double citizenship is something that needs to be rejected. I for instance have two passports, which is why I'm not automatically German in the AfD's view. The comment about Ozoguz was even worse. Even though she has a German passport, Mr. Gauland felt entitled to define, who is German enough or not.

You're referring to his remarks stating that Aydan Ozoguz, the German government's commissioner for integration, should be "disposed of" in Anatolia…

Zimmermann: Yes and I'm not talking about the vulgar language, about what can be disposed or what should be disposed of as a rule, but rather the idea that when a Social Democratic politician expresses an opinion about German culture that is not to the taste of the AfD politician, he feels he can recommend she be removed from Germany. That brings us back to a subject we have already addressed.

You have a German and an Israeli passport. Did you vote in the German election?

Zimmermann: I live in Israel. That′s where I vote, not in Germany. Still, had I been living in Germany, I would have known exactly whom to vote for.

Interview conducted by Sarah Judith Hofmann

© Deutsche Welle 2017

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