Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin lashed out at Berlin’s top anti-Semitism chief for his ‘defeatist’ attitude towards protecting local Jews against the rise of hate crimes.
The criticism from Tel Aviv was provoked by Felix Klein, who told local media that he “can’t recommend Jews to wear kippahs anywhere at any time in Germany.”
“Unfortunately, I have to say so,” Klein said, lamenting the spike in hate crimes in the country.
On Sunday, his comments were met with a strong rebuke from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who was “deeply shocked” by the German official’s words. It is Berlin’s responsibility to secure the safety and protect religious rights of the local Jewish community, he said, calling Klein’s approach “a capitulation to anti-Semitism.”
We will never lower our gaze and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism – and we expect and demand our allies act in the same way.
Felix Klein’s statement sparked controversy in Germany as well. Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann stressed that “everyone can and should wear kippahs wherever and whenever they want.” He argued that “bowing down to the hatred of Jews” fuels extreme right-wing views.
The US envoy to Berlin, Richard Grenell, known for actively weighing in on internal debates in Germany, took a similar view, saying that Jews should be encouraged to wear kippahs, not advised against it.
Klein himself then admitted to the German dpa news agency that his statement was “provocative.” He also explained that he deliberately sought to initiate a discussion about the security of the Jewish community in Germany. “Of course, I believe that there should not be any no-go areas for Jews or other minorities in Germany,” he said.
The office of the commissioner for combating anti-Semitism was created in 2018 as part of an effort to tackle the upswing in crimes against Jews across Germany. According to the government, violent attacks on Jews grew more than 60 percent last year. Some 43 people were injured during that period.