BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet passed new measures Wednesday aimed at helping fight far-right extremism and anti-Semitism following an attack on a synagogue earlier this month.
The proposals include tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and boosting financial support for projects fighting anti-Semitism and far-right extremism.
“The horrible attack on the Jewish community in Halle showed again what the unleashing of hatred online can lead to,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a news conference in Berlin when she introduced the bundle of measures alongside Germany’s interior and family ministers.
“We will fight far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism with all the power of the law,” Lambrecht added.
Germany is still reeling from the attempted attack on a synagogue by a 27-year-old German in the eastern city of Halle on Oct. 9, who later killed two passers-by before being arrested. The man posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular video game streaming site. (Kirsten Grieshaber, US News & World Report, 10/30)
The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions
Theaters, museums, and other venues in Germany are facing pressure from the AfD, raising questions about the extent of artistic freedoms.
ELIZA APPERLY, OCT 28, 2019, The Atlantic
BERLIN – Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel. A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg. And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.
Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism. Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.
Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target – culture. At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters: Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy. In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.
“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me. “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/germany-far-right-culture-war/598978/)
FAR RIGHT AFD BEATS MERKEL IN GERMAN ELECTION
Voters in the eastern German state of Thuringia boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on Sunday, according to preliminary results, but the Left party will remain the dominant political force in the state.
With all districts reporting, results showed the Left party winning 31% of votes in the state that was once part of the communist former East Germany. (DW, 10/28)
GERMAN INTERVENTION IN LIBYA
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is intervening in Libya, calling for an “end to foreign intervention.” On the occasion of his trip to Turkey and North Africa he arrived last Sunday for a brief visit in the country, to prepare an international conference on Libya, which the German government intends to convene soon. With this conference the German government seeks to possibly pacify the country and distinguish itself as a “regulatory force” in North Africa. Maas then traveled on to Egypt, which also is involved in the Libyan war. While the German minister is declaring that the Egyptians should be able “to breathe the air of liberty,” Cairo is continuing its brutal repression. Since the military coup in July 2013, more than 1,500 people have disappeared from state custody. While seeking to pacify Libya, Berlin is increasing its “regulatory” activities in an “arch of crisis” extending from North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia. However, until now, without success. (German Foreign Policy, 10/30)
VISEGRAD COUNTRIES GROWING
“Fifteen years after they joined the EU, the four “Visegrad” states of central Europe (the V4) can be prouder of their economic achievements than of their patchy record on political reform. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have increased their levels of GDP per head dramatically, and are converging with their mighty neighbor Germany. The Czechs are the richest, with a GDP per head that is 73% of Germany’s, followed by Slovakia with 63% and Hungary and Poland with around 57% each – and the gap continues to close, as their growth outpaces that of the behemoth.” (The Economist, 10/26)
UK BECOMING MORE EUROPEAN
“Before the referendum in 2016 European Union flags were as rare as golden eagles in Britain. Today they are as common as sparrows. Parliament Square is permanently festooned with them. Activist Remainers flaunt flag-themed berets and T-shirts. On October 19th a million-strong army of People’s Vote supporters marched on Westminster beneath a sea of gold and blue standards . . .
“This is part of a bigger paradox: the more Britain struggles to leave the EU, the more it embraces European style politics. Since the dawn of the democratic era Britain has practiced two or two and a bit party politics compared with the continent’s multiparty system. That is changing, accelerated by Brexit.
The Scottish National Party controls Scotland. The ruling Conservative Party is 45 MPs short of a majority. The European Research Group of hard-line Brexiteers acts as a party within the Tory party. The Liberal Democrats could make big gains in the forthcoming general election, especially if Brexit seems reversible.” (The Economist, 10/26)
CATHOLIC SYNOD IN ROME RECOGNIZES DIVIDED CHURCH
“The synod represents the biggest step yet towards recognizing something many Catholics in the West, especially church leaders, have been reluctant to acknowledge: Just as economic and Diplomatic power in the secular world is sleeping away from the North Atlantic region, a similar process is taking place in Catholicism. In the secular world, the shift is to Asia. Within the Catholic church it is towards not only Asia, but Africa and Latin America, too. That is forcing the church to consider how far it is willing to adapt to the practices and beliefs of cultures with their own spiritual traditions. The synod has added to fears of a new schism within the church.” (The Economist, 10/26)
TO THE POINT
- Warren not a socialist: “Some Republicans and Wall Street critics claim that Ms. Warren is a socialist. She is not. She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit. Instead she favors regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.” (“A plan for American capitalism,” The Economist, 10/26)
- Russia in Africa “… over the past decade, and especially after America and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has viewed Africa as an increasingly important arena. Since 2015 a dozen African leaders have visited Russia. From 2006 to 2018 Russia’s total trade with sub-Saharan Africa increased by 336%. It is the largest arms exporter to the continent, accounting for 39% of deliveries in 2013-17 (many from Russia to Algeria”. (The Economist, 10/26)
- Farage’s gamble — EU ministers are taking a breather from Brexit as the action moves firmly back to London, where MPs are preparing for a general election. In a possible game-changer for Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is considering whether to pull out of hundreds of seats. This would be a major boost to the UK prime minister, given the risks that the Brexit party could split the vote among leavers. (FT) As James Blitz writes, the prime minister is taking a massive gamble by engineering the vote before the UK is out of the EU. Farage’s Brexit party poses one possible risk. Another is that Labour will hammer home the message that a victorious Tory party would use Brexit as an opportunity to pursue a hard-right social and economic agenda. (Financial Times 10/31)
- Refreshing view on Israel: Egyptian Coptic patriarch Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said in an October 14, 2019 interview on France 24 Arabic TV that he encourages Copts to visit Jerusalem because getting closer to others increases mutual understanding. He said that Israel is a country like any other country and expressed support for an agreement that would make Jerusalem an international capital, though he said that this is not possible given the current reality. Pope Tawadros II expressed concern for Christian holy places in Jerusalem and said that many parties are collectively responsible for the complexity of the current realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He praised efforts to resolve the conflict. (MEMRI, 10/30)
- The worst patients in the world: “Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups. We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do. No wonder the US leads the world in health spending.” (David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, July 2019).