Feelings run high in Israel over German anti-Semitism

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The Independent Online
ISRAEL will do all it can to prevent the terrors of the past from casting a shadow over the present, the Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, said yesterday, as parliament debated how to respond to anti-Semitic violence in Germany.

The Holocaust would probably not have taken place had the state of Israel existed at the time, he said, and Israel could not now allow Jewish blood to be spilt again. But, while urging the German government to crack down on the neo-Nazis, the Foreign Minister rejected calls from some quarters for sanctions against Germany.

The debate followed three days of emotional protest and discussion in Israel caused largely by the screening on Israeli television on Friday of a German film about the rise of neo-Nazism. The graphic pictures appear to have brought home to Israelis for the first time the extent of the phenomenon, causing a surge of strong anti-German sentiment.

Three MPs have cancelled a visit to Germany in protest at what they say is the German government's failure to act against anti-Semitism.

Israeli newspapers yesterday displayed prominent photographs of a Labour Member of Parliament, Avi Yehezkal, protesting outside the German embassy in Tel Aviv, wearing a yellow star, and carrying a banner saying 'Never Again'. Israeli press editorials have not minced their words. The newspaper Davar said: 'The blood account of the Jewish people with Germany will never be settled. This fact wouldn't change even if now there weren't this outburst of sick violence throughout Germany. It won't change also if the authorities succeed in repressing this evil and lethal spirit.' However, other Israeli commentators warned against damage to Israeli-German relations. Germany is Israel's second most important trading partner after the US.

There are also strong voices in Israel urging people to remember that neo-Nazis are a minority in Germany, and that the German government is on Israel's side on this issue. And whatever the fears among Israelis, the number of new applications by German Jews to immigrate to Israel rose only to 46 in October, out of a Jewish population of 40,000.