In Germany, there have been few weeks this year in which anti-Semitic incidents did not make headlines.
The most recent attack, however, is raising uncomfortable questions not only about anti-Semitic sentiments but also about the response of authorities. On Wednesday, an Israeli university professor working in Baltimore was first attacked by a 20-year old — and then beaten up by police officers who apparently assumed the 50-year-old professor was the attacker.
Authorities have since apologized for what they say was “an awful and regrettable mistake” on their side and an “abhorrent” crime by the 20-year-old.
The unnamed professor had traveled to Bonn — West Germany’s former capital city — to hold a guest lecture. The 50-year-old, wearing a Jewish kippah, was then attacked by a German with Palestinian origins, who shouted: “No Jew in Germany,” both in English and in German, according to a police statement.
The professor was hit several times, with the attacker punching his shoulder and kippah, before a witness alerted police. Once officers arrived, the attacker fled the scene, followed by the professor who tried to stop him. Assuming the professor was the attacker, German officers “mistakenly” tackled him and punched him in his face after he resisted arrest, according to police officials’ explanation of what occurred.
“He is certainly injured — there’s no way we can justify this,” a police spokesman was quoted as saying by German media outlets.
Officers later went on to arrest the other man after a woman accompanying the professor was able to explain the situation. The alleged attacker was then caught, sent to a psychiatric hospital and is now facing multiple charges. Authorities have also launched an investigation into their own response.
The attack bore similarities with an incident from April, when two young men — at least one wearing a Jewish kippah — were attacked in broad daylight in central Berlin. Captured on camera, the assault sparked widespread condemnation, including from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Ever since World War II, German politicians have emphasized the commitment of their nation to ensuring the safety of Jews, resulting in a revival of the Jewish communities here. An estimated 200,000 Jews live in Germany today.
About half of them attend synagogues that are usually guarded by police. And yet anti-Semitic attacks — mostly committed by right-wing extremists — haven’t stopped completely.
While worldwide acts of violent anti-Semitism dropped by 9 percent between 2016 and 2017, a recent report released by an Israeli university observed a “certain corrosion of Jewish life” because of other incidents such as abuse and harassment, that are on the rise.
As German authorities are pondering options to confront such sentiments, the victim of Wednesday’s attack concluded that he shouldn’t let an attacker derail his visit, according to the University of Bonn, which hosted him.
He went ahead and held his guest lecture, and then returned to the United States.
More on WorldViews: