Germany on-Track in Anti-Extremist Fight Despite two Missteps

Published December 10th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Germany remained on-track last week in its fight against far-right extremism despite missteps over two incidents falsely attributed to far-right violence. 

The lower house of the German parliament voted Friday to follow the upper house and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left government in formally asking the Constitutional Court to ban a neo-Nazi party accused of fomenting extreme right-wing violence. 

Schroeder says the National Democratic Party (NPD) has helped foment a wave of skinhead violence in Germany against foreigners and other minorities which has alarmed political leaders in recent months. 

The anti-NPD move is part of a wider campaign against xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany which had Schroeder calling in October for a "revolt of decent citizens" against extremist attacks. 

This call is holding despite two over-reactions by the German government and media to two key incidents. 

The first is the attempted fire bombing of a synagogue in the western city of Duesseldorf which was the catalyst that led Schroeder to call for his revolt for decency. 

The firebombing on October 2, the eve of the 10th German reunification anniversary, was attributed to right-wing extremists but authorities said Thursday that it was in fact the work of two ethnic Arabs, who had been arrested. 

In the other incident, the drowning of a six-year-old German-Iraqi boy in a swimming pool in the eastern city of Sebnitz was widely accepted as an especially horrific murder carried out by neo-Nazis, after accusations by the mother were aired. 

The press trumpeted the mother's charges and Schroeder even met with the woman, Renate Kantelberg-Abdulla, in Berlin. 

But under police investigation, the 15 witnesses the mother had cited withdrew their testimony. The key witness said he was not even at the pool when the boy drowned in June 1997. 

The conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said in an editorial Friday that "over-simplifying and fanning hysteria are not helpful. 

"And a German chancellor should be particularly careful." 

The FAZ said the Duesseldorf case showed that Germans should stop always feeling guilty as the perception that Germans, not Arabs, were responsible "underscores how misleading it is to suppose that the inclination to right-wing extremism is found only in the Germans' genetic makeup." 

The leader of the German Jewish community Paul Spiegel stressed however that there was no reason to let up in the fight against far-right extremism. 

"There are attacks daily, and the perpetrators are almost exclusively from the right," he said about racist assaults and desecrations of Jewish buildings and cemeteries in an interview in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper Friday. 

Berlin Free University political scientist Hajo Funke said authorities were still not reacting enough to the neo-Nazi threat. 

He said concern about over-reactions to the incidents in Sebnitz and Duesseldorf should not give the far-right a chance to turn public debate away from them. 

"We have to do more to face extremist violence," Funke said, adding "because if we don't it will worsen." – BERLIN (AFP) 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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