Last week, thousands of Germans of all faiths and identities participated in a “kippa march,” standing in solidarity with German Jews who feel endangered in the current political climate. In 2017, there were 1,468 reported antisemitic attacks in Germany, most perpetrated by members of the far-right.
The gesture is lovely. However we cannot help wondering if the whole “Je suis Charlie,” “We are all Muslims” or the “Ich bin Eine Jude” movements that pop up as gestures of solidarity are not at least slightly misplaced.
We will leave it to others to speak for their communities. But we would note that there may be a degree of comfort among some people in Europe and North America to criticize Jews. Since Christianity is descended from Judaism, it seems that there is felt more freedom to criticize Jewish behaviours, including the policies of the Jewish state. After all, the thinking might go, we are all part of the same family; it’s practically constructive self-criticism. Yet this ignores millennia of significantly divergent experiences and theology.
While the idea that donning a kippa will help keep Jewish neighbours in Germany safe, recent European history should give us reason to worry that today’s gesture of solidarity could be repurposed as a cover for criticism tomorrow on the pleasant idea that Ich bin Eine Jude.
This is a cynical response to a kind gesture, we realize. But sometimes cynicism and realism are not unrelated.