In Berlin, a billboard against antisemitism might backfire

Source: haaretz
Passengers on the Berlin subway are encountering billboards these days with the inscription “Du Jude” [“You’re a Jew” or “You Jew”]. Alongside the inscription there are alternately pictures of a leek, an ostrich, a wooden column and a rag. At the bottom of each picture and in smaller letters is the inscription: “Don’t let the [leek, ostrich, etc.] tell you anything. Jew is not an insult. You’re a Jew. #sowhat.”

Berliners are used to provocative ads and jokey billboards, so the campaign did not cause an uproar or merit special attention. However, several people who came across it felt embarrassed. The attentive viewer won’t find it difficult to understand that the signs are designed to convey a message against anti-Semitism.

However, what is understood at first glance is the large inscription “Du Jude” alongside a picture of a rag and a bird with a large, threatening beak – a demeaning, threatening visual message.

Behind the campaign is the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which espouses a strengthening of democracy and pluralism and the fight against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism.

This is the 17th time that the organization is initiating “Weeks of Action Against Anti-Semitism” in Germany, this year with the slogan “You’re a Jew – so what?” that is aimed at young people. Also participating in the campaign is the Anne Frank Center, and it is financed by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

Expression such as “Du Jude” and “Jew Shit” have become common curses among students in the German school system. “Anyone who deals with anti-Semitism is familiar with the problem,” says Miki Hermer, a Jewish woman who is in charge of projects against anti-Semitism in the Amadeu Antonio Foundation.

She says that the intention was to use epithets that are common and negative but not particularly insulting, to make it clear to those who use the word “Jew” as a curse word that the joke is on them. “We’re trying to speak the language of the youth,” she adds.

The campaign is also aimed against anti-Semitism in German pop music. According to Hermer, “There’s a lot of anti-Semitism in all types of music – not only in rap and hip-hop, but in punk, heavy metal, and German folk music too.” Aside from bands with a clear neo-Nazi agenda, which sing for example about “Kabbalist bankers behind the scenes,” anti-Semitic messages are leaking into the mainstream of German pop.

Last year the most important prize in the local music industry was canceled, after the protest that began after rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah (Felix Blume) won the prize for an album that included a line in which they boasted of the fact that they are “more muscular than Auschwitz prisoners.” After the uproar, Kollegah visited Auschwitz, but shortly afterwards he said in an interview that “what’s happening in the Palestinian territories is exactly like what happened here in Germany during the Holocaust.”

There are also examples of anti-Semitic inferences in the songs of R&B star Xavier Naidoo, one of the founders of the popular Sohne Mannheims troupe. For example, his 2017 song “Marionetten” could be interpreted as a hymn to the conspiracy theory that hidden marionettes rule the world and exploit the listeners to whom the song is directed. Naidoo sued an employee of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation who called him an anti-Semite, and German courts ruled in two instances that he cannot be called that, although the lines from his songs could be considered anti-Semitic.+