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AfD takes Germany down a dangerous path to the far-right

Mati Shemoelof
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Published: 27 November 2019

Last updated: 4 March 2024

EARLIER THIS MONTH I was on the program at a Jewish festival in Dresden with other writers, both Jewish and Arab. Shortly before my session was to start I got a message from my wife that the city council had declared a state of emergency to deal with the intimidating behaviour of neo-Nazi groups in the city. We decided not to go out that night.

Dresden is in the state of Saxony, in eastern Germany, where the Alternative for Germany (AfD) far-right group got 27.5 per cent of the vote in the last federal elections in September this year. In the adjoining state of Thuringia, the AfD received 24 per cent, which was a worse result   because no other party can form a coalition without the AfD.

How does this shape the neo-Nazi landscape? Will the dominant Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party form a coalition with the AfD and give it legitimacy? Will the normalisation of the AfD raise the level of violence and lower the level of security for immigrants, Muslims and asylum-seekers?

As an Israeli emigrant, I can tell the Germans some things about the rise of right-wing groups. It seems that Israelis have become used to the presence of the extreme Right and a prime minister who makes racist slurs. Over a decade of extreme right-wing dominance in the Knesset, the political system changed its character and behaviour. Who would have believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would send out, on election day in 2015, thousands of text messages with the following: The Left is bussing Arabs to vote, the Right is in danger!”

In this year’s May election, he continued with this theme: “Israel is not a country of all its citizens”. In the September election he warned on his Facebook page of a left-wing government with “Arabs who want to destroy us all – women, children and men”. Racism became so easy.

But in today’s Germany racism is new and fresh.  I hope the country’s political leaders do not make the same mistakes as in the past. Until now, the CDU has boycotted both the radical Left Die Linke and the AfD, even though the Left does not engage in terror or death threats.  I hope the CDU does not become like the Likud in Israel and changes its policies towards Die Linke.

The paradox of the CDU

The Thuringia election saw the CDU get a very low vote, just 21.8 per cent, which will force it to partner with either the AfD or Die Linke.  If it goes with the AfD, it goes back on its promise to Jewish communities. If it goes with Die Linke, it will alienate conservative voters.

One thing we know from the Israeli experience it that once a party sinks into the abyss of the extreme Right, it is hard to rise back up.  In Israel, the Likud’s mindset has become everyday news: hatred of  minorities, demonisation of the other, nationalistic isolation, paranoid and obsessive crusade against so-called traitors on the left, the narrowing of the education system,  spitting in the face of intellectuals and the media, the demise of democracy, widening the gaps between the underclass and the privileged, and eroding the independence  of the media and judiciary.

If the CDU forms a coalition with the AfD, the Dresden state of emergency will become the new normal.

This may seem extreme but the signs have been building over the past few years: the terror attack on the synagogue in Halle, the murder of progressive CDU politician Walter Lübcke,  Greens leaders  Cem Özdemir and Claudia Roth receiving  death threats; and the vigilante “security” patrols  popping up in several states.

The AfD will try to change the way Germans remember the Holocaust and the way the country treats immigrants.

German Jewish leaders are now more concerned about the far-right surge in Thuringia than the Muslim minority, who they used to see as a major anti-Semitic threat. People who voted for the AfD in Thuringia "knew exactly what they were doing," says Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

I am worried. I don’t want to live in Germany if the AfD gets legitimitised. I know the Israeli politics that I left. Maybe I must become more active. An AfD conference scheduled in Berlin earlier this year was moved to Poland after German hotels refused to accommodate the delegates. Anti-fascist activists were behind the efforts to block the AfD conference.  It is heartening to know there is a genuine resistance toward the entry of the radical right-wing into Berlin.

I wonder, did we ever do this kind of thing in Israel?



About the author

Mati Shemoelof

Mati Shemoelof is a poet and an author. His writing includes seven poetry books, plays, articles and fiction, which have won significant recognition and prizes. He has written a radio play for German radio WDR. A German edition of his bi-lingual poems was published by AphorismA Verlag.

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