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What line does the law take on antisemitism, Ms Paz?

Time and again, Jewish people in Germany are confronted with hostility and attacks. Politicians promise to tackle antisemitism with all the tools of a constitutional state. But does the law actually command adequate means to fight hatred of Jews? This is a research focus of legal scholar Reut Y. Paz.

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  • Text: Mareike Ilsemann
Reut Y. Paz in front of a painting
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild

REUT Y. PAZ

Dr Reut Y. Paz heads the project “Seeing Antisemitism Through Law: High Promises or Indeterminacies?” at Giessen University, Germany. From 2010 to 2012, she was a Humboldt Research Fellow at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Humboldt Research Fellowship

She compares examples of case law in Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Israel and France: How does the law deal with antisemitism? Where does it take up arms? Where does it ignore or even promote it? Paz emphasises that laws are determined by contemporary discourse and by the attitudes of the people involved in making the legislation. There is a time-lag in the response to historical change. Until then, the courts have to interpret the law accordingly. Even today, Germany still does not have a legally binding definition of antisemitism, Paz explains. She refers to a ruling by the district court in Wuppertal that did not define the attempted arson attack on the Wuppertal Synagogue in 2014 as an antisemitic offence. The court accepted the explanation given by the three perpetrators that they had wanted to draw attention to the conflict in Gaza. “A scandalous ruling,” says Paz. Her demands are clear: “We have to subject the laws and legal scholarship to a critical revision and work out how the law can fulfil its promise to effectively combat ‘the oldest hatred in the world’.”

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