October 26, 2023 - 10:30am

According to various German reports, domestic intelligence was tipped off earlier this week by a foreign source about a possible terrorist attack on a pro-Israel rally in a major German city. The suspect, “Tarek S”, is a former member of Isis who became infamous in Germany for posing with the victims of beheadings and featuring in propaganda videos for the Islamist group. Once returned to Germany in 2017, he was convicted to five years of juvenile detention.

His alleged plans included driving a truck into a group of demonstrators, echoing the terrorist attack that occurred in December 2016 when a Tunisian Islamist drove a vehicle into a crowded Christmas market, killing 13 people. Although the perpetrator of that attack was well known to the authorities, a lack of inter-agency communication — as well as a failure to deport those who are illegally in the country — made it all but impossible to prevent what became the first major Islamic terror attack in Germany. A special commission examining the case concluded that proper procedures by the German security apparatus could have thwarted the attack. 

The pre-emptive arrest of Tarek S. reveals a nervousness among the German intelligence community not to repeat the mistakes of the past. After the massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas and a significant increase of antisemitic incidents in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised “massive deportations” of the perpetrators, with a new law currently under consideration that would ban antisemites from gaining German citizenship. It is unclear how the government plans to recognise said antisemites, especially given its track record of deliberately muddying the waters when it comes to identifying antisemitic offenders.

That is in part due to a flaw in the Germany system that counts incidents of antisemitism as Right-wing if the perpetrators are unknown. For example, if a synagogue is defaced with antisemitic graffiti by anonymous vandals, it is statistically counted as neo-Nazi activity, even if the perpetrators are more likely to have an Islamist background. This means that in the past a significant number of antisemitic incidents motivated by Islamism were counted as Right-wing, leading to a statistical undercounting of the Islamist threat to Germany’s Jewish community.

What’s more, the federal government has pursued policies which have done nothing to mitigate potential security risks. The Left-wing Die Linke party issued a parliamentary inquiry in 2016 to find out how many people had been convicted and ordered to leave the country, and how many of those had actually done so. Out of 285,073 convictions, only 2030 left. In many cases, being a criminal provided protection from deportation, since those affected claimed fear of inhumane punishment in their country of origin. Consequently, the German authorities developed a habit of deporting well-integrated migrants while turning a blind eye to criminal ones. 

The open hatred of Jews among certain portions of Germany’s growing Muslim community has simply been ignored. It is an encouraging sign that the current government finally wants to address these shortcomings, but the effectiveness of their approach remains to be seen.