The firebombing of a synagogue by three Muslim men was not anti-Semitism, but a legitimate act of criticism against Israel, a German regional court has ruled.
The three men, named only as German Palestinians Muhammad E., 31, Ismail A., 26, and Muhammad A., 20, were found by the court to have thrown Molotov cocktails at Bergische Synagogue in Wuppertal in July 2014 causing €800 worth of damage.
But in ruling by the lower court in 2015, the men were only handed suspended sentences after the court ruled that their act of arson was intended merely to “criticise Israel”, and to “bring attention to the Gaza conflict,” the Jerusalem Post has reported.
Citing Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas, which took place at the time of the attack, and the defendants’ consumption of alcohol at the time, the court further ruled out anti-Semitism as a motivating factor.
That decision has now been upheld by a higher regional court in the city.
The fire was only prevented from causing more extensive damage as a thirteen-year-old boy liing nearby noticed the flames and alerted the police. Days earlier the words “free Palestine” had been spray-painted on one of the walls of the synagogue.
The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazis during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.
Following the court’s ruling, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP, slammed the courts for their suggestion that the purpose of the attack was to highlight the war in Gaza. To the contrary, the “attack on the synagogue was motivated by antisemitism” he said.
“This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned,” he added, stating that attacks against German Jews can only ever be attributed to anti-Semitism, even when done in the name of Palestine.
“What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward antisemitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming,” said Beck.
This is not the first time the Wuppertal court system has come under fire for supporting actions by Muslims.
Last November the courts threw out a case against a local group of extremist Salafist self-proclaimed “Sharia Police” for a second time, insisting they had not broken the law.
Seven men, including one on trial for supporting a terrorist group in Syria, were found to have taken to the streets of Wuppertal in 2014 wearing high-visibility jackets with the words “Sharia Police” emblazoned on the back. The men told local people not to drink, listen to music, attend nightclubs, or gamble.
But the judges ruled that the Islamic patrol was not illegal because the uniforms were not “suggestively militant” and did not have an “intimidating effect”.