Members of a Jewish dance troupe were pelted with stones and insulted during a neighborhood festival in Sahlkamp, Hannover (Germany).
Politicians and local associations responded in outrage and disbelief to the antisemitic attacks in Sahlkamp. A dance troupe of the Liberal Jewish Community in Hannover was pelted with stones and insulted on Saturday during a district festival. After correlating pictures, 30 children and teenagers of mostly Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi, Iranian and possibly also Turkish origin, were involved in throwing pebbles and calling insults at the eight adult dancers. The Jewish folklore group were forced to leave the stage, one dancer was hit in the leg and suffered a bruise. The international cultural festival continued after a break, the police were not notified.
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The stones apparently came from a large pile of larger and smaller pebbles, which was still around Tuesday at the edge of the Sahlkamp market. There are conflicting reports about the exact chain of events. It appears that the provocation began immediately when the group got on the stage. A young person with a megaphone shouted "Jews, out", another threw the first pebble. While the audience rebuked those disturbing, more young people aged 12-16, all together half a dozen, got up and also started throwing stones. Later, around 20 children, boys and girls, joined in. The situation calmed several minutes after the dancers left the stage, and social workers called for restraint.
Some observers said Tuesday that they suspected the action might possibly have been prepared in advance, since some of the youth already had the pebbles in their pockets. "Certainly pebbles don't just lie around in the market," says eyewitness Tatiana Ilchenko, who was also in the culture festival with a folklore group. Other observers, however, said there was a spontaneous escalation. The highly excitable youth responded aggressively to the calls to order and the initial response of the audience. The youth with the megaphone, the first to shout antisemitic slogans, was mentally disabled, they say. It is widely accepted that antisemitism is widespread among the Palestinian and Arab youth of the neighborhood. 'Jew' is an insult, says an expert on the neighborhood.
Mayor Stephan Weil responded with dismay to news of the attack Tuesday. "I'm extremely sorry, especially for the dance troupe, but also for the neighborhood, that such an event would be abused for racist purposes," Weil told the members of the Hanover integration council on Tuesday. He said the city council will lodge a complaint and will above all check why the organizers didn't turn to the police.
The Liberal Jewish Community will also lodge a complaint for dangerous bodily harm and incitement, says president Ingrid Wettberg. Sahlkamp, the organizers of the cultural festival, are also considering legal steps. Wettberg was critical that the police were not engaged. She also stressed that the Liberal Jewish Community will hide in the future despite the incident and will continue to enrich the cultural festivals in the city with their performance. Wettberg said, though, that they're considering bringing their own security people in the future.
Eyewtiness Tatiana Ilchenko was also critical of the reluctant intervention by the bystanders and the organizers, although the festival organizer, Hajo Arnds, unsuccessful tried to persuade the children and youth to calm down. It was only after the dancers left the stage that a social workers managed to convince the kids and the situation calmed down. Ilchenko says she tried talking with the kids. They were very aggressive and barked at me that I should go away," she says. The children spoke fluent German, but talked amongst themselves in other languages.
Yazir Shammout, head of the Palestinian community, also responded with dismay to the incident. "Every form of violence should be condemned in the strongest terms," he says. The Palestinian community is organizing joint actions and talks with with the Jewish representatives. "Even if we disagree, we are objective and civilized towards each other," Shammout says. He hopes that the stone throwing doesn't have anything to do with Israel's Gaza policy: "Unfortunately, the widespread solidarity with the Palestinians who live here, has been abused over and over again for anti-Israel sentiments - and from those it's only a small step to antisemitism, which really doesn't serve anybody." Stone throwing by youth was a characteristic of the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising, which ten years ago started its second round.