In a ruling that is raising eyebrows across the world as well as concerns for the safety of Jews in one of Europe’s largest countries, a German appellate court upheld a lower court ruling that handed down suspended sentences to three Palestinians who firebombed a synagogue in the town of Wuppertal. The court declared that the firebombing that caused less than a thousand Euros worth of damage was motivated by “legitimate criticism of Israel” and not anti-Semitism. Ironically, the same synagogue was burned by Nazis in 1938.

The idea that crimes can be given what amounts to a slap on the wrist if a judge thinks that the motives are “legitimate” is a new one in a western country.

The ruling raises questions about how far the principle would apply.

For example, what if the firebombing had been more successful and what if the synagogue had been full of worshipers? Would the murder and maiming of Jews be mostly forgiven if a judge determined that the motive was a protest against Israel and not out of Jew hatred?

Would the same principle apply to other political controversies? Germany is currently wracked with civil unrest because of the influx of unassimilated migrants from North African and Middle Eastern conflict zones. Would a firebombing of a mosque be forgiven if it was seen as a protest of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies?

Considering Germany’s Nazi past, many wonder why a court in that country would be so cavalier about atrocities directed against Jews.

The court in question may entertain a distinction between anti-Israel and anti-Semitism, but the casual observer would wonder if the two are all that different. They would also wonder if such a distinction matters when a Crime has been committed.

The only group so far to protest the ruling is the German Green Party, who affirmed that the fire bombing was motivated by anti-Semitism.

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In the meantime, Jews living in Germany and those contemplating visiting that country may be well advised to look to their safety. One would be forgiven for wondering if, for the first time since 1945, it is open season on Jews in Germany, so long as the motive is “legitimate.”