Speech by Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas at the virtual Startup Media Tel Aviv Summit

09.09.2020 - Speech

I saw a photo last week, and I just cannot stop thinking about it. It showed a man at a demonstration in Berlin and he was wearing a yellow star. A yellow star, like those that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. Instead of the word “Jew”, the word “unvaccinated” was written on it. It made me shudder. This cynic appropriation of the Shoa is extremely dangerous. It pushes too far the boundaries of what can be said. And it plays into the hands of those who capitalise on fears linked to the pandemic.

To distort may mean to deny. And we have to pay attention to these phenomena. From a regulatory as well as a media perspective. Because media do not only report or comment on reality. They also shape it.

So it is our political responsibility to take adequate measures and initiatives to fight the new forms of antisemitism:

In the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, we have initiated a Global Task Force against Holocaust Denial and Distortion.

We have tightened our national criminal law regarding cases of Holocaust denial. For example, German residents spreading such messages from foreign servers will be made liable.

In 2017, Germany enacted the Network Enforcement Act to counter racism and antisemitism online. In the beginning, there was some critical debate about this so-called “Facebook act”. But the years since its enactment in 2017 have proved us right. Now, the rules will even be further tightened.

I would like to highlight some European Union responses against xenophobia, antisemitism and hate speech online:

During our Presidency of the Council of the EU, we are working towards a Europe of security and common values in the digital world. We are firmly committed to democratising the Internet and strengthening the resilience of societies against disinformation online. The protection of our European fundamental rights and our fundamental values is not just an offline issue.

We are pushing for the creation of a reliable and resilient European data infrastructure. We will promote a European framework that enforces basic requirements with regard to moderation of content, access to data and transparency. Here, the Democracy Action Plan of the European Commission matters greatly.

During our Presidency, we will assess structures and instruments to fight antisemitism. We want to lay the foundation for a common European strategy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Especially in these times of crisis, our diverse media landscape matters even more. You hold a mirror up to our societies and to our political class. And it is in part your responsibility to name very clearly the threats we are facing – especially from extreme right-wing antisemitism.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Besides regulatory measures and media responsibility, we need real-life encounters.

Therefore, my colleague Gabriel Ashkenazi and I support German-Israeli Youth Exchange. Building bridges between young people prevents the spread of hate and racism. It is the basis for common understanding in pluralistic societies like ours.

And it is the basis for common ideas and a common future. I welcome the initiative of this meeting today: we need a startup mentality for our relationship – and we need people to connect and work together who will shape our common future!


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