Opinion | How Germany Became Mean

A worthy undertaking, to be sure. But the government’s habit of conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism has had some disturbing effects. Most notably, it has created an atmosphere where advocacy for Palestinian rights or a cease-fire in Gaza is seen as suspect, running afoul of the state-mandated position. The police, for example, have cracked down on pro-Palestinian protests in several cities and outright banned numerous demonstrations.

The cultural sector has seen far-reaching acts of censorship, too. The Frankfurt Book Fair canceled an award ceremony for the Palestinian author Adania Shibli, and the Berlin senate cut funds for a cultural center on the grounds it refused to cancel an event organized by the left-wing group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. In this sulfurous atmosphere, the office of Jian Omar, a Berlin lawmaker of Kurdish-Syrian background, was attacked, part of a wider trend of intimidation directed at the country’s Muslims.

This is all concerning enough. But politicians, seizing on some evidence of antisemitic displays at pro-Palestinian protests to link Muslims and migrants with antisemitism, have taken the opportunity to advance an anti-migrant agenda. When Mr. Scholz was asked about antisemitism among people “with Arab roots” in an October interview, he said Germany needed to sort out more precisely who is allowed to come into the country and who is not. “We are limiting irregular migration,” Mr. Scholz pronounced, before adding a little later, “We must finally deport on a large scale.”

Several other high-ranking politicians have also pushed the need for stricter border controls in the aftermath of Oct. 7. Friedrich Merz, leader of the opposition Christian Democrats, spoke out against taking in refugees from Gaza, claiming that Germany already has “enough antisemitic young men in the country.” Christian Lindner, the finance minister and head of the center-right Free Democratic Party, called for a fundamental change in immigration policy to “reduce the appeal of the German welfare state.”

Mr. Lindner soon got his way. In early November, after months of intense discussions, the federal government and the 16 state governors agreed on stricter measures to curb the number of migrants entering the country. Asylum seekers now receive less cash and have to wait twice as long to get on welfare, taking even more autonomy away from their lives. According to the new plan, Germany will also extend its border checks, speed up asylum procedures and look into the idea of offshoring asylum centers.

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