Police punch Israeli academic in face after mistaking him for anti-Semite

An Israeli professor was the victim of an anti-Semitic hate crime on the streets of Bonn on Wednesday. But when police arrived at the scene they mistook him for the offender and physically assaulted him.

Police punch Israeli academic in face after mistaking him for anti-Semite

The suspect, a 20-year-old German with Palestinian roots, is reported to have repeatedly knocked the philosophy professor’s kippah from his head and shoved him. The offender allegedly shouted insults in German and English including the phrase “No Jews in Germany!”

When called to the scene, the police officers initially mistook the academic for the perpetrator. When he didn’t respond to their shouts to remain still and continued to fight back the officers overpowered the professor, cuffed him and punched him in the face.

When the officers realised their grave mistake the real offender was arrested and taken to a psychiatric clinic.

This unfortunate case of mistaken identity leaves many asking just how this could have happened and has resulted in several public and private apologies offered to the victim. 

“We will not permit Jews to be persecuted in such a fashion ever again in Germany,” Herbert Reul, the North Rhine-Westphalia interior minister, told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ). Reul offered an apology to the professor over the phone on Thursday and called the crime itself “abominable”.

Ursula Brohl-Sowa, chief of police in Bonn, has commented that this was “a terrible and unfortunate misunderstanding”. Brohl-Sowa is reported to have already met with the victim personally to apologise and has promised that the incident be officially investigated at police headquarters in Cologne.

This is not the first anti-semitic attack this year in Germany. Just this April reports of a kippah-wearing Israeli attacked with a belt in Berlin caused uproar. The 19-year-old attacker was found guilty of verbal abuse and battery and is currently serving a sentence for the crime.

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Thousands protest anti-Semitism in Berlin

Several thousand people turned out to demonstrate against anti-Semitism and racism in Berlin on Sunday as the Israel-Hamas war stirred painful memories of the past in Germany.

Thousands protest anti-Semitism in Berlin

Around 3,200 people braved the rain to attend the protest march in the heart of the city, according to a police spokeswoman.

Demonstrators rallied under the slogan “never again is now”, a reference to the Holocaust and the crimes committed by the Nazi government.

Anti-Semitism had become “commonplace” in society, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told the crowd at the protest.

“Sometimes I do not recognise this country,” Schuster said.

Germany has registered hundreds of criminal offences linked to the war in Gaza since the conflict was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.

Among those cases were an increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents, including the targeting of a Berlin synagogue with Molotov cocktails in October.

People take part in a rally against anti-Semitism on December 10, 2023 in Berlin.

People take part in a rally against anti-Semitism on December 10, 2023 in Berlin. The banner reads ‘Never again is now! Germany stands up’. (Photo by MICHELE TANTUSSI / AFP)

On Sunday, Berlin police said authorities were investigating an incident in the capital in which a swastika was daubed on the door of a house displaying an Israeli flag.

“If you speak Hebrew on the street, I always turn around to see who is behind me,” Nadine Meshulam, an Israeli woman living in Berlin told AFP at the protest.

“Lately you worry more simply about everyday life,” Meshulam said.

A pro-Palestinian demonstration was also held in the centre of Berlin on Sunday, drawing up to 2,500 people at its peak, according to police.

Israel on Saturday counted 137 hostages who remain in Gaza, out of around 240 taken on October 7 during attacks that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive targeting Hamas has killed at least 17,997 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.