BERLIN (Reuters) - Jewish groups in Germany sharply criticized a new government commission on anti-Semitism on Tuesday, saying the lack of a single Jewish member on the panel was scandalous and pledging to set up a rival body.
Germany's interior ministry set up a group of experts last year to help fight anti-Semitism and boost Jewish life in Germany amid concern that hostility toward Jews was growing, due partly to Muslim radicals responding to Israeli policies.
Although other European countries, such as Britain and France, are also worried by increasing anti-Semitism, it is a particularly sensitive subject in Germany, even 70 years after the end of the Holocaust. "It is an unrivalled scandal (that no one among the experts has a Jewish background)," said Julius H. Schoeps, founding director of the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam.
"German lawmakers and the Interior Minister must ask themselves why ... clearly no value is placed on experts from Jewish organizations and communities," he added in a statement.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), Moses Mendelssohn Center and Amadeu Antonio Foundation will therefore set up their own commission on anti-Semitism in Germany, they said.
The independent group of experts appointed by the interior ministry last year consists of eight people, mainly academics, who are due to submit a report in two years time that will form the basis of discussion in the German parliament.
No one at the Interior Ministry was immediately available to comment.
"At a time when Jewish institutions need more protection after numerous terror attacks and anti-Semitic views are rife in schools and in society, we need more instruments and .. an ongoing debate on the topic," said Deidre Berger, director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations.
Just two weeks ago, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany had an eternal responsibility to fight anti-Semitism and racism.
Members of the commission, which first convened on Jan. 19, include Werner Bergmann, sociology professor at Berlin Technical University's Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, and Patrick Siegele, director of the Anne Frank Center in Berlin.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Heinrich)