Enlarge image

Henning Krautmacher (right), then frontman of the music group Höhner, at an event of the artists' initiative »Arsch huh« in 2017

Photo: Rainer Keuenhof / Manngold / IMAGO

Hundreds of participants are expected to attend an Israel peace rally in Cologne on Sunday afternoon by the artists' initiative »Arsch huh« – but this time the event entitled »Give Peace a Chance!« is more controversial than at previous demonstrations by the Cologne group. The vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Abraham Lehrer, had cancelled his participation because the terrorist organization Hamas and the Israeli army were put on the same level in the call for demonstrations.

The initiative's appeal, which was criticized by Lehrer, states, among other things: "We mourn the Israeli as well as the Palestinian victims and would like to send a signal of solidarity with both peoples with our rally. Neither war can provide security, nor terror can provide liberation." Lehrer, who is also a board member of the synagogue community in Cologne, accused the organizers of denying Israel's right to self-defense. After the massacre of October 7, now is the time for unequivocal solidarity with Israel.

"Arsch huh" referred to another sentence in the appeal: "For us, Israel's right to exist and security are an enduring obligation," it reads.

According to the invitation, the FDP politician Gerhart Baum, the cabaret artists Jürgen Becker and Wilfried Schmickler, the rock band Brings and the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, are to take part in the rally with speeches and music.

»Arsch huh« defended Mazyek's planned appearance at the event, because he had »repeatedly called on Muslims and mosque communities in Germany to take a clear position against anti-Semitism in our country«. In his open letter, Lehrer had also described the list of speakers as "difficult".

Mazyek said on Friday that he linked his pledge "to the stance for peace in the Middle East and the resolute rejection of hatred and war." He stood up for the right of the Israelis as well as the Palestinians to exist and called for an immediate stop to the war. "To the Muslims who would like to participate this Sunday, I send the message: Come peacefully, without propaganda and flags, but with a good portion of Cologne and Rhenish unshakable hope for a tomorrow without weapons and war."

»Arsch huh, Zäng ussenander« (»Ass up, teeth apart«) sees itself as one of the most influential artist and musician initiatives against racism and neo-Nazis. Well-known members include Wolfgang Niedecken, frontman of the music group BAP, and the Bläck Fööss. In 1992, the initiative mobilized around 100,000 people in Cologne for a demonstration against the right.