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Johns Hopkins Professor Attacked in Germany

July 16, 2018

German police allegedly beat an Israeli-born professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University last week after he was attacked by another man for wearing a yarmulke in the city of Bonn. The Jerusalem Post reported that the professor, Yitzhak Melamed, was assaulted by a German-Palestinian man who knocked the yarmulke from his head and yelled insults at him, including, “No Jew in Germany!” In the midst of the fight, German police reportedly confused Melamed with the attacker and punched him multiple times in the face.

Ursula Brohl-Sowa, the head of the Bonn police, reportedly called it “a horrible and regrettable misunderstanding.” Melamed posted an account on the incident on Facebook, saying that he was in Germany on Wednesday to give a lecture at Bonn University. He was touring the city with a colleague when a man approached him and asked him if he was Jewish. “I started saying that I have sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and deeply regret the current depressing state of Islamic-Jewish relations,” when the man starting cursing and following him, Melamed wrote.

The man allegedly grabbed Melamed’s yarmulke and tried to throw it away it away as the professor repeatedly put it back on his head. The man lunged at Melamed again and again, he said, until the police arrived some 20 minutes after his colleague called them. The attacker allegedly ran away as the police approached, so Melamed followed him. But the police ignored the attacker and ran toward Melamed instead, he said.

“I didn’t have much time to wonder, as almost immediately four or five policemen with heavy guard jumped over me (two from the front, and two or three from the back),” he wrote. “They pushed my head into the ground, and then while I was totally incapacitated and barely able to breathe (not to mention move a finger), they started punching my face. After a few dozen punches, I started shouting in English that I was the wrong person. They put handcuffs on my hands, behind my back, and after a few dozen additional punches to my face while I am shouting that I’m the wrong person, they finally moved from my back. I was now able to breathe."

Melamed said the police eventually caught the other man, but that he was warned by the first responders, “Don’t get in trouble with the German police!” Melamed said he told the officers, “I am no longer afraid of the German police. The German police murdered my grandfather. They murdered my grandmother. They murdered my uncle, and they murdered my aunt. All in one day in September 1942.” Melamed was asked to give testimony at the police station, where he eventually received an apology and filed a complaint, he said. One of the police officers allegedly tried arguing that Melamed had "touched his hand" during the altercation, forcing him to respond, but the professor called that a “flat lie.”

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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