Watch that exchange above. In it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells a Palestinian refugee girl that she’s sorry, but Germany cannot take in every refugee who wants to come. The poor girl cries, and the Chancellor comforts her.
The clip went viral in Germany, and led to a wave of criticism against Merkel for being “heartless,” and so on. But check this out, from The Guardian:
The incident, which was trending on Twitter as #MerkelStreichelt (Merkel strokes), coincided with the publication of new data showing that German towns and cities are straining to find appropriate accommodation for the large numbers of refugees entering the country, most of them via Bavaria in the south. Everything from soldiers’ barracks and empty school buildings to camping sites, shipping containers and sports halls are being used to accommodate them.
As tensions mount in some communities over locals’ fears of being overrun, there have been several arson attacks on a number of refugee shelters in recent weeks, with reports at the weekend of a home near Leipzig being shot at on two consecutive nights. Police have described nearly all of the attacks as driven by xenophobia.
Bavaria’s interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, told of the strain that some communities on the Bavarian border were under as they struggled to cope with the constant stream of refugee arrivals.
He told Deutschlandfunk on Thursday: “Just in this past week, we’ve had more than 5,000 people newly arrived, most of them from the Balkans and most of whom have just been dumped at the side of the road by people smugglers. We have to find suitable accommodation for all of them.”
Arson attacks and other forms of violence against refugees are deplorable. That said, Merkel was right, and her commonsense approach reflected unusual courage in a contemporary politician. It really is a terrible situation, with no good answers, only bad ones and worse ones. Merkel told the Palestinian girl the hard truth, and did so calmly and compassionately. It’s hard to think of an American politician who would have handled the question as well as Merkel did.