Palestinian Man May Become Berlin’s First Immigrant Mayor

For the first time in history a Palestinian-born man is running for the position of mayor in the German city of Berlin.

The mayor’s office in Berlin broke ground 13 years ago when the winning mayor came out as gay shortly after he was elected and now Palestinian-born Raed Saleh is looking to become the new mayor.

Saleh was born in the West Bank and came to Berlin at the age of 5 as the son of a “guest worker” who brought his whole family to Germany back in the early 80’s.

The mayoral candidate spoke to the Associated Press about his aspirations to lead the city of Berlin. “At the moment, a lot of young people have the feeling that they don’t have a share” in society, he said, referring to Berlin’s large immigrant communities, including many with Turkish roots.

Saleh joined Klaus Wowereit’s center-left Social Democrat party many years ago and steadily made his way up the ranks of the party. In August, when Wowereit announced he was stepping down from his position, Saleh became the natural candidate to succeed him.

The candidate for mayor said that if he was elected it would offer “courage and hope” to millions of people.

“This would of course be a great signal, and we would make history together here in Berlin.”

He added that his aim would be to share the prosperity enjoyed in Berlin to the wider community, “Berlin is growing, Berlin is developing very positively, but many people have no share in this growth — for many, everything that is happening is passing them by. I would like us to share prosperity around better,” said Saleh.

The good news is that Salah appears to moderate in his views when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, telling reporters he has zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in the city. “You can criticize if you have a different political view,” he said, “but nothing justifies hatred of Jews.”

It remains to be seen whether or not Saleh will be successful in his bid to become mayor, but if he gets voted in it will represent a ground-breaking precedent for Berlin.