Wissenschaft und Publizistik als Kritik

Schlagwort: Antisemitism


Suicide bombing is “not necessarily antisemitic”…

Suicide bombing against Jews in Israel is “not necessarily antisemitic”

German Professor Wilhelm Kempf lectures in Dublin about today’s antisemitism…

Wilhelm Kempf, since 1977 professor of psychology at the University of Konstanz in the southwest of Germany, gave a lecture on “Israel-criticism and modern anti-Semitism” at the conference of the International Society for Political Psychology in Dublin, June 14-17, 2009.

Before analyzing his paper in detail, some more information about Kempf. He is not known as an expert in research on antisemitism, rather as psychologist with a background of “peace and conflict” research. As early as 1999 he published a piece on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in comparison with the conflict in Northern Ireland. He compares two incomparable conflicts by ignoring the ideological core of anti-Zionist Islamic antisemitism. He goes so far as to claim that a suicide killing by Hamas on April 6, 1994, in Afula, was not resulting “from the ‘extremism’ of Hamas per se”.

He does not analyze Hamas ideology. Instead he conforms with mainstream “peace research”, which is in fact a strange terminology for people who have no problem with fascist regimes like today’s Iran or dictatorships in the Arab World, often driven by religious, Muslim, fanaticism and antisemitic public or political culture (see cartoons in Egypt, Saudi, or Syrian newspapers etc.).

Kempf is not analyzing antisemitism in the Muslim world to get a closer picture of Hamas ideology. Hamas ideology has been analyzed by Yitzhak Santis from the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco:

“The Cairo Agreement, as it became known, called for a period of calm (tahdiya). Notwithstanding this ‘calm’ Hamas continued attacking Israeli targets, including firing dozens of Qassam missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns and a number of attacks in the West Bank. Hamas leaders made it clear that this was but a ‘tactical’ move, and they were still committed to their goal of destroying Israel. (…)

During the 1990’s, Hamas emerged as a ‘spoiler’ as it began to use suicide bombers as a means of disrupting the peace process. By the time of the ‘Al Aqsa’ intifada in 2000, Hamas already led the way in a war of terror against Israeli civilians.”

Without any proof or analysis Kempf is arguing that suicide bombing of Hamas is “not resulting” “from the ‘extremism’ of Hamas per se.” This has nothing to do with scholarly research.

Like many Middle Eastern Studies scholars psycholgoist Kempf is obviously not interested in decoding the concept of Islamic Jihad in general or of Hamas ideology in particular–the word Jihad is not even mentioned once in his paper, for example. He is biased and coming from a “peace and conflict” research frame, ignoring any specifics of the so called Israeli-Palestinian conflict e.g. Arab rejection of the 1947 UN plan to build up two separate states and permit a Jewish state in the Middle East. How can he compare this with a typical old-European style religious conflict of Catholics and Protestants, respective England and Ireland?

His silence regarding Arabic, Islamic and Iranian antisemitism can also been seen in a 1994 article where the Gulf War in his view was used to avoid “non-military” options. He failed to mention anti-Jewish threats against Israel from Saddams and Iraq’s propaganda machinery.

Furthermore: Kempf’s paper, given in Dublin in July 2009, can help us shed some light on today’s mainstream (not only but especially) German scholarship on anti-Zionism and (implicitly) Islamic Jihad and antisemitism as whole. He starts his piece with a short-run through the history of antisemitism, starting with Christianity and ending with Nazi Germany, and he refers to German sociologist Werner Bergmann. Just as a footnote: this historical background is not correct, as it denies the anti-Semitic history of the pre-Christian era, especially Greek-Roman pagan antisemitism (JSA, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, volume 1, number 1, October 2009, page 30, footnote 5), which has been analyzed by Peter Schäfer, former head of Jewish Studies at Princeton University.

Let’s have a look on other aspects of Kempf’s paper. He says:

“Although we cannot rule out that criticism of Israel’s policy represents a medium in which antisemitic contents can be articulated in a socially and politically correct manner, from a conflict-theoretical perspective we must assume that criticism of Israel could also derive from a variety of other sources.”

He then introduces his concept of “War frame” and “Peace frame”, in Israel and Germany. Like many so called liberals or leftists in Germany he claims that the result of World War II has been “never again fascism, never again war”. It’s interesting what conclusion Kempf proceeds to draw:

“Support for the victims of National Socialism, which implies a tendency toward unconditional solidarity with Israeli policy and a weakening of the Peace Frame. This can go as far as turning into a War Frame: (never again fascism, therefore war), as was the case (in part) in the Gulf War discourse 1990/91 (Kempf, 1994).”

I myself was part of so called German “peace rallies” in 1991. I was naïve and uninformed. Months later, at a reading of Lea Fleischmann’s “Gas” in the city of Stuttgart, finally I got the message: Jews had been threaten to death by (German made) Gas, coming from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Lea Fleischmann, who made aliya in 1979, told us naïve and intolerant German “peace” friends what it means to collaborate with or to appease a regime like that of Saddam Hussein. Taking this personal experience into account, I find Kempf, who is more than 20 years older than I am and who cannot claim naivety in the early 1990s, and his statement highly ideological and problematic. He speaks in a very negative tone about “unconditional solidarity with Israeli policy” – read: He knows maybe sometimes much better than the Jews who to achieve peace, right?

Kempf goes on, next quote:

“Support for human rights worldwide, which implies a tendency to refrain from supporting at least some aspects of Israeli policy, and includes expressing solidarity with the Israeli peace movement and at least a certain degree of empathy with the Palestinian side.”

OK, I see. Israel is not for human rights, at least not always, this is the message. Kempf is not going into any detail of human rights in Israel, nor is he referring to Hamas, the PA or aspects of human rights violation in the Gaza strip since the take-over by Hamas in 2007. The entire ideology of Kempf’s “peace frame” is obvious in his following statement:

“Rejecting a statement like the one in example No. 4 (“Israel wages a just war against the Palestinians”) may be motivated by anti-Semitic prejudice. But a participant’s rejection of this statement does only indicate that he does not follow a pro Israeli War Frame. Whether he rejects the statement due to anti-Semitic prejudice, whether he rejects it due to a pro-Palestinian War Frame or whether he does so due to a Peace Frame remains open: Since – from a pacifist point of view – every war is evil there does not exist something like a “just” war and even from a pro Israeli Peace frame this statement would be accepted, therefore.“

“Every war is evil” –is a typical German point of view. Considering that Germany lost two wars in the 20th century, though they achieved their main goal: the destruction of European Jews. Kempf, however, finds every war evil: this ipso facto includes the war against Nazi Germany, logically spoken. Furthermore it includes today’s War on Terror (“say good bye Taliban”) under George W.  Bush, though Obama prefers bowing for Saudi Kings and speaks no longer of a War on Terror.

Kempf obviously has drawn the wrong lessons from National Socialism: it’s not “never again war”, it’s “Never again Fascism” (or National Socialism). What  are we to do with Islamic fascist regimes like Iran? Such a question does of course not occur on the radar of mainstream German scholar Wilhelm Kempf, who spoke in July 2009 about peace, war, antisemitism and Israel without mentioning once the genocidal threat of Ahmadinejad and Iran against the Jewish state of Israel.

Kempf is arguing in a hardly scholarly way:

“Similarly, the acceptance of a statement like the one in example No. 5 (“Israel is exclusively responsible for the emergence and perpetuation of the Middle East Conflict”) may be motivated by anti-Semitic prejudice. But a participant’s acceptance of the statement might as well result from a pro Palestinian War Frame.”

Someone who likes the Hamas or the “Palestinian War Frame” in this view might be motivated by antisemitism; in fact it is concrete support for a fascist organization like Hamas, which wants to wipe Israel off the map (with military, personnel and economic help from Tehran).  The next paragraph in Kempf’s remarkable piece goes like this:

“The same holds even for the statement in example No. 6 (“The Palestinian suicide attacks are an appropriate means to combat Israel”), which takes sides with the Palestinians and involves military logic, but as long as it is not associated with the denial of Israel’s right of existence, its acceptance does not necessarily embody any anti-Semitic content.“

Wow! One has never heard such an excuse for suicide bombing. Palestinian suicide bombers killed several hundred Jews, especially since the second Intifada starting in fall 2000. The goal of every suicide killer was and is to kill as many Jews (Israeli) as possible. Who on earth can claim, as Kempf does, that the acceptance of suicide attacks “does not necessarily embody any antisemitic content”? This is itself an antisemitic statement. Killing Jews is not necessarily anti-Semitic? OK, Kempf is probably an ordinary non-Jewish German with no relatives in Israel, he does not really care about victims of suicide bombing in Israel. For a scholar it is nonetheless hard to believe that Kempf seriously believes that killing Jews via suicide attacks is not anti-Semitic. I do not get this ‘argument.’

That’s not all. He goes on to say:

“As Zimmermann (2002, 2) has pointed out, even NS-comparative criticism of Israel can gain different meaning, depending on the intention behind it. A statement like in example No. 7 (“What the Israelis do to the Palestinians resembles what the Nazis did to the Jews”) may either result from a Peace Frame and aim at warning Israel not to abandon the high moral standards of Jewish culture, or it may result from a pro Palestinian War Frame and aim at delegitimizing Israel, or it may result from secondary antisemitism and aim at trivializing the Holocaust.”

Kempf is a supporter of the so called “standpoint” theory (which is mostly deriving of a postmodern feminist angle, but can also be used in a postmodern cultural relativst and anti-Zionist view), read: it always depends on your point of view. Comparing Israel with Nazis might be bad if you are Jewish and your grandmother hardly survived Auschwitz. Scholars like Kempf claim for a Palestinian or an anti-Zionist Jewish peace activist or a non-Jewish Western scholar, such comparisons can help Jews NOT to lose their own “high moral standards of Jewish culture.”

This kind of philosemitism is in itself antisemitic. Kempf refers to Israeli historian Moshe Zimmermann, quoting a piece from 2002.

Kempf does not tell the story and scandal behind: Zimmermann was accused by historian Anat Peri, who was a former student of Zimmermann, to compare the Israeli Army (IDF) with the Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany. Peri wrote this on August 24, 2001. Zimmermann sued her, but a Jerusalem court said Peri is right in her accusation, the court decided on March 25, 2004. Zimmermann indeed compared the IDF special forces with the “Waffen-SS.” Also according to the EUMC every comparison of Israel with National Socialism is anti-Semitic (“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli Policy to that of the Nazis”). Kempf, on the other side, refers o an Israeli historian who lost a lawsuit in Israel exactly with reference to this very comparison. The Zimmermann case clearly indicates that antisemitism can be part of University based departments, whether in Israel, in Germany or elsewhere in the Western world. Kempf is in support of Zimmermann in until today, rejecting any substantial analysis of the antisemitic impact of Zimmermanns equation or comparison of the SS and the IDF. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as well a German Jew are aware of this, in 2005 a Haaretz report reads:

“Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, sent a letter to Hebrew University President Prof. Menachem Megidor demanding a public response to statements made by the head of the university’s German studies department, Prof. Moshe Zimmerman. According to the letter, Zimmerman compared Israel Defense Forces soldiers to Nazis. University authorities in effect failed to say a thing to Zimmerman. Moreover, the university rector, Dan Rabinowitz, demanded that the former leader of the Jewish community in Berlin, Dr. Alexander Brenner, apologize for his statement that ‘there are professors at the Hebrew University who compare the behavior of IDF soldiers to the behavior of SS soldiers.’ “

By supporting Moshe Zimmermann‘s comparison of the Waffen-SS and the IDF Professor Wilhelm Kempf is attacking Jews and Holocaust survivors like Abraham Foxman and Alexander Brenner, who both did publicly criticize Zimmermann.

A final example from Kempfs lecture in Dublin 2009. He writes:

“Fourth: Also the response to statements which overtly contain anti-Semitic content and/or provoke anti-Semitic sentiments is often not unambiguous. Although the acceptance of the statement in example No. 8 (“It would be preferable if the Jews would leave the Middle East”) implies the delegitimation of the Jews and the denial of Israel’s right of existence, even a hard core Neo-Nazi, who fears that “the Jews” might return to Germany might reject it.”

This is another cultural relativist approach to minimize antisemitism by hypothetically inventing wrong cases. If Kempf was aware of Neo-Nazi ideology in Germany he knew that they agree with Palestinian extremism. The answer is: they want the Jews to leave Israel, destination is not Germany, rather the Mediterranean sea. It is ridiculous to invent a Neo-Nazi who might reject this example No. 8 (“It would be preferable if the Jews would leave the Middle East”), but it helps Prof. Kempf to downplay anti-Zionist antisemitism. In fact German Neo-Nazis made propaganda for a rally in the heart of Berlin in January 2009, literally saying (like all other anti-Israeli rallies): “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza“.

This case study of a lecture of a typical German scholar indicates the following: even hardcore anti-Jewish activism like suicide bombing or the comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany are seen as not entirely antisemitic. Without saying here, he follows his colleague (one of the few scholars on antisemitism Kempf is quoting, by the way), Prof. Werner Bergmann. See Interview with Prof. Bergmann in Neue Zuericher Zeitung, February 9, 2009. He claims that Muslims just were in fear for their relatives in Gaza, etc. He does not explain what the slogans “Death to the Jews” and “Olmert is a son of a dog” have to do with worry about family in Gaza. In consequence, he says, it is something totally different if German leftist or right-wingers are against Israel, compared to anti-Israel hatred of Muslims. Really?

This is the end of serious research on antisemitism, if we always say: it depends on your standpoint! ‘If you are a Jew and killed in such an attack – bad for you. If you are a Western scholar who seeks peace and a bi-national Israel, it’s fine’, for example. Kempf goes so far as to say it is also not necessarily anti-Semitic to compare Israel with Nazi Germany. He does not give a single argument. To compare the only democracy in the Middle East and the most human army in our world, as a British Col. Richard Kemp most recently said at the UN in a hearing on the Goldstone report, with the worst regime ever, National Socialism, is the most extreme (not only but also ‘academic’) form of Jew-hatred. To say, as Kempf does, such comparison ‘might be made with bad (antisemitic) intentions, but not necessarily so,’ was beyond my horizon, before having read Kempf’s piece. Such a downplaying of genocidal antisemitism is fashionable.

Such a comparison is not just anti-Israel antisemitism, it’s also part of, to use Dovid Katz’s word, “Holocaust Obfuscation,” a tendency mostly associated with the Baltics and Eastern Europe to compare crimes of the Soviet Union with the unprecedented crimes of the Germans and their friends and followers in Lithuania and elsewhere. To use the reference of Nazi Germany and the Shoah, because the Shoah is the core of National Socialism, to ‘help’ Jews not to give up their “high moral standard,” is an absurd, and extremely horrifying argumentation. It denies any specifics of the Holocaust– it is Holocaust obfuscation.

Wilhelm Kempf is a typical German scholar who always wants to differentiate between good and bad anti-Zionism, so to say. One of the worst examples he refers to is proof for his own producing of antisemitism: he literally claims that not every comparison of Israel with the Nazis/Germans is antisemitic. He insinuates that some people using this ‘argument’ just want to help Jews not to lose their “high moral standard”. In fact every comparison of the Jewish state with National Socialism is antisemitic!

His reference is Israeli historian Moshe Zimmermann who just lost a lawsuit in 2004 exactly on that topic, comparison of the IDF special forces with the Waffen-SS. The fact that Kempf’s research did not prompt a scandal at the conference of Political Psychology in Dublin this July, and the fact that his research is well funded e.g. by the biggest academic research foundation in Germany, “German Research Foundation” (DFG), are proof of his mainstream attempt to downplay antisemitism, and, even worse, to produce antisemitism by claiming at least two things: first he says that it is not necessarily antisemitic to support suicide bombing; second he says that not every comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany is antisemitic. Number one and number two are typical examples of antisemitism in the 21st century and Prof. Kempf contributes with his kind of research to this fashionable form of resentment.

Aufrufe: 128

Anti-Semitism is not the same as Islamophobia

This article was first published with the Jerusalem Post, December 3, 2008

The Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) of the Technical University in Berlin has scheduled a conference on December 8 titled “The concept of the enemy Muslim – concept of the enemy Jew.” In publicity for this conference the ZfA writes that the “paradigm” of accusations against Muslims is known from “the history of anti-Semitism.”

It seems that the organizers feel there is a moral equivalence between garden-variety prejudice (portrayed as “Islamophobia”) and anti-Semitism. This is a dangerous course, particularly in Germany, which saw the quintessential manifestation of anti-Semitism in modern times.

Quite aside from the fact that Judaism embraces both a race and a religion, whereas Islam is strictly a religion, anti-Semitism is different than other forms of prejudice or racism. Whereas the racist view of blacks, for example, holds that they are “below” whites, anti-Semites think Jews are planning to rule the world. The Israel Lobby by American academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt is just one example of this viewpoint. Anti-Semitism was the motif for the Holocaust.

Those unprecedented crimes combined religious Jew-hatred, quasi-scientific racial theories, and modern anti-Semitism in all its forms, including a comprehensive worldview. It is the anti-Semitic worldview that distinguishes anti-Semitism from racism. This irrationality on a global scale is hardly new. As early as 1543, Martin Luther blamed the Jews for almost every evil on earth. Later, during the early 20th century, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion appeared. This poor Russian forgery had a significant impact on German and European thought, and is now a hot item in the Muslim world. In it, Jews are not portrayed as second-class human beings, as in other racist thinking. On the contrary, they are seen as would-be lords of the world – an evil, unseen power behind everything.

The Protocols contend that Jews run the media, organize wars and establish or control national financial systems. One of its more overtly bizarre claims is that Jews organize the construction of subways (which were novelties in New York or London at that time) in order to literally undermine societies. No other group of people has ever been blamed for such a welter of “evils” – capitalism, communism, liberalism and humanism. None of these anti-Semitic accusations are used against Muslims today. In fact, Islamic terrorists use these very canards in an attempt to justify their anti-Jewish actions.

RACISM HAS a rational dimension; its use to justify exploitation is one central purpose. Anti-Semitism, with its irrational, implacably genocidal dimension, is totally different. Furthermore, there are some Islamicists who openly advocate the takeover of Europe, the West and the world. The nonsense in the Protocols notwithstanding, the Jews have never had or claimed such a goal.

To equate anti-Semitism with racism, let alone to try and draw a parallel with the term Islamophobia (a word invented by the Islamic Republic of Iran), is therefore dangerous. It has nothing to do with scholarly research, nor with an accurate examination of the real and significant threats posed by Islamic Jihad. A center for the study of anti-Semitism should be aware of these facts, and not equate anti-Semitism with Islamophobia or other forms of prejudice.

That kind of postmodern relativist philosophy is just another way of refusing to research anti-Semitism as a phenomenon sui generis. The Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) and its director Prof. Wolfgang Benz, if they really believe Muslims in contemporary Germany are threatened like the Jews were, are badly misinformed. If the ZfA equates anti-Semitism with criticism of Islamic Jihad, this would signal the end of serious research on either subject at that center.

The writer is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism.

Aufrufe: 313

German Political Culture: The Relationship to Anti-Zionism and Jihad before and after 11 September 2001

This article was first published with www.hagalil.com on December 17, 2003


This lecture I have hold on December 18th, 2002, at the international Symposium “Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism in Western Europe Since 2000” , organised by the Hebrew University, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Jerusalem.
The words in italics were unspoken at my lecture because of lack of time.

Clemens Heni, Bremen

Dear Mr. Shafir, dear Mr. Wistrich, dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very grateful for this invitation, for having the opportunity to speak here in Jerusalem about German anti-Zionism and of course to discuss actual trends of Antisemitism and anti-Zionism or Israel-hatred in Western Europe. I also thank Mr. Wiemer and the German Embassy for giving a financial squirt. And of course I thank the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, who at short term provided financial support for my flight to Israel.

Let me start with a kind of parable by Woody Allen: Two New York Intellectuals small talking at a party: one to the other: “Listen, I’ve written an essay, against antisemitism.” – Did you ? Nice. I prefere a bat.”

My report handles with three aspects:

1) political culture as a concept – anti-Zionism, projection and refusal of holocaust memory in Germany
2) the change of political culture in Germany since 2000 focussing on Israel: results of media research
3) How do the Children and Grandchildren of Germans Willing Executioners deal with anti-Zionism and Jihad ?

Analyzing political culture is one possible way to approach German society and at the same time single out German specifics of antisemitic impact. Firstly I would like to shortly introduce to you a concept of political science to analyse political culture, in order to operationalize it in a next stept with empirical material on anti-Zionism in Germany.

According to the political scientist Karl Rohe Political Culture should for a better understandig distinguished into “political social culture” and “political culture of interpretation”. Whereas “political social culture” consists of common “self-evidence, the “political culture of interpretation” points out the manifest sphere of political culture.” (1)

“From a conceptual point of view the difference between political culture of interpretation and political social culture is merely, that the political designs of the latter have already crystallized into mentalities (…), whereas in the case of culture of interpretation they either are still placed in the folder of the political designer or are being handed to-and-fro between cultural and political system.”

By applying this analytical pattern, I would state, that since a certain time anti-Zionism is beeing shoved to-and-fro between cultural and political system. Public opinion, media reports and street demonstrations increasingly affect the federal government and the political system, while statements of prominent representatives of society or even the political class retroacitvely influence the climate in Germany. This interaction is all the stronger, as the government comes from the left and has closer relations to non-parliament movements or union activists than right wingers usually have. This might seem paradox and astonishing just at first sight – a closer view however reveals a specific German phenomenon.

Particularly and maybe even only under the auspices of a red-green government it was it possible to let resentments against the USA and Israel come to surface, which had to be sublimated in a different way under a conservative government. This unselfconsciousness might not accidently be an emanation of a ‚left‘ government. Social-Democrats (SPD) and the Greens consider themselves immune to German National Socialism. From their point of view antisemitism is a problem exclusively for Conservatives – refusal of Holocaust memory and projection of German guilt on to Israel’s existence or politics – are all phenomena which they would never think of arising from left-wingers.

The invitation of the prominent author and antisemite Walser by the Federal Chancellor Schröder at the 8th of May 2002 was a sign. He suggests to forget the Jewish victims of the Shoah. Germany has become nowadays a state like any other, he declares. Exactly this attempt to forget the Jewish victims was defined as “secondary antisemitism” by the Critical Theory of Adorno and Horkheimer, the term itself was invented by their co-worker Peter Schönbach 40 years ago (2). Built upon this social political foundation the anti-Zionist attack against Israel is not in far distance. Refused German guilt is being projected on to the Jews becoming perpetrators now, symbolized in the State of Israel. The first to introduce and to advocate the most sharply this perception of Jews as perpetrators was the radical German left in 1967. Increasingly the pattern expanded within German society as a whole – not to mention GDR-anti-Zionism.

This psychological reaction is very important in order to understand what happens in Germany. Germans do not want to talk any more about Treblinka and Sobibor. Now they are looking for Auschwitz elsewhere: in Yugoslavia, in Israel or as an aspect of modernity in general, as stated by several philosophers and social scientists – following the so called post-structural theories of Michel Foucault or even the Nazi-Philosopher Martin Heidegger for example. This emanation of Holocaust relativization instead of it’s denial has become an accepted history narration, not only of course, but especially in Germany.

  • Thus my conclusion at this point: “The German way”(Schröder), anti-Americanism and antiimperialistic tradition/positions of the SPD (unionism, the social movement attac) amalgamate with strong anti-zionist groups of the Greens/the New Left in general and are establishing new forms of antisemitism and anti-Zionism with good feelings for the creators, because they are ‘left’.
  • The political culture in Germany has dramatically changed during the last four years. Antisemitism has arrived in midst of German society expressis verbis, whereas formerly it was uttered hidden behind the hand. As the former Press Councelor of Israels Embassy in Germany, Yossef Levy told me some months ago, he cannot understand the change since the celebration of Israels 40th anniversary, which has been held in Berlin with a large fancy cake, up to today. Nowadays he feels Israel-hatred all over the streets and media in Germany. It just dashes you to the ground.

2) Let me now give you some hard facts about Israel coverage in the German press and especially TV to be followed by examples of a specific german anti-Zionism, which might illustrate the way people in Germany think about Israel and German history.

Reports on the second Intifada since end of September 2000 are clearly drawing a negative picture of Israel. Israel is perceived as a cruel state, with tanks acting against stone throwing children on German TV-Screens. Israel is the perpetrator, the Palestinians are victims. The image of the jewish children murderer, an antisemitic item of the christia middle ages, as you know, was held up several times at demonstrations since 2002 until today.

Those antisemitic stereotypes have never been broadly discussed and rejected in Germany. Some people made a graffity on a synagogue in Berlin: “Israel kills children”. There you can see the direct line from antisemitism to anti-Zionism and vice versa. This visualised anti-israelian view is accompanied by verbal pictures with a clear antisemitic connotation. The characterization of Premier minister Sharon as a “bulldozer” represents one semantic devaluation by german newspaper. This is just one result of a qualitative study carried out by an institute in Duisburg, examining the essential newspapers and journals in Germany (FAZ, FR, SZ, Tagesspiegel, taz (3), Welt und Spiegel). Besides the already mentioned labeling of Ariel Scharon as a killing machine, which might be a synonyme for “bulldozer” – the study dealt with four central events: the visit of the temple mount in Jerusalem by Sharon, the death of the palestinian child Mohammed al-Dura (see the screening of Esther Schapiras film this evening!), the lynch murder of two israelian soldiers in Ramallah by Palestinians, and a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv first of June 2001. Along with these events the image of Israel was examined (4). A similar picture provides a study of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, especially dealing with the ultimate status of Israel as perpretator (5).

I would like to point out one aspect: suicide bombings are beeing regretted by germans as actions of desperate Palestinians, who actually want the best, but whose methods are a bit rude. In Germany almost nobody mentions the aim of suicide bombings: killing as many jews as possible, destabilizing Israel and, refering to an old PFLP (Palestinian Front to Liberate Palestine) strategy of the 70s, killing Jews in times of israelian-palestinian approaches. Nobody talks about the antisemitic impact of Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad or the PLO in general. Not a word about egyptian all-day antisemitism; the only documentation originate from very few left-wingers, the jewish german community and the Israel Embassy.

Medien Tenor, which is associated with israel media watch, has examined TV reports on Israel before and after the World Trade Center massmurdering in New York. This study is first of it’s kind in the world (6). They covered the evening news of the German TV channels ZDF, ARD, RTL, Sat 1 and Pro 7. (other countries, Britain, USA, South Africa and the Czech Republikc were also examined). “A uniform method was used in all countries, providing for the first time a comparable database for objective media review in different countries. supplying TV coverage to a population of almost 500 Million people. The sudy covers quantitative aspects, topics covered and qualitative diagnosis.” (7)

Result: Israel’s importance in German TV coverage has dramatically decreased after 9 11 2001. Within the Middle East coverage there have been some 80 % of the reports about Israel compared to the Palestinian Authority before WTC. Whereas from Sept. 2001 to March 2002 the percentage is only 37 %. Even more striking is the dominance of the topic ‚Terror‘ within Israel coverage. While terror represented some 49 % of all informations about Israel broadcasted in German TV from September 2000 to August 2001, the other parts being Politics, international affairs, Religion and culture, the percentage of the topic Terror has increased up to 89 % from October 2001 to March 2002.

Even worse is the characteriziation of Israel in German Media. Already before the WTC murdering by islamic jhads, the image was rather negative, in detail: 25% negative reports, 72% neutral reports and only some 3% positive representations. After WTC the reception of Israel has enormiously deteriorated: more than 45% of the news have a clear negative pitch, 49% are neutral and just a few more than before, mere 5,5% report in a positive manner about Israel. In contrast the negative Image of the PA has even decreased after 9 11 2001, from 45 to some 25 %, while Israel is considered more negative im comparision with the PA after WTC (negative Image of Israel is 40 % after WTC). It appears very significant to me, that the antisemitic impact of suicide bombing as well as islamistic antisemitism are being denied by significant parts of German society. Along with this phenomenon comes a partial tolerance or even support of these islamic groups. No prominent representative of the political class, the establishment or the media interpreted the massacre of New York as an antisemitic action. On the contrary the islamic Jihads are more likely soft-pedalled by describing them as avengers on imperialistic USA and israelian aggression against the Palestinians. The remark of the former Federal Minister of Justice, Herta Däubler-Gmelin (SPD), comparing Bush’s policy wiht Hitler’s, seconds the popular TV anchorman of the Tagesthemen, Ulrich Wickert who supposed that Bush and Bin Laden have the same way of thinking. The german refusal of any substantial critique of Irak, along with the increasing economic relations to this antisemitic state (8), is the youngest chapter in this anti-american and also anti-israelian, german-arabic friendship.

3) Empirical examples contextualized with part one and two

Let me characterize two main ropes:
1) indifference and the refusal to fight ani-Zionism
2) the affirmation of anti-Zionism.

Both are numerous and handled in the political culture of interpretation in Germany.

1a) The Professor of Political Science Wolfgang Dressen (Fachhochschule Duesseldorf) initiated an exposition dealing with a middle age topos at first sight, but in fact with the aim of reinstalling german-arabic friendship including the jewish community. It is no accident that he set a link to an extremist islmamic homepage on the internet. The press supported his claim for a “variety of opinion” and refused to tell the public sphere anything substantial about this anti-Israeli homepage of muslim-markt. To give you an impression about this islamic group: they propose to all moslems in Germany not to buy any product of Israel, to refuse Israel a right of existence and so on.

The following passage I mentioned during the discussion about my lecture, especially focusing the ‘anti-racist’ thinking of a SPD-left wingers: In the state of Bremen, the Prime Minster of the smallest state in Germany’s north-west, Henning Scherf, gave an interview to a journal of the largest and extremist Islamic group in Germany, the Turkish organisation Milli Görüs, and supports their activities in his territory. While ignoring that at the mosques books like that of the French Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy are offered for sale, Scherf prefers the dialogue. The protestant church as well maintains contacts with these extremist Islamic groups.

1b) The step from here to the German government is not far. Federal Minister of foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer himself invited the President of Syria, Assad (the son). Despite protests of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (“Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland”) and small groups against antisemitism and anti-Zionism Fischer talked with Assad in a friendly manner. Neither did Fischer demand the delivery of the Nazi mass murder Anton Brunner, whom several Jewish and non-Jewish organizations assume living in harmony in Syria for several decades now, nor did he or Federal Chancellor Schröder substantially criticize the antisemitism of Syria’s Minister of Defence, who told the Arabic world on TV:

“If I see a Jew, I would kill him. If every Arab kills one Jew, the Problem is solved”.

Except for Fischer’s hint to Assad, to somehow change his rhetoric, you could not hear a real critism of this very aggressive antisemitism. What does it mean: Change your rhetoric, if you speek about a person like Syria’s Minister of Defence, who calls up to kill a Jew ? After this state visit, it cannot be regarded an accident that Fischer or Schröder did not react at all the day Möllemann held Sharon and Friedman responsible for rising anti-Israelian and antisemitic feelings all round the world respectively Germany, because of their behavior as Jews (!!!).

At that point I would like to return to my scientific concept of political culture. Political culture of interpretation is full of anti-zionist activities and the political class refuses to fight them – more often they affirm these anti-Jewish positions in which twisted way ever. Thus it has become a part of the political social culture not to fight Islamic groups and their anti-Jewish impact. Only a few organizations have been forbidden after WTC. And of course it is not just a question to prohibit such groups or organizations. It’s also a question of how to reflect antisemitic and anti-zionist activities.

2) Affirmation of Islamic Jihad in Germany

The most mass-effective manifestation of actual anti-Zionism showed up in spring 2002 with numerous demonstrations all over Germany for a free Palestine. Israel was accused of killing children, there were posters with a Hamburger where the meat inside was a Palestinian inscribed “made in Israel” . Or posters with “the Israeli massacre of Jenin” were held up. The truth is not important for people with such strong resentments.

Several ten thousand people from left organizations like the PDS (“Party of Democratic Socialism”) (who called the WTC attacks “something like this comes from this”) and the Greens, autonomous groups and of course Arabic, Islamic groups including Hizbollah, Hamas, PLO with their flags and many other groups or organizations like, for example, the Hizb ut-Tahrir. This group scanned “Jews are monkeys” in Arabic, anyway some hundred meters behind the Member of Federal Parliament Christian Ströbele walked with his friends. Same time, same place, same anti-Jewish impact.

Here you can see what I wanted to explain at the beginning: the specific German need to project guilt on to Israel and the Jews. The danger for Israel lies in the large variety and discoursive practice of this “new anti-Israelianism” (9). The conference in Durban in summer 2001 was a sign to the world: listen, Israel is a racist state, Zionism means hate. (Did the Jews learn anything from Auschwitz?) These anti-Zionist Internationals (10) suggest that the jews didn’t learn anything since Auschwitz.

After the WTC attacks the danger for Israel has even increased, because the Jihadists could see that European demonstrations do not call up to fight Jihad but the USA and Israel instead, the same targets of Jihad. In addition the Palestinians could see that suicide bombing gives the PA a better position in the European Community and destabilizes Israel, psychologically, politically, economically, and socially. The already mentioned muslim-markt is a strong anti-Israeli-group and is surely just one example of few. Not to forget that it was no accident that the Al-Qaida members Mohammed Atta and his friends had good circumstances to prepare the massacre in New York while living and studying in Hamburg and visiting several mosques in this city for many years.

To come to an end let me please give you a final example which shows you the convergence of left, right and the center in Germany. Since several months left groups are collecting signatures for a resolution pleading for a stop to deliver military equipment and weapons to Israel. Besides this they call for a stop of import of israel goods. At the same time, last week, President of State Katsav visited Germany and the Nazi party NPD proclaimed to a demonstration with the slogan: “Solidarity with Palestine. No more weapons for Israel”.

You might be astonished here but the reality in Germany lies in this Nazi-slogan. Although left wingers opposed this demonstration most of them didn’t realize that they are fighting for the same aim: “Free Palestine. No more weapons for Israel.” To complete this dramatic converge of left, right and now the center, some days before the NPD Peter Struck, Federal Minister of Defence told us, that Germany will not send the demanded transport tanks called ‚Fuchs‘ to Israel. The Greens did also refuse such an export at a party convent the same week-end. None of them was willing to talk about Hamas or Hizbollah, about antisemitic speeches of Presidents of State of Syria for example.

This new anti-zionist view of world has arisen since 2000 on a well-grounded fundament by leftist since 1967. They are talking about human rights, they never talk about the human duty to fight anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Not just at night in a dream, but in everyday politics Federal Chancellor Schröder wants to install German UN-Soldiers at the Golan for example, in order to tell the Jews in Israel how to care about human rights. He and his Vice-Chancellor Fischer are convinced that they can tell Israel the truth about Auschwitz. They also know much better to talk friendly to Hizbollah, Hamas or Arafat himself in order to bring peace on earth, they believe.

I myself, according to the Philosopher Adorno, I am convinced you cannot debate pro- and contra suicide bombing with madmen. Considering the personality structure of such persons “le sort en est jeté- rien ne vas plus”.(11) To prevent such antisemitism Woody Allens bat is not enough.

The children and grandchildren of Germany’s willing executioners have become willing refusers to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism; they are oscillating between indifference towards and affirmation of Islamic or Arabic antisemitism/anti-Zionism.

In Germany a predilection for dead Jews is maintained. There is a bad tune to support living Jews in fighting antisemitism and anti-Zionism today.

Thank you very much for your patience


(1) Karl Rohe (1987): Politische Kultur und der kulturelle Aspekt von politischer Wirklichkeit, in: Berg-Schlosser, Dirk/Schissler, Jakob (Hg.), Politische Kultur in Deutschland. Bilanz und Perspektiven der Forschung, Politische Vierteljahresschrift, Sonderheft 18, S. 39-48, p. 42.
(2) Vgl. Lars Rensmann (1998): Kritische Theorie über den Antisemitismus. Studien zu Struktur, Erklärungspotential und Aktualität, Berlin-Hamburg, Argument, (Edition Philosophie und Sozialwissenschaften 42), p. 231f.
(3) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). tageszeitung (taz), Frankfurter Rundschau (FR), Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).
(4) Duisburger Institut für Sprach- und Sozialforschung: Die Nahost-Berichterstattung zur Zweiten Intifada in deutschen Printmedien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Israel-Bildes. Analyse diskursiver Ereignisse im Zeitraum von September 2000 bis August 2001, Duisburg 2002.
(5) Forschungsbereich Öffentlichkeit und Gesellschaft – fög, Universität Zürich: ISRAELI UND PALÄSTINENSER IM SPIEGEL DER MEDIEN ANALYSE DER NAHOST-BERICHTERSTATTUNG IM ZEITRAUM ENDE SEPTEMBER BIS NOVEMBER 2000 fög, CH-8008 Zürich, 5. Januar 2001
(6) Vgl. Roland Schatz (Medien-Tenor, Bonn), translated and edited by Prof Eli Pollak (israel media-watch) “The Image of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the International Media”, Bonn 2002 (see a german version: Roland Schatz: Der Blick auf Israel und Palästina, in: Tribüne. Zeitschrift zum Verständnis des Judentums, 41. Jg., Heft 162, 2. Quartal 2002, p. 93-113).
(7) See Schatz 2002.
(8) Klaus Thörner: Die Saddam AG. Trotz des Uno-Embargos vertieft die deutsche Industrie die wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen zum Irak, in: jungle world, Nr. 51, 11.12.2002.
(9) Günther Jacob (2002): Israel ist unser Unglück: Anti-Israelismus nach dem 11.September, in Konkret 8/2002 and www.hagalil.com.
(10) To transfer Hannah Arendt‘s notion of the “faschistische Internationale” from 1945, see: Hannah Arendt (1945)/1989: Antisemitismus und faschistische Internationale, in: dies. Nach Auschwitz. Essays & Kommentare 1, Berlin (Edition Tiamat, ciritica diabolis 21), pp. 31–48.
(11) See Theodor W. Adorno (1962)/1998: Zur Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus heute, in: ders. Gesammelte Schriften 20–1, pp. 360–383.

hagalil.com 17-12-2003

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