January 10, 2013 at 5:00 am
Augstein, a journalist who owns the left-wing weekly Der Freitag and who writes an opinion column for the German news magazine Der Spiegel, is known in Germany and elsewhere for his anti-Israel tirades.
The decision to include Augstein on the annual list of the worst anti-Semites was meant to draw attention to the growing problem of European journalists whose obsessive criticism of Israel frequently crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.
Rather than acknowledge that anti-Semitism often masquerades as anti-Zionism, many German media elites (particularly those on the political Left, who are not accustomed to accountability, especially from American Jews) have defaulted to attacking the messenger.
Most of Augstein's defenders insist that his criticism of Israel does not qualify as anti-Semitism and that the Wiesenthal Center was wrong to place Augstein in the same league as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which tops the list, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who comes in second.
If so, at what point does anti-Zionism become anti-Semitism?
In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, the associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism when it passes the "3-D" test. According to the "3-D" formulation, which was conceived by the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, individuals meet the criteria of modern anti-Semitism when they Demonize, Delegitimize and apply Double-standards to the Jewish state. Augstein, in Cooper's view, clearly meets the "3-D" threshold.
The Wiesenthal Center bases its accusation against Augstein on five quotes, taken from various columns, in which he not only criticizes Israeli foreign policy, but also repeats conspiratorial anti-Semitic falsehoods, and defends an anti-Semitic poem by the German Nobel Prize-winning novelist Günter Grass, who has denounced Israel as a threat to world peace.
In one quote, Augstein employs the anti-Semitic fabrication of a powerful Jewish lobby that ostensibly controls the world. He writes: "With backing from the US, where the president must secure the support of Jewish lobby groups, and in Germany, where coping with history, in the meantime, has a military component, the Netanyahu government keeps the world on a leash with an ever-swelling war chant."
In another quote, Augstein accuses an "insane and unscrupulous" Israel of fomenting civil violence in many parts of the Middle East. He writes: "The fire burns in Libya, Sudan, Yemen, in countries which are among the poorest on earth. But those who set the fires live elsewhere. Furious young people burn the American, and recently, the German flag. They, too, are victims, just like the dead at Benghazi and Sanaa. Who does this all this violence benefit? Always the insane and unscrupulous. And this time it's the US Republicans and Israeli government."
Augstein also equates ultra-orthodox Jews with Islamist terrorists. He writes: "But the Jews also have their fundamentalists, the ultra-orthodox Haredim. ... They are cut from the same cloth as their Islamic fundamentalist opponents. They follow the law of revenge."
Says Cooper: "When you conjure up the image of Islamic extremists, whose major contribution to the world has been suicide bombings, extremism and hatred, and then you take an entire religious community and you stereotype them, then that has nothing to do with journalism. Thus, a limit is exceeded."
In yet another quote, Augstein writes: "Israel's nuclear power is a danger to the already fragile peace of the world. This statement has triggered an outcry because it's true. And because it was made by a German, Günter Grass, author and Nobel Prize winner. That is the key point. One must, therefore, thank him for taking it upon himself to speak for us all."
Grass, in his controversial prose poem, "What Must Be Said," engages in moral equivalence by comparing Israel to Iran, even though Israel has never threatened to wipe another country off the map, as has Iran. Grass, who in his youth was a member of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi party's SS paramilitary unit, also says a military action against Iran would lead to the "annihilation" of the Iranian people -- even though it is Iran which has threatened to annihilate the Israel people.
German newspapers have jumped to Augstein's defense and have sought to deflect the blame by pillorying the Wiesenthal Center. As a consequence, the debate in Germany has focused not on Augstein's attacks on Israel, but rather on the Wiesenthal Center's "attack" on Augstein.
In the words of Alex Feuerherdt, a German journalist who has written extensively about contemporary anti-Semitism in Germany, "the issue now is not anti-Semites but those who criticize the anti-Semites."
According to Augstein's defenders, the Wiesenthal Center is to blame because while compiling its list it sought the advice of Henryk Broder, a well-known Polish-born German essayist who has long sought to hold Augstein accountable for his anti-Israel rants.
Broder, who writes a regular column for the center-right newspaper Die Welt, once wrote: "The only reason why [Augstein] did not make a career with the Gestapo is because he was born after WWII. He certainly would have had what it takes." Broder has also called Augstein a "pure anti-Semite."
Leaping to Augstein's defense, the center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "The choice of Jakob Augstein for ninth place on the list of the 10 worst anti-Semites is a serious intellectual and strategic error made by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Not only has a critical journalist been placed in a group into which he doesn't belong, the nine other people and groups who have justifiably been pilloried can now exculpate themselves by pointing to such arbitrariness."
By contrast, the Berlin-based Die Welt published an editorial, "Augstein's Defenders are Blind in the Left Eye," which says that although the Wiesenthal Center might have gone too far in placing Augstein on its list, Augstein does indeed cross the line into anti-Semitism in his criticism of Israel. Die Welt writes: "He [Augstein] attempts to discredit Israel morally, to hollow out its legitimacy and to make it a pariah among nation-states, just as Jews were a pariah among the peoples of Europe not that long ago."
In an interview with the Berlin-based German Jewish newspaper Die Jüdische Allgemeine, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, said that although he was not in total agreement with the Wiesenthal Center's decision to include Augstein on their annual list, he said Augstein has an "Israel obsession" and "spreads anti-Jewish resentments in an irresponsible manner." Graumann added that Augstein's columns are "horrible and undifferentiated" and contribute to an "anti-Israel atmosphere" in Germany.
For its part, the Wiesenthal Center is not backing down. In an interview with the German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur, Rabbi Cooper said: "Just because he is a journalist, we are not giving Mr. Augstein license to say what he wants and to hide behind journalistic integrity. His statements are incorrect and baseless."
Speaking to German Radio Deutschlandradio, Cooper says: "Augstein is a major player in German journalism who is accountable to no one. Maybe this is the problem. Augstein does not have to submit his writings to anyone before they are printed."
Not surprisingly, Augstein sees himself as the victim. On his Facebook page he writes: "The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an important, internationally recognized institution. It deserves all my respect for its work on the fight against anti-Semitism. It is all the more distressing when this struggle is weakened. This is necessarily the case when critical journalism is defamed as a racist or anti-Semitic."
A report entitled, "European Anti-Semitism Reinvents Itself," puts things in perspective. Published by the American Jewish Committee, it reads:
Left-leaning Judeophobes, unlike their predecessors of a century ago, never call themselves 'anti-Semitic.' Indeed, they are usually indignant at the very suggestion that they have something against the Jews. Such denials notwithstanding, they are usually obsessed with stigmatizing Israel. The dream of the far left has long been to dissolve the hated 'Zionist entity' and, in the name of human rights, make the world Judenstaatrein [literally, cleansed of a Jewish state]. Thus, they deny to the Jewish people a fundamental human and political right that they would militantly defend for nonwhite peoples -- above all, the Palestinians -- namely, the right to national self-determination. This anti-Zionism of the radical leftist camp, profoundly discriminatory toward Jewish nationalism, has now spread into the mainstream liberal left, whose rhetoric relentlessly seeks to undermine the moral and historic legitimacy of a Jewish state. Liberal leftists portray Israel as a state born of the "original sin" of displacing, expropriating, or expelling an "aboriginal" population.
The report continues:
Not only that, but they attribute to the Jews and Israel qualities of cruelty, brutality, bloodthirstiness, duplicity, greed, and immorality drawn straight from the arsenals of classic anti-Semitism. Such polemics transcend the question of double standards. They go far beyond the long-established media practice of singling out Israel for savage criticism never applied to any other nation-state. Indeed they constitute a clear case of negationism -- denying the humanity of Israelis in order to stigmatize, defame, and morally disintegrate the Jewish state, as a prelude to its physical destruction.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
January 10, 2013 at 4:30 am
Yet neither the settlements nor the proposed construction have ever prevented negotiations to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is noticeable that the EU has not articulated any serious criticism of the terrorist attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians -- actions that do make a peaceful solution less probable. Further, as Israel's former ambassador to the UN points out, the EU has never criticized the Turkish "settlers" for their "occupation" of Northern Cyprus, or "their own citizens who build beach-front villas in territory under Turkish occupation." [Israel Hayom, January 7, 2013]. There is no mention of "Chinese occupied Tibet," or "Pakistan occupied Kashmir."
The continuing criticism of Israel comes at a moment when 14 of the 27 countries in the EU voted in the UN General Assembly on November 29, 2012 for the resolution that "Palestine" become a nonmember observer state at the UN. Only the Czech Republic voted against the resolution. The EU disregarded the fact that this resolution, a unilateral action, was illegal, a violation by the Palestinians of binding obligations in the Oslo Accords and other agreements with both Israel and the U.N., including Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which guaranteed that the final status arrangements should be reached only through direct negotiations. In addition the EU has refused to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. These decisions do not exactly evidence a record for any kind of EU objectivity; Ireland, arguably the harshest European critic of Israel, just assumed the presidency of the EU on January 1, 2013.
In its judgment on February 20, 2010, the Court ruled that goods produced by Israeli companies based in the disputed territories of the West Bank did not qualify for duty-free import into the EU. The Euro-Mediterranean agreement between the European Community and Israel, signed on November 20, 1995 allows Israeli industrial products to be imported into the EU countries without customs duties. The decision in the 2010 case arose from the application by the German drinks manufacturer Brita to import soda-water makers and drink syrups manufactured by an Israeli firm, Soda Club, based in the settlement of Mishor Adumim. The European Court upheld the refusal of German customs officials to grant exemption from customs duties in this matter.
The Court explained its decision by what may be considered specious reasoning. The European Community (the predecessor of the EU) had signed an agreement on trade and cooperation with the PLO for "the benefit of the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" on February 24, 1997. The Court held that each of the two association trade agreements had its own "territorial scope;" one scope was the State of Israel, and the other the territory of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Therefore, for the Court, products made by Israel which originated in the West Bank did not fall within the "territorial scope" of the European-Israel agreement, and thus did not qualify for preferential customs treatment. The Court also presumed to considered the presence of Israel in the West Bank "illegal."
The most recent decision by the European Court is pure judicial burlesque. On January 20, 2010 the president of the Israeli think tank, NGO Monitor, who is a British citizen and thus has standing, filed a lawsuit, under the EU's Freedom of Information Law, against the European Commission (EC), the executive arm of the EU, to obtain information found in 200 documents about EC funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These bodies often pose as "peace" and "human rights" organizations, " but in reality are highly politicized advocacy groups, attempting to manipulate Israel through boycotts, divestments, sanction, frivolous and malicious lawsuits, and accusations of alleged "war crimes" -- all of which would render them ineligible for EU funding.
These groups include, among scores of others, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and the Israel Committee against Housing Demolitions. The suit charged that the EU funnels tens of millions of taxpayers' euros to such groups, but with none of the transparency or accountability that are required. The NGO Monitor petition stated that the EU was preventing independent evaluation of its NGO funding.
Evidence for the funding of these groups was in fact clearly revealed in a leaked document of a meeting of the Selection Committee of the EC on September 29, 1999 on NGOs. This document related, among other things, the allocation of funds to support about 20 projects such as Peace Now and those termed spreading "the 'peace message' among the radical Jewish settlers."
After refusing for over a year to supply the requested information, the EC did supply some documents with most of the details redacted or deleted. The original EU refusal to release information, as, according to the European Freedom of Information Law, it must, was blocked on the mystifying grounds that revealing the requested information might pose a danger to "public security" and "commercial interests" in the unstable Middle East.
The European Court itself agreed on November 27, 2012, that the EU did not provide the documents in a timely fashion and this was "an implicit decision to refuse access." The Court found that EU officials had censured details of the documents and the conclusions concerning them; yet, illogically, it upheld the denial of access, and rejected the claim for information as "manifestly inadmissible" and "in part manifestly lacking any foundation in law."
Since June 2005, the EU has given more than $48 million to over 90 NGOs based in Israel and the West Bank, who are regarded as critical of Israel. A double problem exists. These groups are partisan and critical of Israel. Moreover, although the EU itself has stressed the importance of a high level of transparency to ensure that it is open to public scrutiny and accountable for its work, there is no transparency whatever regarding the allocation of most of these funds. It would appear, as the founder and head of NGO Monitor, Dr. Gerald Steinberg, commented, "the only reasonable conclusion is that the EU has something to hide," and that the "secret funding funding of Israeli NGOs grossly impinges on and seeks to manipulate the Israeli democratic process."
Michael Curtis is author of Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation under attack by the International Community.
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