ADL slams German 'Spiegel' author for anti-Semitism

Exclusive: Anti-Defamation League tells 'Post': Augstein's statement "crosses the line into anti-Semitic conspiracy thinking."

January 5, 2013 15:25
2 minute read.
Jakob Augstein

Jakob Augstein 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

BERLIN – Ken Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, on Friday weighed in on the raging German dispute over the alleged anti-Semitism of Der Spiegel columnist Jakob Augstein and his attacks on Jews and Israel.

Augstein’s statement about Jewish control of US foreign policy “crosses the line into anti-Semitic conspiracy thinking,“ he told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center included Augstein in its list of 2012’s top-ten anti-Semites.

Jacobson cited the following Augstein quote, which appeared in his column, as being contaminated with conspiratorial anti-Semitism: “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 [Binyamin] Netanyahu government keeps the world on a leash with an ever-swelling war chant.”

The New York-based ADL, like the Wiesenthal Center, monitors modern anti-Semitism in Europe in general and in Germany in particular.

Jacobson said that Augstein’s quote, in which he equated haredim with Islamist terrorists, “crosses the line into stereotypes of Jews,” but added that “anti-Israel criticism is not necessarily anti- Semitic.”

The Augstein controversy has divided Germany’s Jews.

German media reported that Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said Augstein’s writings are not anti-Semitic.

Korn argued that the Wiesenthal Center should not have included Augstein in its list because the organization “does not know German relations.”

Though the head of the council, Dr. Dieter Graumann, did not completely agree with the Wiesenthal list including Augstein, he said the columnist’s Israel texts are “dreadful and not nuanced,” and that he apparently has an “Israel obsession” and “spreads anti- Jewish resentments.”

Augstein’s Der Spiegel columns contribute to an “anti-Israel atmosphere” in the Federal Republic, noted Graumann, whose comments were reported in the main German Jewish newspaper, Die Jüdische Allgemeine.

Dr. Alexander Brenner, former head of Germany’s largest Jewish community in Berlin, told the Post on Friday that he agrees with Wiesenthal Center’s designation of Augstein as No. 9 in the rankings of last year’s most anti-Semitic and anti-Israel people.

Brenner, who has a seat in the directorate of the Central Council and on the representative board of the Berlin community, sharply criticized Korn as an “alibi Jew” – a phrase frequently used by German Jews to describe a small group of fringe Jews who protect anti-Semites and anti- Israel critics from rebuke in the public sphere. He said Korn’s behavior made him want “to throw up,” since Augstein is, “without question an anti-Semite.”

Brenner, a popular Jewish leader in Berlin, called on the council to stand behind the Wiesenthal Center and Henryk Broder, the first German journalist to term Augstein’s articles anti-Semitic.

Augstein has told the German media that he does not know what prompted him to be placed on the Wiesenthal list and said the inclusion of him only hurts “critical journalism” because it will be stigmatized as anti-Semitic or racist.

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