German center 'ignored' anti-Semitism

Critics claim Berlin research center was silent about left-wing and Islamic anti-Semitism during Gaza op.

By JPOST CORRESPONDENT, BERLIN
February 15, 2009 21:58
3 minute read.
German center 'ignored' anti-Semitism

anti-Israel Germany 248 88. (photo credit: Sacha Stawski/Honestly Concerned )

Rising disaffection with the direction of the publicly funded Berlin Center for Research on Anti-Semitism has intensified since it organized a conference equating hatred of Jews with discrimination against Muslims in December. The center's indifference to the high levels of left-wing and Islamic anti-Semitism in Germany in particular, and in Europe in general, during the IDF's recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza drew sharp criticism from prominent Germans, including a Christian Democratic Union deputy, as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. "The [Berlin] center is largely fixated on classic anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism. Left-wing anti-Semitism and Islamic anti-Semitism are largely ignored," Kristina Köhler, a CDU lawmaker and a leading parliamentary expert on Islam, integration and extremism, told The Jerusalem Post last week. The center was "blind" if it avoided addressing the new forms of anti-Semitism, Köhler said. The mass anti-Israel demonstrations in Germany in January were largely organized and supported by Arab, Turkish and Palestinian groups. Left Party politicians in the Bundestag urged their members to attend the rallies, which turned into displays of Jew and Israel hatred, including calls to "gas the Jews," "Jews out of Germany," "Kill, kill Jews," and "Kill, kill Israelis." The Center was displaying "ostrich-like behavior" by failing to address "rising anti-Semitism in the wake of Gaza" and "Holocaust inversion," in which demonstrators in Europe compared Israel with Nazi Germany, said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. The Berlin center was "fearful of offending and alienating Muslims," he said. Zuroff told the Post that the major threat for Jews was Iran, and criticized the Berlin Center for neglecting the genocidal Iranian threats against Israel. "What are they studying anti-Semitism for if not to combat anti-Semitism?" he asked. "There has been widespread surprise that the center has been silent - very loudly silent" about the massive outbreak of anti-Semitic protests in Germany, added Dr. Elvira Grözinger, deputy director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and academic adviser at the Jewish College for Adult Education in Berlin. Speaking from Frankfurt, the prominent historian and Auschwitz survivor Dr. Arno Lustiger, who has written groundbreaking books about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, told the Post that "the center has only right-wing anti-Semitism in mind. They do not deal with leftist and Islamic anti-Semitism." When asked why the center devotes it research largely to Nazi-based anti-Semitism, Lustiger said, "It's an exculpatory motive. If you research what happened, you have a better conscience." Referring to the anti-Semitic chants at anti-Israeli demonstrations in January and the passivity of the Center, Lustiger asked, "Isn't it anti-Semitism if you'd send the Jews to the gas?" Wolfgang Benz, the center's director, and his colleague Dr. Juliane Wetzel have declined to comment, in response to multiple Post queries. Award-winning German-Jewish journalist Henryk Broder, one of the most vocal critics of the Berlin Center's alleged failure to deal with "Islamically-motivated anti-Semitism" and rising anti-Semitism directed against Israel, has termed the center "The Berlin Center for Downplaying Anti-Semitism." Broder, a Spiegel magazine journalist and a leading authority on German anti-Semitism, wrote on the widely read blog The Axis of Good: "Anti-Semitism researchers" study the question of WHY Jews are hated, not why JEWS are hated. They thus supply motives that the anti-Semites probably never even thought of. "When Juliane Wetzel of the center, for example, writes that Islamic anti-Semitism among Muslims living in Europe is a 'reaction to social exclusion and lack of opportunity on the labor market,' she is simply reproducing anti-Semitic stereotypes, but not explaining why young unemployed Muslims turn into anti-Semites, instead of taking out their frustrations on bicyclists, smokers or lawyers." Broder complained to the Post about the center's inertia during the recent outbreak of anti-Semitic protests during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza: "Even more surprising, however, was the silence of experts who did not even risk a letter to the editor and who barricaded themselves behind their academic status," he said.


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