BERLIN – A college newspaper in an east German town published a commentary
defending Social Democratic party head Sigmar Gabriel’s use of the term
“apartheid regime” to describe Israel’s government.
The article in the
Novum, printed on March 28, is accompanied by a cartoon of Gabriel with a dog
muzzle on his face, suggesting that criticism of Israel is prohibited in the
The author of the article, Florian Barth, wrote that
“criticism of Israel’s Palestinian policies and criticism of the Israeli state
have nothing to do with each other.”
The article and cartoon unleashed
criticism from the Dresden Jewish community, which is situated near Hochschule
Mittweida – University of Applied Sciences, in the state of Saxony.
telephone conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Friday, Heinz Joachim Aris,
the spokesman for the Dresden community, said the article is informed by
“prejudices” against Israel. He termed the commentary “off the mark” and said
Gabriel’s attacks on Israel “are not acceptable” because they are creating
sentiments against the Jewish state.
Aris said the town of Mittweida is
loaded with neo-Nazi activity.
Ludwig Hilmer, a professor of media
communications at Mitweida who is responsible for the weekly paper, told the
Post via phone on Sunday that he was in Israel during the production process of
the issue and would not have permitted the publication of the
He said Barth is a young student in his early 20s who is not
familiar with the history of modern anti-Semitism in Germany.
he spoke with Barth about the article.
According to Hilmer, the
circulation of Novum is about 1,000 and the publication has a website where
readers can view articles in PDF.
Hilmer was in Haifa in March to advance
the cooperation between the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and
The controversy over the article arose when an
outraged student at Mittweida read it and forwarded it to Sacha Stawski, the
editor-in-chief of the Frankfurt-based media watchdog organization Honestly
“A large part of the mainstream anti- Semitism, which has
become part of our daily lives, is centered around the accusation that some
magic [Jewish] lobby is trying to silence valid criticism of Israel, by claiming
that the criticism is anti-Semitic,” Stawski wrote to the Post via email on
“In fact, this is one of the most common accusations leveled
against friends of Israel – most commonly by anti-Zionists and anti- Semites:
The supposed swinging of the ‘anti-Semitism club.”’ The student who first
forwarded the article to Stawski told the Post via phone on Sunday that he was
“shocked” by the commentary, and said this type of criticism generally comes
from the extreme right wing.
He said the article and cartoon spread the
view that Israel is an “apartheid” state. The student wished to remain anonymous
because of the presence of neo-Nazi and anti-Israel hostility in the region. He
added that he is “sensitized in terms of anti-Semitism” and viewed the article
and cartoon as an expression of modern Jew-hatred.
Stawski, the head of
the NGO that monitors anti-Semitism in the German press, said, “The accusation
being made here is that friends of Israel intimidate Israel-critics by accusing
them of being anti-Semites, thereby supposedly trying to squash any criticism of
the Jewish state.” He called this approach “an ideal way to avoid having to
divulge into any facts.”