BERLIN – The Simon Wiesenthal Center ratcheted up the pressure on Der Spiegel columnist Jakob Augstein on Wednesday to apologize for his anti-Semitic writing.
The center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper announced that a press conference is being tentatively scheduled for later this month in Berlin to “hold Augstein accountable.”
Augstein does not have a “free pass” from the Wiesenthal Center, Cooper told The Jerusalem Post.
“It has been nearly a month since we put the issue on the table. The key question has not been answered. Will he recognize what he said and apologize to the Jewish world and his readers. If he does not, the only question is what motivates his anti- Semitism,” the rabbi said.
Cooper flatly denied to the Post a DPA wire service item that said the center is backtracking from its sharp criticism of Augstein.
The Wiesenthal Center placed Augstein No. 9 on its 2012 top-ten list of individuals and organizations that made anti-Semitic statements toward Jews and Israel.
I am “disappointed by the relative silence of journalists in Germany about the issue.
They should take heed of veteran observers like Henryk M. Broder, the European Jewish Congress, ADL, Jewish readers in neighboring Austria, all of whom confirm damage done by anti-Semitic words and images [from Augstein],” Cooper said.
He said his organization has “high praise for Broder for standing up to anti-Semitism in Germany” in connection with Augstein.
Broder, who writes for the daily Die Welt, first exposed the reported anti-Israel and anti-Semitic writings of Augstein.
The Wiesenthal Center sees Augstein and his supporters as engaged in “just another attempt to evade the central question, whether the man takes responsibility for the images and words, which are anti- Semitic,” Cooper said.
Augstein has compared Gaza to a German concentration camp and blamed Israel for the violence that has erupted in Yemen and Libya. Critics say he spread anti-American and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
He wrote, “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.”
Malte Lehming, editor of the influential daily Tagesspiegel’s opinion page, on Tuesday commented on the “conspiratorial” aspect of Augstein’s quote and bemoaned that journalists cannot identify the transformation of Nazi anti- Semitism into modern anti- Semitism. Lehming wrote that Nazi papers headlined their stories “The Jews are our misfortune,” which can be translated into contemporary terms as “the nuclear power Israel endangers the fragile world peace.”
Augstein has, like novelist Günter Grass, written that Israel is the main impediment and danger to global peace.
German media observers say most of the country’s news organizations and journalists have failed to scrutinize Augstein’s columns for loathing of Jews and Israel.