In two articles in The Jerusalem Post (December 10 and February 15), German center 'ignored' anti-Semitism and 'German center ignores Iranian threat', Benjamin Weinthal attacked the Berlin Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism (headed by Prof. Wolfgang Benz), arguing that at its conference "Concepts of the Muslim Enemy - Concepts of the Jewish Enemy" on December 8, it had been guilty of "lumping" anti-Semitism with Islamophobia.
I cannot claim to be objective in this discussion. As the founder and first director of the Hebrew University's Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism (our chief reason for its establishment, in 1982, had been the rise of radical Islamist anti-Semitism), I became deeply involved in a number of cooperative ventures with the Berlin Center from the moment it was founded, and collaborated closely with Benz after his appointment as director in 1990 in conferences on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, mainly here. I also taught at the center.
Benz's many books on the Holocaust and German anti-Semitism are well known. The Berlin Center led the way, in 2002, through its researchers, in recognizing the danger present in the growing anti-Semitism among Muslim youths in Europe and among the Left, in a path-breaking report. In 2005 it organized a conference on "Anti-Semitism and Radical Islam," and the proceedings were published in 2007. A second, major, conference on the same theme was held in May 2007. That topic, as well as left-wing anti-Semitism, has been taught, since 2006, in summer courses at the center, which is part of the Technical University of Berlin.
THE CONFERENCE which was attacked in the Post (it included a major lecture on "Enmity Against Jews Among European Muslims") was far from equalizing hatred of Islam (Islamophobia) with anti-Semitism. Many researchers, Jewish and non-Jewish, have recognized that Jew-hatred among Muslim youths, while it is obviously the result of hate-preaching against Jews and Israel by radical preachers, has as its background the lack of integration of these second-generation immigrants in the surrounding society, and that such integration is a necessary part of any attack against anti-Semitic attitudes.
That was the reason behind the full agreement of the Israeli governmental delegations to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conferences against anti-Semitism in Berlin (2004) and Cordoba (2005) to couple paragraphs against Islamophobia with other elements in combating anti-Semitism in Europe. I participated, as one of the main speakers, at both conferences. A connection between the two concepts obviously does not mean that we are dealing with the same phenomena. It was that connection which motivated the conference that was attacked in the Post.
I also had a part in determining the content of a major exhibition now making the rounds in Germany, called "Anti-Semitism? Anti-Zionism? Criticism of Israel?," organized by the Berlin Center and Yad Vashem.
I must say that I am very sorry that Elie Wiesel was dragged into this controversy; a similar attempt was made to rope me in.
Finally, and importantly: I fail to see the point in attacking allies and friends of Israel and the Jewish people; we surely have enough enemies as it is.
The writer is one of the leading historians of the Holocaust.