BERLIN – The Berlin-based Center for the Research of Antisemitism faced a flurry of criticism this week from Israeli and German experts for employing a researcher who worked for a British organization that promotes the London version of the al-Quds Day rally. The rally calls for the destruction of the Jewish state each year.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post, “You would imagine something like this would be done in Iran. Set up an institute to study antisemitism and invite antisemites to work there.”
The center, which is part of the Technical University of Berlin, hired Luis Hernandez Aguilar, who was previously listed as a research officer of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a main organizer of the Iranian regime-sponsored al-Quds Day march.
According to a June report in the London-based The Jewish Chronicle
, Hezbollah flags were on display at the march in London, where one speaker said Israel should be “wiped from the map.” Shaykh Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour claimed Zionists’ “days are numbered,” wrote the paper. Speakers at the al-Quds march have also spread wild anti-Jewish conspiracy theories over the years.
The deputy director of the Center for the Research of Antisemistism, Uffa Jensen, defended Aguilar in an interview with the left-wing Die Tageszeitung (taz) paper.
“We are happy to have won Mr. Aguilar as a fellow as an international recognized expert in the field of hostility to Islam,” Jensen said.
Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, said, “The handwriting was on the wall the entire time. Time and time again, antisemitism was played down [at the center] and Islamophobia was given quite a bit of attention and emphasis.”
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He called on the city-state of Berlin and other public entities to “pull the plug” on funds for the center, if “government funding is involved. This was not the intention of the center.”
He said, “al-Quds open declaration of incitement against the Jewish state stems from deep-seated antisemitism against the Jewish state. Anyone who was involved in al-Quds Day is not qualified to work on this subject to monitor and fight antisemitism.”
Dr. Elvira Grözinger, the chairwoman of the German section of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post
, “The Berlin Center for the Research of Antisemitism at the Technical University, founded in 1982, has been once a renowned institute, but unfortunately lost its good reputation when its then director suddenly changed the line of research and embraced ‘Islamophobia’ as a fitting equivalent to [the] antisemitism he researched from then onward.”
“He and his successor are ignoring the fact that ‘Islamophobia’ was a fantasy term, an Islamist propaganda tool, invented by the Iranian fundamentalists at the end of the 1970s, and formed in analogy to ‘xenophobia’ in order to declare the Islam inviolate and whoever does not comply, is deemed a racist,” Grözinger continued.
She added, “But the institute pursues this line until today, switching more and more towards an apologetic pro-Islam curriculum, as being a part of the new ‘comparative prejudice research.’ Thus it relativizes the uniqueness of antisemitism and Judeophobia, which was directed against Jews over the centuries. International Jew-haters are even partners of this institution – it should be treated as a serious case counteracting academic integrity by the university’s ethical commission. This is a scandal, worthy of qualified academic attention worldwide.”
“The problem of the center is structural rather than incidental,” said Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a leading Israeli scholar in the field of antisemitism. “It proves that one cannot combine in a single center the fight against antisemitism and Islamophobia. Many studies show that the antisemitism among Muslims exceeds the antisemitism in native populations. It is also more extreme.”
He continued, “Those researching antisemitism must stress this, as authorities usually try to minimize Muslim antisemitism. Those fighting Islamophobia are among the least inclined to expose the disproportionately large role of Muslim antisemitism compared to their percentage in the population in Western European countries. The problem is particularly important in Germany, with its four reported antisemitic incidents per day and probably many additional unreported ones.”
“The recent article in Bild
lists so many problematic issues concerning the Berlin center beyond the hiring of a researcher associated with an extreme Muslim antisemitic organization that an independent investigation of that center is urgent.”
Two journalists from Germany’s best-selling paper Bild, Björn Stritzel and Antje Schippmann, who have written extensively on modern antisemitism and Islam in Germany, wrote a stinging commentary on Monday.
“The researchers have little knowledge of... [antisemitism],” they wrote. Their commentary added that the “center belittles violent antisemitic attacks,” including an attack involving a number of Palestinians who beat up an Israeli. The center had said the Tagesspiegel paper prematurely called the attack an incident of antisemitism.
Stefanie Terp, a spokeswoman for Technical University, told the Post
, “The center is not connected with the Islamic Human Rights Commission or the organizers of the London al-Quds march and does not have any intention, in the future to cooperate with them.” The center's controversial director Stefanie Schüler-Springorum said the German media articles against the center “border on character assassination.”
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