The hallucination of an evil Jewish conspiracy that controls not only world politics, but also cultural affairs and even dictates opinion is one of the most quintessential antisemitic stereotypes. And as if the Holocaust would have never happened, its popularity is unbroken until the present day. A recent report in the German weekly Der Spiegel and an op-ed in last Sunday’s Haaretz by Ilana Hammerman (which had already been published a week earlier in Hebrew) are the most recent expressions of the delusional idea that some kind of conspiracy pulls the strings behind the scene to manipulate society on behalf of Israel and the Jews.
The article in Der Spiegel titled “Lobbyism in the Bundestag” was published on July 12 and alleges that two associations, acting on behalf of Israel and the Jews, have disproportionate influence on German politics. The recent decision of Germany’s federal parliament, the “Bundestag,” to condemn the BDS movement would be a result of the suspicious manipulation by these organizations. The two associations that are targeted in the Spiegel piece are the “Initiative for Values” (Werteinitiave), a German Jewish civil society group and the “Middle East Peace Forum,” an NGO that, according to unsubstantiated Spiegel allegations, acts on behalf of the Netanyahu government. Indeed, both groups have spoken out openly for the Bundestag’s recent anti-BDS motion. Yet, in the Spiegel article, this actually desirable act of democratic participation by civil society actors is portrayed as sinister and illegitimate manipulation on behalf of an alien country: Israel. This is antisemitism in its purest form.
The same kind of conspiratorial delusions plagues Haaretz writer Hammerman. The title of her recently published op-ed reads: “The evil new apparition that is stalking Germany today: Criticism of Israeli policy has been banned and persecuted as antisemitism, and those pulling the strings sit in Israel.” The quintessence of her piece is that the Israeli government would be active in Germany to incite against Muslims and to silence criticism of Israel. In order to corroborate her point, she slanders a recent presentation by German-Israeli author Arye Shalicar at Berlin’s Humboldt University as “arrogant, toxic and racist incitement, mostly against Muslims,” on behalf of the Israeli government. In fact, in her almost 2,000-words-long op-ed, Hammerman does not produce one single quotation that would substantiate her charge that Shalicar’s talk was racist or anti-Muslim. The allegation has also been dismissed by other participants of that event. “There was absolutely nothing racist and nothing anti-Islamic in Shalicar’s talk,” says Soraya Mentiply, a young German Muslim who was present at the event. Tabea Krause, who was in the audience as well, confirms Mentiply’s rejection of Hammerman’s racism charges against Shalicar.
FURTHERMORE, SHALICAR was not speaking on behalf of the Israeli government. The event on June 19 was a book launch at which he presented his essay, “The new German antisemite,” a personal account about his experience with Jew-hatred. The book covers experiences from the author’s childhood in Berlin as well as encounters that he made with foreign journalists in Israel, while serving as an IDF spokesperson. Shalicar was invited by two NGOs, the Berlin branch of the German-Israeli Friendship Association and the Mideast Freedom Forum. Even though Shalicar is an Israeli government employee, on that evening he spoke as an independent book author. Mentiply and Krause both confirmed that Shalicar focused on his personal experiences and barely spoke about politics. Nevertheless, according to Krause, “there was a woman in the audience who insisted that Shalicar was steered by the Israeli government and that his self-presentation as an independent author was a deception. However, she would not produce any evidence for that allegation.” Mentiply confirmed that statement and identified the woman who made it as Haaretz writer Ilana Hammerman. Both Mentiply and Krause reported that Hammerman during a Q&A session accused Shalicar to be a government propagandist for the “racist state of Israel.” Another woman, who later would leave the hall together with Hammerman, asked Shalicar how much longer he wants to keep talking about antisemitism, when in fact there is none in Germany and after Germany already had appointed an antisemitism czar.
The charge that antisemitism isn’t real, but rather invoked to silence criticism of Israel, is a classic adaption of the age-old antisemitic myth that Jews manipulate and thereby control public opinion. As early as 1879, German antisemitic historian Heinrich von Treitschke – who coined the notorious phrase “the Jews are our misfortune” – wrote: “Whoever dared to criticize the undeniable weaknesses of the Jewish character was denounced by almost all of the press as a barbarian and as a discriminator of a religious group.” Current-day Jew-haters, to paraphrase Israel’s former ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, claim the right to demonize Israel, but render criticism of this form of antisemitism censorship.
It is one of the great ironies of antisemitism that its proponents claim to be silenced, as more actually speak out to spread their toxic ideas. In her op-ed, Hammerman claims that free speech is being banned in Germany. However, according to other participants of Shalicar’s book launch at Humboldt University, it was Hammerman who spoke more than anybody else in the audience. “The whole event lasted for 90 minutes of which that woman [sic Hammerman] spoke 25,” says Krause and elaborates: “She was the first person to speak at the Q&A. But rather than asking questions, she kept talking for 10 minutes about all kind of matters that had nothing to do with the book launch. After that, she kept interrupting other people who wanted to ask questions until the audience got really mad at her.” Mentiply confirms: “I don’t know whether her opening remarks really went on for 10 minutes. But it was more than five minutes for sure.”
In her Haaretz op-ed, Hammerman writes, “I received hostile responses: Neither the speaker, the moderator nor the audience were interested in a discussion. I received evil looks, was asked to remain silent, and Arye complained that I was a disturbance – so much so that he would require a relaxing massage because of the evening.”
Hammerman doesn’t seem to understand that the audience simply disagreed with both her style and the content of her statements. Instead of blaming herself for the disapproval that she encountered, she blames the Israeli-orchestrated control of public opinion in Germany. This form of projecting one’s own failures on the Jewish scapegoat certainly is yet another classical expression of antisemitism.
The writer is a German-Israeli journalist and is working a Ph.D. thesis on antisemitism at Hebrew University.