German progressive paper blasted for justifying terrorism, stoking Nazism

The Jerusalem Post conducted an in-depth report into the German newspaper’s coverage in 2017 of Israel and Jews.

Protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism in Frankfurt August 31, 2014.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism in Frankfurt August 31, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Berlin-based taz daily is facing withering criticism from German Jews and US and Israeli experts on antisemitism for justifying Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, promoting hatred of the Jewish state, and stoking Nazi conspiracy theories targeting Jews.
After the left-wing newspaper published a series of pro-BDS articles, a tipping point was reached among the news outlet’s critics. The Jerusalem Post exposés on rising boycott activity in Berlin played a role in the mayor’s decision to outlaw funding and space for BDS groups and activities, triggering angry taz columns and interviews slamming the mayor.
The Post conducted an in-depth report into the taz’s coverage in 2017 of Israel and Jews.
Sigmount Königsberg, the commissioner on antisemitism for Germany’s largest Jewish community in Berlin, said taz’s Israel-based correspondent “Susanne Knaul legitimizes terrorism.”
Knaul sparked outrage over her commentary last January arguing that “Jerusalem is not Berlin” when evaluating the morality of vehicular terrorist attacks that took place in both cities. It is a “fact that there are reasons for the desperation which motivates Palestinians to suicide attacks,” she wrote. Knaul cited the “occupation” and “injustice” as ostensibly legitimate reasons to murder Israeli soldiers.
In January, a Palestinian drove his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, murdering four of them in attack that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was “part of the same pattern inspired by the Islamic State.” In December last year, an Islamic State supporter rammed his truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people, including Israeli Dalia Elyakim.
Michaela Engelmeier, a Social Democratic deputy in the Bundestag, said Knaul “with her tendentious statements pours more oil into the fire of antisemitism and legitimizes violence against Israelis.”
Knaul did not respond to Post queries.
Antisemitism experts accuse Daniel Bax, a taz editor who writes about German politics, of spreading extreme right-wing ideologies and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories reminiscent of the Nazi era.
Bax, who is an energetic supporter of the BDS movement, wrote in a commentary this month that the American Jewish Committee “acts entirely in line with Israel’s government.” He also wrote that “Germany’s Central Council of Jews has made itself into a one-sided mouthpiece for the interests of Israel’s government.” Bax claimed the mayor of Berlin’s decision to reject BDS meant he “caved in” to German and US Jewish NGOs.
AJC Berlin office director Deidre Berger said, “It is shocking that a reputable newspaper would allow a journalist to attribute the recent comments by Mayor Michael Müller against BDS to an imagined Jewish lobby. There are millions of interest-based associations in Germany; the insinuation that solely Jewish interest groups are lobby organizations, allegedly working behind the scenes to seize control of German politics, is preposterous. It also reinforces dangerous antisemitic fantasies about a small group of Jews allegedly pulling invisible strings to take over global power.”
Berger said Bax’s “singling out AJC as an alleged puppet master of Berlin politics reproduces anti-American prejudices. The assertion by Daniel Bax that AJC and other Jewish interest groups [the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Central Council of Jews] are an instrument of the Israeli government reflects the stereotype of the ‘wandering Jew’ with dual loyalties. Given previous articles attributing widely exaggerated powers to AJC and other Jewish organizations, it is long overdue that Daniel Bax and the editors of the taz newspaper take responsibility for publishing such age-old antisemitic canards.”
The Post reached out to all senior editors of taz, including its editor-in-chief, Georg Löwisch. A deputy editor, Barbara Junge, wrote the Post by direct message on Twitter that the responsible editors would respond. Katrin Gottschalk, a second deputy editor, sent the Post her email address.
None of taz’s senior editors answered Post queries about alleged antisemitism and sympathy for Palestinian terrorism infecting the paper.
Netanyahu snubs German minister over plan to meet far - left groups like Breaking the Silence (credit: REUTERS)
Dr. Matthias Küntzel, widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on German antisemitism, said, “Bax’s allegation that the mayor of Berlin, with his anti-BDS position, caved in due to the Simon Wiesenthal Center implies that Müller was actually a BDS supporter, who only because of Jewish pressure changed his view. For this reason, Bax uses the antisemitic prejudice concerning the Jewish string puller who is in the position to impose his will on leading politicians. Bax’s call to no longer cave in to Jews strengthens the desire to ‘emancipate’ oneself from the shadows of the Nazi past and fits the campaign slogan ‘Take heart, Germany’ of the AfD, the first historically revisionist party [expected] to enter the Bundestag.”
AfD (Alternative for Germany) is widely viewed as a far-right extremist party that fans the flames of antisemitism and plays down the Holocaust.
One of Israel’s leading experts on antisemitism, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, said of Bax: “Accusing Jews in Germany of lack of loyalty is a rehash of a Nazi concept. Taz reuses it with a leftist sauce.”
He added, “It is thus self-understood that nowadays international Jewish organizations monitor BDS and other types of antisemitism in Germany.
“Genocidal organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah plan to kill not only Israeli Jews but Jews in general. If the mayor of Berlin provides a safe space for such organizations and hate demonstrations, this is an international Jewish issue, not only a German Jewish one, in view of Germany’s horrible past,” Gerstenfeld said.
Engelmeier said Bax’s commentary and his interview with a BDS activist goes in the direction of “opening the door to antisemitism.” BDS is “the modern form of [Nazi slogan] “Don’t buy from Jews!” she said.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office and its chief Nazi-hunter, said, “It [Bax’s dual loyalty charge] is a very dangerous accusation. It tends to delegitimize views of Jews who support Israel, especially in a country like Germany.
“Germany betrayed by Jews has echoes of a very and tragic period in Germany after WWI. The ‘stabbed in the back’ accusation paved the way for the Nazis. The best way to make Jews vulnerable is to question their loyalty to their country of residence. It is flirting with antisemitism,” Zuroff said.
Königsberg said, “Baz is a “supporter of the antisemitic BDS movement,” “spreads untruths” and “calls for hatred of Israel.” Bax “dubs supporters of Israel as right-wingers who run smear campaigns,” he said.
He added, “In order to avoid being accused of antisemitism, Bax likes to use only Jewish and Israeli critics of the policies of Netanyahu. This occurs systematically and acts as a fig leaf.”
Bax has over the years devoted commentaries and interviews to Jews who seek the destruction of the Jewish state.
Königsberg stressed that Bax “repeats his strategy” with the help of obscure anti-Zionist and anti-Israel Jews, “to counter that the criticism that he is an antisemite.”
Volker Beck, a German Green Party Bundestag deputy and president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Group, said Bax remains “uncritical toward Turkish Muslim associations” in Germany, in contrast to with his intense criticism of the Jewish state.
Post email queries to Bax were not answered. The Post obtained an exchange of his emails with Markus Karsten from the Westend Verlag firm that published Bax’s book. Bax notified Karsten of the Post’s media query.
The Post’s interviews with nearly 20 experts and observers on antisemitism in Germany show taz is in a not unfamiliar position. The paper has been engulfed in accusations over that years that it justifies terrorism toward Jewish Israelis, and advocates antisemitism and racism. The lack of quality control over its editing process, allegations of sloppy sourcing , and refusal to crackdown on charges of antisemitism among its journalists and editors have been hallmarks of the paper’s history, according to its critics.