Israeli ambassador slams 'Der Spiegel' columnist

German envoy warns of "rising left-wing anti-Semitism"; calls comparison of Gaza to concentration camp, "shameful."

Jakob Augstein 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jakob Augstein 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
 BERLIN - Israel's Ambassador to Germany,Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman, weighed in on the heated row over the alleged anti-Semitism of Der Spiegel columnist Jakob Augstein and growing left-wing anti-Semitism in the Federal Republic.
"That is shameful,"said Hadas-Handelsman of Augstein's comparison between the Gaza Strip and a concentration camp. The Israeli ambassador gave a wide-ranging interview on Saturday to the daily Rheinische Post, a regional paper in Düsseldorf.
When asked whether Augstein is an anti-Semite, Hadas-Handelsman said he could not delve into the psyche of anti-Israel authors and journalists like Guenther Grass and Augstein to determine if they are anti-Semites.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center included Augstein on its 2012 top-10 list of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs. Augstein termed Gaza a "camp" which evokes in a German language context a Nazi extermination camp. He also said, "Gaza is a place out of the end of times... 1.7 million people live there on 360 sq. kilometers. Israel incubates its own opponents there."
In this week's Spiegel magazine, which Augstein partly owns, he admitted, "With the word 'camp' I definitely went too far." However, he defended his criticisms of Israel for delivering marching orders to the US and German governments and as the country endangering world peace. He also attacked Israel in new terms during the interview by comparing the Jewish state to the former Apartheid regime in South Africa. He said he has never been to Israel and said he would not visit.
On a Günther Jauch's talk show last year, Augstein compared the Nazi crimes of the Holocaust with the policies of the Israeli government. He did not retract his comparison during the Spiegel interview.
Hadas-Handelsman said it is different when a German criticizes Israel in contrast with a Brit or a Norwegian. He urged Germans to be more sensitive and careful with their criticisms of Israel. The ambassador added that anti-Semitism has morphed into new areas and "today we are observing a growing anti-Semitism from the Left."
Augstein's column in Spiegel is titled "When In Doubt, Think Left" and he is the editor-in-chief of a left-wing weekly called Freitag that is steeped, according to critics, in attacks on Israel.
The ambassador's comments about the mushrooming presence of left-wing anti-Semitism in Germany contrasts with many of his predecessors who focused on right-wing anti-Semitism.