German journalist withdraws criticism of Israel as 'Corona Dictatorship'

The reporter faced allegations of antisemitism in his journalism.

The German magazine Der Spiegel, at a newsstand, in Athens (photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)
The German magazine Der Spiegel, at a newsstand, in Athens
(photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)
BERLIN---The German Spiegel magazine journalist Christoph Sydow on Saturday walked back his description of Israel’s government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the first “Corona Dictatorship,” after he faced days of intense criticism that he spread antisemitism on the website of the news outlet.

Sydow tweeted that “If I wrote the text again today, I would not use the word ‘dictatorship’ again. I stick to the assessment that the damage that has been done to the democratic system and that may be further inflicted is immense and will have ramifications for the country.”
The Jerusalem Post was the first news organization to report on the allegations that Sydow stoked antisemitism in his article.
The Israeli author and expert on antisemitism, Arye Sharuz Shalicar, who was born in Germany to Jewish-Persian parents and made aliyah in 2001, tweeted to Sydow: “I hope you now understand why there are people who claim that your reporting has antisemitic tendencies. Because you ONLY accuse the Jewish state of things that so many other countries and states do.”
Shalicar first exposed the alleged antisemitism scandal involving Sydow and Spiegel.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post in response to Sydow’s article that, “Germany remains a hot spot for the virus of antisemitism and false demonization of the Jewish state.”
The German journalist Stefan Frank – who has an expertise in contemporary German antisemitism – wrote, according to observers, a devastating criticism on the website of the Austrian think tank Mena-Watch, covering the alleged falsehoods and antisemitism contained in Sydow’s article. He used the famous definition from former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky of modern antisemitism to argue that Sydow’s article met the criteria.

For example, Frank cited a March 13 Washington Post article titled: “A ‘travel log’ of the times in South Korea: Mapping the movements of coronavirus carriers.”

Sharansky’s definition states that when double standards, demonization or delegitimization (the so-called”three Ds" or the "3D test") are applied to Israel, criticism of the Jewish state is an expression of antisemitism.
Ahmad Mansour, an Israeli-born psychologist and book author, told the Post on Sunday that “It's not just about headlines, it's about fair journalism! The obsessive preoccupation with Israel, the double standards, the negative attitude, that is already a system and Spiegel should change that.”
Mansour, who lives in Germany, works to counter radical Islam and is an expert on antisemitism.
 
Sydow argued that Netanyahu’s administration was apparently creating the first “Corona Dictatorship” because the government was tracking Israelis infected with the virus who could be in contact with other Israelis.  
He refused to answer numerous Post press queries.  The Post sent a new media query on Saturday to Ann-Katrin Müller, a reporter in Spiegel's Berlin newsroom,  asking if she planned to correct the headline about the“Corona Dictatorship."
Sydow, who has previously been accused of co-writing an antisemitic Spiegel article with Müller and other of the news magazine’s reporters, claimed in his March 20 report that “demonstrations are prohibited because of the coronavirus” in Israel. Müller and the other reporters have denied previous accusations of antisemitic reporting.
Protests on social media from Israelis and Germans prompted a correction.
Spiegel changed the headline to: “Demonstrations with more than ten participants are prohibited due to the corona crisis.”
The magazine did not recognize its error in an editorial note at the end of the article. The magazine merely wrote “An earlier version contained a shortened sub-headline. We have made it more precise.”
When asked last week about the criticism, Anja zum Hingst, a spokeswoman for Spiegel, told the Post that “Of course the Spiegel article you quoted is not antisemitic. It reports criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu expressed in Israel. We regret the original headline.  It was replaced after a short time. We have transparently corrected the error in the sub-headline, in the text itself. However, the point with the rallies was represented precisely from the start.” A Post press query on Saturday was also sent to zum Hingst in connection with a planned correction of the "Coronavirus Dictatorship" headline.