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“New” Anti-Semitism in Contemporary German Academia

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 21:1-2 (Spring 2009)

It is one of the bitter ironies of the dialectics of modernity that the very sphere of science and academia, the purpose of which is to enlighten mankind, has provided intellectual cover to modern Jew-hatred. It was in Germany of all places that scientific discovery and academic discourse were subject to the utmost perversion, contributing intellectually and technically to the Holocaust. While anti-Semitism in German society in general has survived Auschwitz, its persistence in academia in particular is all the more a reason for concern. The tenacity and openness of anti-Semitic ideologemes in the writings and utterances of figures with an academic standing throws a dubitable light onto various institutions of higher learning and education, as well as onto the state bodies that fund them and that draw on their expertise. In conceptual terms it makes sense to differentiate between “old” and “new” anti-Semitism. Traditional forms of Jew-hatred that use a religious or racist pretext still exist in modern academic discourse in Germany, but are likely to be reprimanded and marginalized by society in general and by the academic community in particular, which generally perceives itself to be “critical,” “progressive” and “politically correct.” Yet it is precisely against this self-perception that a new political pretext for the articulation of anti-Jewish attitudes is often found in the Jewish State and its real or alleged behavior. Anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a socially acceptable way of expressing anti-Semitic sentiments in the German academic context. While the anti-Semitic nature of these articulations is generally denied by their proponents, their superiors in the political arena tend to ignore or belittle them. The wide-spread inclination to have recourse to “Jewish” anti-Zionist voices as key witnesses of particular authority has led to a situation where the “new” anti-Semitism has successfully infused the very academic discourse and research on anti-Semitism itself. At the same time there is a considerable reluctance on the part of German decision-makers and opinion leaders to confront this problem.


Anti-Semitism in academia is by no means a new phenomenon, nor is it an unusual one. Academics, while striving to approach an objective view of the world, are always part of society at large, a fact which must be borne in mind when discussing the present manifestations of Jew-hatred in the field of higher education and scientific research. What makes anti-Semitism in academia extraordinary is the fact that this is the intellectual and scholarly sphere where many of the discourses that shape social reality and that are often taken for granted take place. Indeed, the notion of anti-Semitism, the very term itself, was the product of discourses that aspired, or at least purported, to be scientific in nature. Wilhelm Marr, its spiritual father, attempted to place the traditionally religion-based hatred of Jews onto a firm scientific footing. He wished to provide it with a new pretext more suited to the epistemological criteria of modernity. Others followed in his footsteps and expanded the concept to universal dimensions, providing it with the character of a “theory of everything.” Jew-hatred purportedly gained objective consciousness of itself through its “scientific” emancipation from its earlier religious context of justification. What became known as anti-Semitism constituted the negation of Enlightenment and its aspirations of human freedom through reason and science. Yet ironically it bore the very marks of the âge d’illumination, whose illegitimate but unmistakable offspring it was.

The racial theories and teachings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that climaxed in the Holocaust made their mark not only on particular faculties and universities, but left imprints that can be felt to the present day on numerous academic disciplines. The Gleichschaltung(bringing into line) of academia under National Socialism left virtually no field of science untouched by the negative normativity of its ideology, of which anti-Semitism constituted a, if not the, central element. A new and true German, or Aryan, science was contrasted to and substituted for a purportedly corrupted Jewish variant. Academia played an important role in justifying Nazi ideology and helping to implement it. Academics perverted the products of science, initially conceived for the liberation and furtherance of the human being, into instruments for his enslavement, and ultimately his annihilation. Some institutions of higher learning have undertaken critical accounting of their own history, while it remains very much a desideratum among others. Disciplines such as Ethnology and in particular Oriental Studies have hardly, if at all, begun to reflect upon themselves. This has ramifications for the present, epitomized in particular in the way that a great many Arabists and Orientalist scholars, not least in Germany, construe the conflict in the Middle East or the problem of Islamic anti-Semitism.[2]

There are a number of misconceptions about the problem of contemporary academic anti-Semitism. These relate to a more general misunderstanding of the ways in which classical anti-Jewish sentiment has transformed and modernized itself under public repression in the wake of the Holocaust. Likewise, there is a tendency, primarily found among law-enforcement bodies, to ignore, or at least discount, anti-Semitic phenomena not well supported by statistics, and that do not manifest themselves in open aggression or calls to violence against real or imagined Jews, Jewish institutions, and/or property. With regard to Germany, Andrei S. Markovits has noticed that “[t]hus far, as a general rule, mainstream German newspapers and journals have not published cartoons even nearly as malicious and anti-Israeli (or anti-Semitic) as their British, Italian, Greek, and French counterparts. In the realm of cartoons, the German threshold of shame still seems to be a tad higher in this sensitive area than it is in other European countries.” With regard to the level of “violence against both Jews and Jewish institutions,” he classified Germany as belonging to a group of countries falling somewhere between the two poles, while at the same time noting that “in these countries…there has been a great deal of verbal aggression against Jews.”[3]

German universities have also not become notorious with regard to anti-Israel activities in the same way as some of the institutions of higher learning in other parts of the Western world. To be sure, international anti-Israel boycott petitions have also been circulating among German academic circles, but there have been no notable, let alone successful, attempts at promoting a German academic boycott against the Jewish State until today. The reasons as to why such thresholds have not been crossed so far include the negative historical resonance that such an initiative would have in the country of the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Another contributory factor to this may be the comparably institutionalised, long-standing, and stable cooperation between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel in the field of scientific research.[4] However, particularly against the backdrop of the general rise in what has been termed the “new” anti-Semitism in Western Europe, which has also been documented in Germany,[5] a closer examination of its academic landscape would appear worthwhile. This will involve an examination of both the narratives that have been shaping intellectual discourse and the way in which anti-Semitic transgressions have — or have not — been dealt with by the wider academic community and societal decision-makers. In so doing, the differences from and continuities with the more classical anti-Jewish manifestations in this sphere-both historically and in other parts of the world-must be taken into account in order to understand the functioning of, and the challenges posed by, contemporary academic anti-Semitism in Germany.[6]

The “Old” Anti-Semitism in Academia

While nowadays all-encompassing primary anti-Semitism does not feature in European state ideologies, there exist various institutional anchor points in academia throughout the continent and other parts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region. Among these the Academy for Interpersonal Management (MAUP) in Kiev stands out. Through its publications and conferences it has repeatedly launched hefty attacks against Jews and “Zionists,” mixing classical Christian anti-Jewish motives, such as the blood libel, with more modern ones and engaging positively with far-right activists such as the Ku Klux Clan leader David Duke. MAUP has allegedly also received “significant funding from Arab and Muslim states.”[7]

The broad range of freedom of expression that characterizes the sphere of academia renders institutions of higher learning as spaces where controversial and otherwise socially unacceptable personal views can be articulated in a relatively open manner. Hence, it was no coincidence that the leading German neo-Nazis Horst Mahler and Udo Voigt were able to attend a meeting of the Islamist group Hisb-ut-Tahrir at the premises of the Technical University of Berlin. At this meeting, Voigt found that the positions of the neo-Nazis and Islamists regarding their common enemies were “almost congruent.”[8] While the meeting had no openly academic pretension, the organizers used the university as an institution with a comparably greater degree of tolerance than other societal venues for dissenting views.

Other organizations with a consciously anti-Semitic agenda give themselves names intended to bestow upon them a degree of academic credibility, such as the revisionist Institute for Historical Review in Torrance, California. This is the leading organization of Holocaust deniers that publishes the Journal of Historical Review.[9] Another example is the Adelaide Institute in Australia.[10]

The “International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust,” one of the most highly publicized international gatherings of Holocaust revisionists in recent years, took place under the auspices of the Institute for Political and International Studies, a think-tank of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Teheran in 2006. While arrogating to itself an academic character,[11] it also featured a number of participants who can indeed look back on an academic career. One example is Robert Faurisson, one of the best-known Holocaust deniers. Faurisson taught literature at the University of Lyon until 1979, at which time he was transferred to the central French institution for distance learning in the wake of a controversy that erupted over his revisionist writings.

Outside the OSCE region there are quite a number of examples of institutions that promote anti-Semitism in an open and systematic fashion. Possibly the most famous example is Tehran, where worldwide representatives of Holocaust denial have shaken hands under the benevolent auspices of the Iranian regime. This regime itself has espoused and promoted anti-Semitism since it came into being in 1979.[12]  Yet one need not look so far away: examples can be found even among OSCE partner countries such as Egypt, where the Al-Azhar University in Cairo has functioned as a hotbed for theologically inspired Jew-hatred. Its head, Grand Sheikh Muhammed Sayyid Tantawi, the highest religious authority of Sunni Islam, has been called a “reasonable man, a tolerant man” by Gunter Mulack, at the time Commissioner for the Dialogue with the Islamic World in the German Foreign Office and currently Director of the German Orient Institute in Hamburg. [13] Yet in his PhD dissertation, entitled The People of Israel in the Koran and the Sunna, he argued that the consumption of non-Jewish blood was a religious rite of the Jews, quoting supporting evidence from both Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The fourth edition of his book was published in 1997, and it continues to be a standard work of reference in the field.[14]

By contrast, Western European universities subjected the more classical kinds of religiously and racially motivated anti-Semitism to wide-reaching ostracism. Proponents of these manifestations of Jew-hatred certainly persist, yet they have become increasingly marginalized. One example is Bernd Rabehl, a sociologist at the Free University of Berlin. In an interview with the newspaper Deutsche Stimme, affiliated to the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), he openly stated his sympathies for this political party and right-wing extremist views. He went on to specifically compare the motivations of the party’s founder, Adolf von Thadden, with those Jews who founded Israel “after 1945 as a response to the discriminations.”[15] While the decision of his university department to no longer grant him lectureships was eventually suspended, his lectures were excluded from the exam curriculum.

Another example is that of Konrad Löw, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Bayreuth, who has tried to portray historical anti-Semitism in Germany as a result of strong Jewish participation in left-wing revolutions. In 2004 he wrote a revisionist article for the Deutschland Archiv[16] in which he claimed that the majority of Germans had been “much more victims than perpetrators,”[17] emphasizing an alleged Jewish contribution to the implementation of the “Final Solution,”[18] and evoking a “German-Jewish symbiosis under the swastika.”[19] The respective issue of the Deutschland Archiv, a publication of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, was subsequently pulped, and the agency distanced itself from Löw’s essay in a letter to its subscribers.[20] In 2007, Claudio Moffa, professor of politics and history of Africa and head of a masters program on the Middle East at the University of Teramo in Italy, himself noted for his anti-Zionist views, invited the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson to present his theses in a lecture at the university. The invitation was met with a storm of protest from within academia all over Italy and the university eventually prohibited Faurisson from appearing at its grounds. Demonstrators succeeded in precluding him from speaking at a nearby venue.[21]

“The Working Definition of Antisemitism”

The near absence of European institutions of higher learning with a systematic and open anti-Semitic agenda must not belie the fact that anti-Semitic attitudes are held by academics (as by the rest of the population). Moreover, they diffuse into, and articulate themselves through, their work. As in other sections of society, the wide condemnation or proscription of religious and racial anti-Semitism has failed to do away with its underlying psychology and the hidden wishes that it fulfils. It has also been unable to prevent the rise of new forms of articulation of Jew-hatred that manifest themselves in a socially more opportune and acceptable manner. Indeed, both the relevant expert institutions of the EU and the OSCE have taken account of this fact when drafting their “Working Definition of Antisemitism” (hereafter referred to as the Working Definition). A considerable part of this document deals with forms of anti-Semitism that target the state of Israel as an indirect route for the expression of anti-Jewish sentiment.

In order to determine when exactly criticism of Israel crosses the line and becomes anti-Semitism, Natan Sharansky, the former Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs, proposed three criteria: the 3-D-test. “D” stands for demonization, delegitimization and double standards[22]-the three facets of what is nowadays known as anti-Zionism. Criticism that demonizes the Jewish State, denies its right to exist or to defend itself as such, or which gauges its actions differently than those of other states, is anti-Semitic. These criteria have entered the Working Definition that was developed and is used by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), meanwhile renamed into European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).[23] They correspond to a fairly broad consensus among leading researchers of anti-Semitism and practitioners in the educational field who deal with this specific problem. As Gert Weisskirchen, the Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE on Combating Anti-Semitism, pointed out, “[w]e already have the tools in order to do so [i.e., implement the measures set out in the 2004 Berlin Declaration]. It is therefore time to make use of them more effectively.”[24]

This notwithstanding, anti-Semitism continues to figure as a controversial subject in public debate, and it remains questionable whether the Working Definition will be applied, apart from in policing and law enforcement, in political practice. What qualifies as anti-Semitic and who is an anti-Semite often continue to be the subject of hefty, sometimes even legal, disputes, particularly when relating to allegedly modernized manifestations of the phenomenon. Infringements against Jews or slander against the Jewish State are often treated as mere (over-)reactions to Israeli policies, or as legitimate criticism of Israel. The debate generally hinges on the issue of anti-Zionism and the question of when (or whether at all) this is equivalent to anti-Semitism.

A number of legal arguments have revolved around the characterization of certain anti-Zionists as “anti-Semites.” One such case involved the publicist Henryk Broder. Broder was indicted and subsequently sentenced to a prison term for, amongst other things, calling the publisher Abraham Melzer and the author Hajo Meyer “capacities for applied Judeophobia,”[25] comparing Israeli occupation policy with that of the Nazis, blaming Jewish behaviour for the rise of anti-Semitism, and accusing the Jews of exploiting the Holocaust.[26] While losing on most counts in a Court of First Instance, Broder eventually won his appeal on most points in the second instance. The court found that “Jewish anti-Semitism” indeed existed, and allowed Broder to call his opponents “capacities for applied Judeophobia.”[27]

Another case in Germany involved Ludwig Watzal, an employee of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, who at the time was co-editor of the academic supplement of the newspaper of the German Bundestag, Das Parlament. In a warning letter sent by Watzal’s lawyer to Samuel Laster, the editor of the Jewish news website, he demanded that the latter sign a “cease and desist” declaration. This prepared declaration demanded inter alia that he refrain from calling Watzal an “anti-Zionist anti-Semite,” as he had done in the caption of an article that had appeared on the website.[28] Interestingly, this very statement did not constitute a demand for relief in Watzal’s subsequent lawsuit against Laster.[29]

The “New” Anti-Semitism in Academia

While the old forms of anti-Semitism in academia persist and must continuously be confronted, they have in many respects been marginalized. It is in fact the modernized and socially acceptable articulations of this old hatred that, largely unchecked, have been on the rise in recent years. Most notable among the discourses promoted by some academics has been the “nazification” of the Jewish State, namely the comparison of Israel and its actions to the Third Reich and Nazi policies. However critical one’s perspective on Israel’s actions might be, such criticism does not have much to do with the realities of the Middle East. It rather reveals something about the state of mind of the critic, who clearly uses the Jewish State as a psychological projection screen for his or her own sensitivities.[30]

Such analogies can in fact take different forms. They range from direct equations between Israel or its actions and the Third Reich and its methods to indirect variations of this theme such as the topos of the “Palestinians as the victims of the victims,” or the characterization of Palestinian “refugee camps” as “concentration camps.” A particularly interesting version is the one presented by Udo Steinbach, then director of the German Orient Institute in Hamburg and later director of the Institute of Middle East Studies in Hamburg. Steinbach said that :”If we see how Israeli tanks drive through Palestinian villages and how the desperate people defend themselves with stones, then we have to be allowed to ask with respect to Warsaw and the uprising of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto whether this was not also terrorism?[31]”

Steinbach leaves open the question of whether the uprising in the ghetto constituted resistance-in this case the Israelis would be for the Palestinians what the Nazis were for the Jews-or was rather a form of terrorism-in which case the Nazis would not really have been “the Nazis” and the uprising of the Jews against them not really justified. What this example shows is that the projection and the relativization of guilt are in fact two sides of the same coin: the Holocaust does not have to be denied and the self-proclaimed critic does not have to become a sympathizer of the Nazis in order to castigate the Jews. Quite the contrary: the victims (or their descendants) are portrayed in the role of the “new” perpetrators.[32]

That this kind of anti-Semitism is only hardly, if at all, reprimanded and sidelined by society is corroborated by the fact that Steinbach’s superiors did not punish him in any open manner. The Orient Institute’s Board of Trustees, comprised of well-known decision-makers from various sectors of society including politics, business, labour, and the academia, did not react at all to an open letter of protest demanding Steinbach’s resignation. Neither the Institute, nor its co-sponsors, namely the German Foreign Office and the City of Hamburg, intervened. Claudia Roth, Member of the Bundestag for the Green Party and then Federal Commissioner for Human Rights, was one of the trustees of the Institute. In a speech on anti-Semitism she had previously given in the Bundestag she cautioned explicitly against such analogies by pointing at their relativizing function concerning “the historical guilt of the Germans to the Jews.”[33] She informed the professor in a letter that she found his remarks “not unproblematic,” yet she ultimately contented herself with a written explanation by him, in which he de facto insisted on his comparison. The same is also true of her co-trustee and parliamentary colleague Ruprecht Polenz, from the Christian Democratic Union. Polenz had told Steinbach’s critics that he found such comparisons “improper and mistaken,” but he failed to mention what kind of steps he would take practically.[34]

In order to legitimize his analogy, Steinbach referred to Holocaust survivors and “numerous direct mails from Jewish scientists” who had purportedly “agreed with him-in part, with qualifications.” He eventually tried to conclude the affair by portraying the argument as “an inner-Jewish discourse” on which he “would not comment.”[35] This recourse to alleged, or real, Jewish “chief witnesses” invoked to underpin one’s position reveals itself to be a pattern of anti-Semitic thinking. It implicitly assumes that

a) the anti-Semitic nature of a remark depends on who the person is who makes it;

b) people of Jewish origin cannot be subject to the kind of prejudice that others can; and

c) Jews have a particular inborn authority to speak on Israel and the Middle East conflict.

There are two logical inferences behind such thinking. One is that Jews have been morally refined through suffering, in which case the injustice committed against them receives a sort of a posterior purpose, if not justification. Alternatively, they must be a priori different from others in that they are incapable of holding the same kind of resentments as everyone else. In either case, Jews are not perceived first and foremost as individuals but always as representatives of their group. The Working Definition holds that one contemporary example of anti-Semitism could be “[a]ccusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.”[36] A corollary of this would also be to preclude that remarks and acts by any Jewish individual or group-no matter whether perceived as positive or negative-are perceived or portrayed as representative of a Jewish collective. Indeed, imputing a meaning to what an individual says that has relevancy above and beyond this person because of his or her belonging to a particular collective reveals a certain bias.

It seems that exactly such flawed and implicitly biased reasoning was behind the invitation of Alfred Grosser to a hearing on anti-Semitism in the German Bundestag in 2004 where he made the following statements:[37]

  • “As I was already allowed to say in the Frauenkirche in Dresden: it’s about understanding the suffering of others. This understanding generally does not exist on the part of Jews;”[38]
  • “Yet it is furthering anti-Semitism if one does not at the same time fight other forms of racism. And that is a task of Jews and Jewish organizations;”[39] and
  • “And if the question is asked why I argue so harshly against the policies of the Israeli government while Rwanda is so much worse, I say precisely because… [m]y Jewish origin is the reason that I have to be stricter on Israel than elsewhere.”[40]

Grosser, a noted sociologist and political scientist, who taught at Science Po in Paris and served as Studies Director at the French National Foundation of Political Science, is neither known for his strong Jewish identity nor for any particular expertise on anti-Semitism, or the Middle East conflict. Yet the combination of his general, in terms of the topic under discussion largely irrelevant, academic credentials and his Jewish family roots is cited whenever he is interviewed about anti-Semitism and Israel. It is almost as if he possesses something genetic that inherently enables him to speak with a particular authority on these matters. In his view, Israel enhances, or even causes, anti-Semitism. This is evidently clear from an interview he gave to the Berliner Zeitung[41] in which he said: “Criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism have nothing to do with each other. It is rather Israel’s policies that promote anti-Semitism globally.”[42] Thereby Grosser provides anti-Semitism, an utterly irrational delusion-or as Theodor W. Adorno described it “the rumour about the Jews”[43]-with a seemingly rational pretext.

The strategy of blaming the victim for what happens to him is by no means new. Anti-Semitism has always, even more so after Auschwitz, portrayed the actions that resulted from it as acts of self-defense against alleged Jewish machinations and wrongdoings on the part of all, or at least some, Jews. Not only is holding the Jewish people responsible for real or imagined wrongdoings of individual or groups of Jews therefore cited as one example of anti-Semitism by the aforementioned Working Definition (as was noted above), but also “[h]olding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

Grosser’s pronouncements have been appearing in numerous German and French media publications, most notably in a ten-page article in the February 2007 issue of Germany’s most renowned foreign policy journal Internationale Politik.[44] In this article he expressed his incomprehension “that Jews nowadays despise others and claim the right to pursue policies mercilessly in the name of self-defense. Understanding the suffering of others-does this basic European value not hold all the more for Israel?”[45] This in turn implicitly imputes a cathartic, if not reformatory, character to the Holocaust, providing the unspeakable retroactively with a degree of purpose and reproducing the exclusion of Jews once more. Jews are now hated neither in spite nor because of Auschwitz, to build on a well-known bon mot, but because of not having learned the alleged lessons of the unprecedented crime to which they had been subjected.

The modern anti-Semitic patterns of argument outlined thus far all have in common the desire to put anti-Semitism on a rational footing. Precisely such rationalization is in essence the first step towards justification. It highlights the crucial role played by scholars and intellectuals, for it is the aim of academia to advance the pervasion of reason throughout the world. Yet the failure to endow rationality with the necessary momentum of self-reflection by and on the subject itself abets irrationality and delusion. Variants on these anti-Semitic ideologemes can be found in otherwise respected academic discourse. One example is German political scientist Eckhard Jesse’s defense of Free Democratic Party’s Vice-Chairman Jürgen Möllemann against the “killer argument anti-Semitism”[46] for the latter’s remarks about then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the vice-chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Möllemann had claimed that “hardly anyone has increased the throng of anti-Semites, who unfortunately exist in Germany and who we have to fight, more than Mr. Sharon and-in Germany-a Mr. Friedman through his intolerant and invidious manner.”[47]

Another example of this is a question posed by Norman Paech, then professor of public law at the University for Science and Politics in Hamburg and current Foreign Policy Spokesman of the Left’s party grouping in the Bundestag, to German-Jewish Professor Micha Brumlik. In an open letter responding to Brumlik’s criticism of the Canadian philosopher Ted Honderich for legitimizing terrorism, Paech asked him whether it has “occurred to you that such an executivist censure of thought could give a fresh boost to anti-Semitism, which, after all, clearly exists in our society?”[48]

On another occasion, Paech claimed that Israel was waging a “war of extermination”[49] in Lebanon, thereby using a specific term in characterizing the actions of the Jewish State that is clearly associated with the kind of battle conducted by the Nazis in Eastern Europe.[50] His use of the ideologeme of the (co-)responsibility of Jews for anti-Semitism, as well as the double standards in the treatment of Israel, by no means epitomize a slip of the pen. Both constitute positions that Paech had already been promoting decades earlier. At the time he had written in the Hamburger Lehrerzeitung that “Israel has, however, to ask itself indeed whether its Palestine policy does not fuel a latent anti-Semitism in Germany, which we cannot counter by remaining silent.”[51]

The aforementioned “nazification” of Israel can also manifest itself in the topos of the Palestinians as the “victims’ victims.” This is, for instance, advanced by the Jewish-born philosopher Ernst Tugendhat. In his acceptance speech on the occasion of his receiving the Meister Eckhart Award by the Identity Foundation in 2005 he said that[52] “[a]s a Jew I am ashamed in the face of the oppression which the remaining Palestinians in the West Bank are subjected to at the hands of their Jewish occupiers. Non-Jews in this country too are not indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians because one can see in the anti-Semitic past of Central and Eastern Europe an indirect co-responsibility….[Si]nce one has to fear that the Israeli settlement policy will be tantamount to the annexation of remaining Palestine…, one has to ask anxiously whether it should have been possible for us Jews to escape annihilation by shuffling our fate of expulsion off onto another people?[53]”

His espousal of the “victims of the victims” topos became evident once again in an interview published in 2006 in which he remarked that one “[w]ho used to be persecuted does not earn thereby the right to persecute others. If one has been kicked out of a house, it does not give one the right to break into another house.”[54] Given the implicit but obvious parallel drawn between the actions of Israel and those of the Nazis, attempts at rationalizing anti-Jewish sentiments would appear to be a corollary of the underlying logic. Indeed, as early as 1991, while teaching at the Free University of Berlin, Tugendhat had already posed the rhetorical question: “Must we Jews not say that our arrogance and your anti-Semitism belong together?”[55] These positions would clearly qualify as anti-Semitic under the Working Definition.

Similarly, in May 2007 Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, one of Germany’s leading academic periodicals on domestic and foreign policy, published an article by Rolf Verleger, professor of neurophysiology at the University of Lübeck, in the wake of a debate about Jewish identity and its relationship to Israel.[56] Verleger became known publicly as a member of the board of directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany when he voiced one-sided criticism of Israel during the 2006 war in Lebanon. As a result of this his home community ended his term as delegate to the council.[57] He subsequently launched a signature campaign in favor of greater international pressure on Israel to force it to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories.[58]

It appears that Verleger’s rather one-sided criticism of Israel draws on sources which include the writings of the aforementioned Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor, who has attempted to establish himself as one of the most vocal critics of Israel in recent years. Pleading for a universalist ethic deriving from Judaism, Verleger’s article refers to the book The End of Judaism by “the great Hajo Meyer.”[59] What can clearly be understood as nothing short of a full endorsement of the latter’s positions-for there is not a word of distancing or criticism in Verleger’s text-gains a new dimension when taking into consideration that in this very book Meyer speaks of the “Israeli Wehrmacht,” the “Jewish SS,” and the myth that “the Jews aim to rule the world”- allegedly not long to remain only a myth.[60]

Interestingly, the same issue of Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik also featured an open letter by Michal Bodemann, German-Jewish professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, to Micha Brumlik. This letter defended both Alfred Grosser and Rolf Verleger (without dealing with what the former had in fact said and written).[61] As in the cases of Grosser, Meyer, and those Jewish-American academics Chomsky or Finkelstein, whose recent solidarity visits to the openly anti-Semitic terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon were highly publicized,[62] the question of whether Jews can be anti-Semitic once again blends into the debate about academic anti-Semitism. A negative answer to this question would epitomize the bias mentioned above that whether a remark indeed possesses an anti-Semitic quality depends somehow on who the speaker is or his family origin.[63]

The same holds true for actual researchers of anti-Semitism itself. To deal with a social phenomenon does not lift a scholar out of the society that has shaped his attitudes in one way or another. An approach to social research that aspires towards enlightenment requires first and foremost a permanent process of self-reflection on one’s own biases. As Rensmann has noted, “[r]esearch cannot limit itself a priori to an analysis of the extreme right or of neo-Nazism, as much as time has come for such examination. It also has to have an eye on social phenomena such as political, legal and socio-cultural processes and to develop reflexive ways and methods of dealing therewith, mindful of the fact that researchers on anti-Semitism themselves are not a priori free from activating stereotypes, if they write about anti-Semitism and about (images of) the Jews, and they therefore have to expose themselves to respective critical assessments.[64]”

Klaus Holz, sociologist and head of the Lutheran Foundation for Advanced Studies in Villigst, constitutes a point in case. He has been noted for his work on “national anti-Semitism”[65] and gave the main lecture at an academic symposium on anti-Semitism organized by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Berlin in 2005.[66] In 2002 Holz had published a lengthy dossier under the title “Guilt and Remembrance” in the un-dogmatic left-wing weekly Jungle World, jointly with historian Elfriede Müller and professor of political science at the University of Picardie in Amiens and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris Enzo Traverso.[67] In it, Holz reiterated various ideologemes of left-wing anti-Zionism such as the reproach that Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was aiming at the “destruction of Palestinian civil society,”[68] and that Palestinian “violence” was a reaction to Israeli “state terrorism.”[69] While stopping short of drawing a direct analogy between Israel and Nazi Germany, Holz and his co-authors compared Israel’s policies to those of South Africa under the apartheid regime.[70] However, they left it to others to infuse the “nazification” topos with a degree of legitimacy, alluding to the Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan, who had argued that the comparison between Sharon and the Nazis was customary among Israeli pacifists.

Holz, Müller and Traverso termed the remarks of the Portuguese author José Saramago, that the Israeli blockade of Ramallah was “in the spirit of Auschwitz” and that “this place is being turned into a concentration camp,” absurd. Yet at the same time, they belittled his comparison by suggesting that the Nobel Prize Laureate had only wanted to express his horror at the Israeli occupation policy and had done so by using a wrong historical image. They failed to mention a further statement that Saramago also made in this respect, that “the Israeli people and its army are profiting from the Holocaust.”[71] The authors went on to argue that looked at through the “Auschwitz screen,”[72] which was allegedly distorting the perception of left-wing defenders of Israel, “Jews are only a metonymical figure, in which the murdered of yesterday are superimposed on the oppressors of today.”[73] In their view “the banalization of the events in the occupied territories in the name of the remembrance of Auschwitz deserves our outrage.”[74] Although they conceded that the Israeli state never intended “to exterminate” the Palestinians, they claimed that the continuation of the occupation could, over decades, “threaten the existence of the Palestinian population.”[75] Conversely, Holz et al. denied that the Arab world poses any existential threat to Israel.[76] Furthermore, they downplayed the historical nexus between Nazi Germany and contemporary Palestinian anti-Semitism, which they euphemistically call “anti-Zionism.”[77]

Klaus Holz not only repeatedly comes close to actuating the “nazification” topos by defending those who draw such analogies and in using Israeli “chief witnesses” as proof of the legitimacy of such discourse, but he also rationalizes Palestinian terrorism as an exclusive reaction to Israeli behavior. A similar line is taken by him in arguing that “[r]ather anti-Semitism among immigrant groups manifests itself often only on the basis of their experience in the country of immigration. Its preconditions comprise their social, racist and religiously justified exclusion.”[78] This is relevant in terms of the Working Definition, which does not differentiate between types of anti-Semitism with or without rational justification, but mentions as a contemporary example of an anti-Jewish expression the placing of responsibility on the Jews as a collective for a “real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews” (emphasis added by the author), as was noted above in the discussion of the Working Definition.[79] Recent empirical research also refutes the veracity of Holz’s claim that anti-Semitism among Muslim migrants is largely a reaction to the Middle East conflict or Israel’s policies.[80]

The singling out of Israel is clearly epitomized by the boycott movement among the academic teachers’ unions in Great Britain. It is an example of what the Working Definition mentions as “[a]pplying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”[81] While several boycott resolutions against particular Israeli universities or academia in general were passed in recent years within the bodies that represent teachers in higher education in Great Britain, these could not be implemented for various reasons. Nonetheless, it may be assumed that they had an impact on the general discourse about Israel and anti-Semitism.[82] As Manfred Gerstenfeld has argued, “[t]he academic boycott and similar attempts should be seen in the context of the much broader, multiple, ongoing attacks against the Jewish people and Israel.”[83]

By contrast, the anti-Israel boycott movement has, so far, not been able to gain comparable momentum in other European countries.[84] However, even outside of Great Britain one can observe increasing attempts among certain sections of academia to promote in more coordinated fashion positions that come very close to, or overlap with, the topoi covered by the Working Definition. A case in point was the so-called lecture series “Germany-Israel-Palestine” in 2005, organized by Georg Meggle, professor of philosophy at the University of Leipzig.[85] While attempting to appear even-handed in the selection of the guest lecturers who were invited to address the audience, Meggle in fact invited a number speakers known to promote positions that would qualify as anti-Semitic under the Working Definition of Antisemitism. Among them were:

  • Ted Honderich (mentioned above), who on his website had previously claimed that “the Palestinians are right to look back to Fascist Germany and say that they are the Jews of the Jews.”[86]
  • Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, who remarked in an article that “the Sharon government is a giant laboratory for the growing of the anti-Semitism virus. It exports it to the whole world. Anti-Semitic organizations, which for many years vegetated on the margins of society, rejected and despised, are suddenly growing and flowering.”[87]
  • Noam Chomsky who, in addressing the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign in December 2002, claimed that “[b]y now Jews in the U.S. are the most privileged and influential part of the population….Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98 percent control. That’s why anti-Semitism is becoming an issue. Not because of the threat of anti-Semitism; they want to make sure there’s no critical look at the policies the U.S. (and they themselves) support in the Middle East” (emphases by the author Oliver Kamm who quotes from Chomsky’s speech).[88]
  • Uwe Steinhoff, philosopher and research associate at the University of Oxford. In his lecture Steinhoff compared Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi organizer of the “Final Solution.” This comparison was based on Sharon’s “indirect responsibility” for the 1982 massacres in Sabra and Shatila. Steinhoff said that “Eichmann, by the way, also never personally killed a Jew but only helped in their murder.”[89]
  • Hajo Meyer, who in his lecture said that “what is happening to the Palestinians every day under the occupation” is “almost identical” with “what was done to the German Jews even before the ‘Final Solution.'”[90] He also claimed that “[i]f there is something such as a rise in anti-Semitism at all, then its main cause lies in the demeanor of Israel itself.”[91]

Stopping short of openly supporting Meyer’s views, Meggle clearly endorsed the moral lessons that Meyer claimed to have drawn from the past. He concluded by indirectly casting the Israelis as real or potential perpetrators: “[h]e who himself becomes perpetrator, ultimately loses his own soul. (This is the lesson, which [Steven] Spielberg’s “Prayer for Peace”-his new film “Munich”-rightly suggests to us and to the Israelis.)”[92]

The hitherto most notable coordinated attempt on the part of German and Austrian academics at infusing anti-Semitic ideologema into public discourse is the so-called “Manifesto of the 25.”[93] The signatories, most of them more or less well-known professors of political science at German universities, as well as peace researchers, allegedly aim at a rebalancing of German-Israeli relations by stressing the continuation of friendship between the two countries while insisting on Germany’s right to voice criticism of its Israeli partner. However, their reasoning is not only flawed, but reveals elements that appear relevant under the Working Definition. Their main argument is that the creation of Israel led to the plight of the Palestinians and was itself the direct result of the Holocaust, for which Germany and Europe bear responsibility. Hence, while they recognize the “global historic uniqueness of the Holocaust,”[94] they claim that Germany and Europe also have a particular responsibility toward “the Palestinian population.”[95] The Palestinian population, in turn, “has not the least share in the outsourcing of a portion of the European problems into the Middle East.”[96] They maintain in particular that: “[i]t is the Holocaust that has brought suffering on (Muslim, Christian and Druze) Palestinians, which has been ongoing for six decades and is currently enhanced to the degree of intolerability. This is not the same as if the Third Reich had committed genocide against the Palestinians. But innumerable deaths resulted in this case too, the tearing apart of families, the expulsion, or the dwelling in makeshift accommodation until today. Without the Holocaust against the Jews, Israeli policy would not see itself justified and/or constrained to flout so adamantly the human rights of the Palestinians and of the citizens of Lebanon in order to secure its existence.[97]”

Not only does this account of the Middle East conflict distort history by denying the role played by the Palestinian and Arab national movement under the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in Nazi Germany’s war against the Jews,[98] but it clearly negates any idea of moral agency on the part of Arabs, portraying them in a rather paternalizing manner as the hapless objects of German action. “Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplicesduring World War II (the Holocaust)” (emphases added by author) is in fact cited as one contemporary example of anti-Semitism by the Working Definition.[99] Moreover, the signatories of the “Manifesto of the 25” claim that “[t]ogether with the initially mentioned implicit prohibition to voice open criticism of Israeli decisions, philo-Semitism in Germany bolsters anti-Semitism rather than weakening it.”[100]

The notion that anti-Semitism nowadays constitutes somewhat a function of the degree to which Israel is (or is not) criticized epitomizes flawed reasoning in the sense that it provides hatred of Jews with a rational basis. It also becomes relevant in the context of the Working Definition under the section that deems the accusation of Jews as a people of responsibility for a real or imagined misdemeanor by a Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews to be a contemporary example of anti-Semitism. Moreover, the very fact that the authors deny that they are comparing the Holocaust to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians remains not only dubitable, given the direct causal link they make between the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis and the plight of the Palestinians, but is clearly contradicted by the fact that Udo Steinbach and Georg Meggle, who have both contributed to the “nazification” topos, feature among the signatories.

That an obsession with Israel informs modern anti-Semitism to a considerable degree has been acknowledged by the Working Definition: it contains a section with five (not necessarily exhaustive) examples of possible anti-Semitic manifestations with regard to the Jewish State. However, while constituting an important tool in identifying anti-Semitism, the document has arguably so far not even filtered down to relevant state institutions, such as Germany’s Federal Agency for Civic Education, which, amongst other things, deals precisely with educating and informing about anti-Semitism. Its employee Ludwig Watzal (mentioned above), who previously maintained a lectureship at the University of Bonn, has written articles that have appeared in magazines such as Intifada on,[101] a transnational left-wing anti-imperialist website that calls for solidarity with Hamas,[102] support of Hezbollah,[103] and the raising of funds for “Iraqi resistance.”[104] Watzal also published an article entitled “An Israelization of the world?”[105] in the periodical International, containing the following passage: “Does the rest of the world also face imminent Israelization now that the U.S. has been Israelized?”[106] This clearly relates to an example of anti-Semitism with regard to Israel presented in the Working Definition: “Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”[107]

Moreover, in a (positive) review of “Galilee Flowers”[108] by Israel Shamir, a book which abounds with classical stereotypes about Jewish revengefulness, materialism, control of the world stock market, and domination of the media,[109] that appeared in the weekly Freitag, Watzal wrote:[110] “To this was added the fact that he [Israel Shamir] converted to Christianity as Mordechai Vanunu did too; he will never be pardoned by Judaism for this. Therewith his problems began.”[111] The Working Definition cites the following example of contemporary anti-Semitism in this respect: “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective….”[112] The same example holds true for an earlier piece about an Israeli media entrepreneur entitled “Haim Saban, the Media and Israel” that was broadcast by DeutschlandRadio Berlin.[113] Here Watzal claimed that “[t]he escapades of the so-called Holocaust industry are at any rate rather bizarre and an insult to the victims of National Socialist extermination policy. The actions of Saban have, however, nothing to do with conspiracy thinking, but they are evidence of how symbiotic the relationship between power and money is. Saban’s political desire is to obtain as much control over the media as possible. Peter Chernin, the President and head of the News Corporation has pointed out that the Hollywood mogul has not become involved in Germany for purely financial considerations, but that he regards the country as the basis for something bigger.[114]”

Juliane Wetzel, of the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Technical University of Berlin, commented at the time that in this radio piece “he [Watzal] activates the typical clichés of Jewish capital and Jewish power.”[115] For years Watzal’s superiors seemed unwilling to take externally visible action regarding their employee.[116] Only in the wake of strong protests by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, as well as numerous Jewish and non-Jewish NGOs, to the Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble in mid-2008[117] was Watzal relocated to another position within the Federal Agency for Civic Education in which he would allegedly no longer assume any editorial tasks.[118]


Most of the statements by academics mentioned above that qualify as “anti-Semitic” under the Working Definition would probably have hardly any relevance under penal law. However, this does not discharge society in general and its elites in particular from the duty to reprimand and punish such hateful language and those who inject the respective narratives into public mainstream discourses. Indeed, as Lars Rensmann has remarked, “only the critical public pervasion of one’s proper cultural shares and political-psychological motives that are bound up with anti-Semitic images, together with a consistent public discrediting of anti-Semitic prejudice, could contribute to a reduction of anti-Jewish stereotypy, and that hence the importance of political discourses and processes of self-understanding should not be underestimated.”[119] Yet it must be concluded that societal decision-makers in most cases fall short of exploiting their respective possibilities, often failing to understand the nature of the problem as such even when it is pointed out, or shying away from the controversial arguments that would inevitably ensue within their own ranks.

The absence of firm and consistent political leadership on the issue of confronting the new forms of anti-Semitism highlights once again the important role that must be attached to education. It must be taken into account that anti-Zionism, while historically a distinct phenomenon that only partially overlapped with anti-Semitism, has nowadays become the most modern and socially opportune form of the old anti-Jewish resentment. A separation line between the two categories-as is, for instance, drawn by the various Offices for the Protection of the Constitution on a federal and state level in Germany[120]-is not only an artificial one, in that it overlooks the core of the problem, but could potentially also abet the social acceptance of modernized manifestations of anti-Semitism. It is in the context of the contemporary academic discussion in Germany, not only on the Middle East conflict but on the very problem of anti-Semitism itself, that under a largely still functioning consensus of proscription and repression of openly anti-Jewish articulations modernized anti-Semitic arguments and ideologemes have been advanced. At times, this is done along highly sophisticated lines and with considerable deftness. Therefore, they often remain unidentified and unchallenged, in turn allowing them to reconnect to widespread attitudes among the broader population and to instill such lingering resentment with new intellectual legitimacy.


*     *     *


[1].”Der Antisemitismus, enthalten im Anti-Israelismus oder Anti-Zionismus wie das Gewitter in der Wolke, ist wiederum ehrbar.” Jean Amery, “Der ehrbare Antisemitismus,” Die Zeit, 25 July 1969. [German] All translations from German in this article are the author’s own.

[2]. See Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhaß. Über den neuen antijüdischen Krieg (Freiburg: ça ira, 2003), 151-160. [German]

[3]. Andrei S. Markovits, “‘Twin Brothers’: European Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism,” Jewish Political Studies Review, 6 (2006).

[4]. For an overview of German-Israeli cooperation in the field of R&D since the beginning of the 1990s see Yves Pallade, Germany and Israel in the 1990s and Beyond: Still a ‘Special Relationship’? (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2005).

[5]. See Lars Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild. Antisemitismus in der politischen Kultur der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004) [German]; Klaus Faber, Julius H. Schoeps and Sacha Stawski, eds., Neu-alter Judenhass. Antisemitismus, arabisch-israelischer Konflikt und europäische Politik (Berlin: Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, 2006) [German]; Yves Pallade, “Antisemitismus in Deutschland: Politikwissenschaftliche Analysen,” in Lars Rensmann and Julius H. Schoeps, eds., Feindbild Judentum. Antisemitismus in Europa(Berlin: Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, 2008). [German]

[6]. While there has been little academic literature so far on the contemporary forms of academic anti-Semitism in Germany, a few notable exceptions do exist. See Tobias Jaecker, “Antizionistisches Einerlei. Unter dem Deckmantel der Wissenschaftsfreiheit: Antisemitismus im akademischen Milieu,”, 24 February 2006. [German]

Even the collection of articles on contemporary worldwide anti-Semitism in the academic sphere in the volume by Manfred Gerstenfeld does not feature a chapter on Germany. Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed., Academics against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007).

[7]. “Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2004 and Designations of Countries of Particular Concern.” Hearing before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, Second Session, 6 October 2004,

[8]. Deniz Yücel, “Jihad im Überbau,” Jungle World, 20 November 2002. [German]

[9]. Institute for Historical Review,

[10]. Adelaide Institute,

[11]. IPIS-Institute for Political and International Studies,

[12]. Matthias Küntzel, “Ahmadinejads Antisemitismus und der gegenwärtige Krieg,” [German]

[13]. Daniela Siebert, “Gunther Mulack: Politische Differenzen zur Sprache bringen,” qantara, 4 April 2005, [German]

[14]. Matthias Küntzel, “Antisemitismus als Kampfauftrag. Mahathirs Ansprache an die islamische Welt,” November 2003, [German]

[15]. “Das Ende der Dämonisierung. Bernd Rabehl im Gespräch über die alte und neue ‘Außerparlamentarische Opposition’,” Deutsche Stimme, March 2005. [German]

[16]. The text of the article was later published in Junge Freiheit. See Konrad Löw, “Eingedenk seiner mehr als tausendjährigen Geschichte,” Junge Freiheit, 16 April 2004. [German]

[17]. “Würde man ganz konkret auf die Schicksale der Einzelnen eingehen, würde man wohl zu der Einsicht gelangen, daß sie weit mehr Opfer als Täter waren, Opfer freilich in nicht so schrecklichem Ausmaße wie das Gros der Juden.”

[18]. “Aber Goldhagen hat doch bewiesen, daß Hitler schier zahllose Helfer bei der Umsetzung seiner Endlösungspläne fand: Deutsche, Ukrainer, Letten usw. Was nicht in sein Bild paßt, sind Juden. Doch auch von ihnen leisteten einige einen beachtlichen Beitrag als Judenräte, als Häscher, als Polizisten, in den Gaskammern.”

[19]. “Gibt es einen zuverlässigeren Chronisten der deutsch-jüdischen Symbiose unter dem Hakenkreuz als den Juden und Literaten Victor Klemperer…?”

[20]. Joachim Güntner, “Schleusenwärter. Die Restauflage des ‘Deutschland Archivs’ wegen revisionistischer Töne eingestampft, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 21 April 2004. [German]

[21]. Wolfgang Schieder, “Studienziel Tabubruch,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31 August 2007. [German]

[22]. Natan Sharansky, “Anti-Semitism in 3-D. Differentiating Legitimate Criticism of Israel from the So-Called New Anti-Semitism,”

[23]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism,”

[24]. Gert Weisskirchen, “Combating Anti-Semitism ‘Best Practices’ Already Exist-It Is Time to Make Use of Them,” Equal Voices 17 (2006).

[25]. “Kapazitäten für angewandte Judäophobie.” See Henryk M. Broder, “Holo mit Hajo: Wie zwei Juden für die Leipziger den Adolf machen,” (censored version). [German]

[26]. Hans Riebsamen, “Melzer obsiegt über Broder,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27 January 2006. [German]

[27]. Alex Feuerherdt, “Den Adolf gemacht,” Der Tagesspiegel, 9 November 2007. [German]

[28]. Text of the cease-and-desist declaration (Unterlassungsverpflichtungserklärung) sent to Samuel Laster by lawyer Winfried Seibert on behalf of Ludwig Watzal.

[29]. Matthias Küntzel, “Tag Watzal! Darf ich Sie Antisemit nennen? Die ‘’ vor der Pressekammer des Hamburger Landgerichts,” November 2005, [German]

[30]. Andrei S. Markovits explains that “[n]azifying Israel makes it possible to kill three birds with one stone: The first objective achieved is the delegitimization of Israel by associating it with the symbol of evil par excellence. Secondly, one can attack and humiliate the Jewish people by equating it with the perpetrators of the brutal genocide that nearly succeeded in exterminating the Jews completely. Finally, this malicious analogy between Israelis and Nazis frees Europeans of any remorse or shame for their history of a lethal anti-Semitism that lasted centuries. Above all, it liberates Europeans from any residual guilt that they might have experienced in the wake of the Shoah. If the Israelis-who are mostly Jews, after all-can be depicted as Nazis, then not having helped them during World War II might not have been such a bad thing after all.” See Andrei S. Markovits, “‘Twin Brothers’: European Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism,” Jewish Political Studies Review 6 (January 2006).

[31]. “Wenn wir sehen, wie israelische Panzer durch palästinensische Dörfer fahren und sich die verzweifelten Menschen mit Steinen wehren, dann müssen wir im Blick auf Warschau und im Blick auf den Aufstand der Juden im Warschauer Ghetto auch fragen dürfen, war das nicht auch Terror?” See “Kritik am Hamburger Orient-Institut und seinem Leiter,” 6 August 2004, [German]

[32]. While the “nazification” topos constitutes a particular variation of a more discursive general trend of Holocaust trivialization through narratives that promote the idea of an “abortion holocaust,” an “ecological holocaust,” an “animal holocaust,” or a “bombing Holocaust,” it is by far the most relevant manifestation of “new anti-Semitism” in contemporary academic and intellectual discourse in Germany in terms of quantity and acceptance. The numerous other Holocaust-related analogies are largely (though certainly not exclusively) confined to non-academic discourses, most prominently in the political sphere but also among sections of the anti-abortion, animals rights, environmentalist, or revisionist/neo-Nazi movements.

[33]. Claudia Roth in the debate “Antisemitismus bekämpfen,” Deutscher Bundestag, 82 Sitzung, 11 December 2003. [German]

[34]. For a more comprehensive overview of the Steinbach affair see Yves Pallade, “Medialer Sekundärantisemitismus, öffentliche Meinung und das Versagen gesellschaftlicher Eliten als bundesdeutscher Normalfall,” in Julius H. Schoeps, Klaus Faber, and Sacha Stawski, eds., Neu-alter Judenhass. Antisemitismus, arabisch-israelischer Konflikt und europäische Politik (Berlin: Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, 2006). [German]

[35]. “Kritik am Hamburger Orient-Institut und seinem Leiter,” 6 August 2004, [German]

[36]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”.

[37]. Protokoll, Öffentliches Expertengespräch zur Umsetzung der Abschlusserklärung der Berliner Antisemitismuskonferenz vom April 2004, 22 November 2004, Deutscher Bundestag, [German]

[38]. “Wie ich schon einmal in der Dresdner Frauenkirche sagen durfte, es geht darum, das Leiden anderer zu verstehen. Dieses Verstehen ist auf jüdischer Seite im Allgemeinen nicht vorhanden.”

[39]. “Es ist aber Antisemitismus fördernd, wenn man nicht zugleich andere Rassismen bekämpft. Und das ist eine Aufgabe von Juden und jüdischen Organisationen.”

[40]. “Und wenn die Frage gestellt wird, warum ich harsch gegen die Politik der israelischen Regierung argumentiere, wo Ruanda doch viel schlimmer ist, sage ich eben gerade….Mein jüdischer Ursprung macht, dass ich für Israel strenger zu sein habe als woanders.”

[41]. “Israels Politik fördert den Antisemitismus. Der Publizist Alfred Grosser plädiert für eine Strategie der Versöhnung gegenüber den Arabern,”Berliner Zeitung, 15 August 2006. [German]

[42]. “Kritik an Israel und Antisemitismus haben nichts miteinander zu tun. Es ist vielmehr Israels Politik, die den Antisemitismus in der Welt fördert.”

[43]. “Der Antisemitismus ist das Gerücht über die Juden.” Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia. Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2001) 200. [German]

[44]. Alfred Grosser, “Warum ich Israel kritisiere,” Internationale Politik, February 2007. [German]

[45]. “Ich verstehe nicht, dass Juden heute andere verachten und sich das Recht nehmen, im Namen der Selbstverteidigung unbarmherzig Politik zu betreiben. Verständnis für die Leiden der anderen-gilt dieser Grundwert Europas nicht erst recht für Israel?”

[46].”Schlage-tot-Argument Antisemitismus.” Günther Hörbst, “Totschlagargument Antisemitismus,” Hamburger Abendblatt, 29 May 2002. [German]

[47].”Ich fürchte, dass kaum jemand den Antisemiten, die es in Deutschland leider gibt und die wir bekämpfen müssen, mehr Zulauf verschafft hat als Herr Scharon und in Deutschland ein Herr Friedman mit seiner intoleranten und gehässigen Art.” Nico Fried and Kristian Frigelj, “Machtkampf in der FDP,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18/19 May 2002. [German]

[48]. Open letter by Norman Paech to Micha Brumlik, 29 October 2003, [German]

[49]. “Vernichtungskrieg.”

[50]. “‘Deutsche Soldaten in Israel nicht denkbar’. Der Völkerrechtler Norman Paech, für die Linkspartei im Bundestag: Vorgehen Israels im Libanon unverhältnismäßig, Interview mit Norman Paech,” taz (die tageszeitung), 26 July 2006. [German]

[51]. Cited in Eike Geisel, “Der hilflose Antisemitismus. Anmerkungen zu seiner Hamburger Verübung,” in Eike Geisel, Die Banalität der Guten.Deutsche Seelenwanderungen (Berlin: Edition Tiamat, 1992), 100. [German]

[52]. Ernst Tugendhat, “Vortrag anlässlich der Verleihung des Meister-Eckhart-Preises,” 5 December 2005, [German]

[53]. “Als Jude stehe ich beschämt angesichts der Unterdrückung, der die noch im Westjordanland verbliebenen Palästinenser von Seiten ihrer jüdischen Besatzer ausgesetzt sind. Auch auf nichtjüdischer Seite steht man ja hierzulande dem Schicksal der Palästinenser nicht gleichgültig gegenüber, da man in der antisemitischen Vergangenheit Mittel- und Osteuropas eine indirekte Mitverantwortung sehen kann….Da man befürchten muss, dass die israelische Siedlungspolitik auf die Annexion von Restpalästina hinausläuft…, muss man sich beklommen fragen: soll es denn uns Juden nur möglich gewesen sein, der Vernichtung zu entgehen, indem wir das Schicksal der Vertreibung auf ein anderes Volk abwälzen?”

[54].”Wer verfolgt wurde, erwirbt dadurch nicht das Recht, andere zu verfolgen. Wenn man aus einem Haus herausgeworfen wurde, gibt es einem nicht das Recht, in ein anderes Haus einzubrechen.” Michael Hesse, “Die Politik der Unversöhnlichen,” Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 25 March 2006. [German]

[55]. “Müßten wir Juden nicht sagen, dass unsere Arroganz und euer Antisemitismus zusammengehören?” Cited in Oliver Tolmein, “Deutsche Ethik. Wie der Philosoph Ernst Tugendhat für Frieden und für ‘Euthanasie’ eintritt und damit auf begeisterte Zustimmung in der linken und alternativen Szene stößt,” Konkret (May 1991). [German]

[56]. Rolf Verleger, “Ethnizität als Religionsersatz,” Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (May 2007). [German]

[57]. Philipp Gessler, “Vertreter des Zentralrats kritisiert Israel,” taz, 8 August 2006 [German]; Philipp Gessler, “Der Provokateur,” taz, 14 August 2006. [German]

[58]. This campaign has been also signed by a number of well-known academics. See Schalom 5767, [German]

[59].”Vgl. das Buch des großartigen Hajo Meyer, Das Ende des Judentums, Neu Isenburg 2005.” Rolf Verleger, “Ethnizität als Religionsersatz,”Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (May 2007), 594. [German]

[60]. Hajo Meyer, Das Ende des Judentums. Der Verfall der israelischen Gesellschaft (New Isenburg: Melzer Verlag, 2005). [German]

[61]. Michal Bodemann, “Offener Brief an Micha Brumlik,” Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (May 2007). [German]

[62]. “U.S. Linguist Noam Chomsky Meets with Hizbullah Leaders in Lebanon,” MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series 1165, 16 May 2006; “U.S. Academic Finkelstein Meets Top Hezbollah Official in Lebanon,” Haaretz, 7 January 2008.

[63]. For an overview of the role played by Jewish self-hatred in more recent anti-Semitic discourses in Germany see Susanne Urban, “Friend or Foe? Jewish Self-Degradation and its Misuse by Anti-Semites in Contemporary Germany,” Nativ 3 (April 2004).

[64].”Die Forschung kann sich nicht a priori auf die Analyse der extremen Rechten oder des Neonazismus zurückziehen, so sehr diese Untersuchung an der Zeit ist. Sie hat den Blick auch differenziert auf gesellschaftliche Phänomene sowie politische, rechtliche und soziokulturelle Prozesse zu richten und dabei reflexive Auseinandersetzungsformen und -methoden zu entwickeln; eingedenk dessen, dass Antisemitismusforscher selbst nicht a priori frei davon sind, Vorurteile zu bedienen, wenn sie über Antisemitismus und Juden(bilder) schreiben und sich deshalb entsprechender kritischer Bewertungen aussetzen müssen.” Lars Rensmann, “Parameter einer selbstreflexiven Antisemitismusforschung,”Sozialwissenschaftliche Literaturrundschau 52 (2006): 63ff. [German]

[65]. Klaus Holz, Nationaler Antisemitismus. Wissenssoziologie einer Weltanschauung (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2001). [German]

[66]. Klaus Holz, “Neuer Antisemitismus? – Wandel und Kontinuität der Judenfeindschaft,” Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz: Neuer Antisemitismus? Judenfeindschaft im politischen und öffentlichen Diskurs. Ein Symposium des Bundesamts für Verfassungsschutz, 5 December 2005, [German]

[67]. Klaus Holz, Elfriede Müller und Enzo Traverso, “Schuld und Erinnerung. Die Shoah, der Nahostkonflikt und die Linke,” Jungle World, 13 November 2002. [German]

[68]. “Die Militarisierung der israelischen Gesellschaft und die Zerschlagung der palästinensischen Zivilgesellschaft sind langfristige Ziele des Premierministers Ariel Sharon…”

[69]. “Die israelische Besatzung ist der Ausdruck eines Staatsterrorismus, die palästinensische Gewalt ist eine Reaktion darauf.”

[70]. “Die VertreterInnen eines ‘Groß-Israel’ wollen eher die Ausweisung, um einen rein jüdischen Staat zu errichten. Der Vergleich mit einem Apartheidssystem ist weit zutreffender.”

[71]. “SWC condemns further statements on Israel by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Press Information, 2 April 2002.

[72]. “Sichtblende Auschwitz.”

[73]. “In diesem verworrenen Rollenspiel sind die Juden nur noch eine metonymische Figur, in der die Ermordeten von gestern die Unterdrücker von heute überlagern.”

[74]. “Wenn Saramagos Worte Kritik verdienen, so verdient die Banalisierung der Geschehnisse in den besetzten Gebieten im Namen der Erinnerung an Auschwitz unsere Entrüstung.”

[75]. “Wenn die Besatzungspolitik des Westjordanlandes und des Gazastreifens sich über Jahrzehnte fortsetzt, wäre nicht nur die Existenz der palästinensischen Bevölkerung bedroht, sondern auch die Demokratie in Israel und die internationale Akzeptanz des Staates.”

[76]. “Eine existentielle militärische Bedrohung des Staates Israel steht aber im Moment gar nicht zur Debatte.”

[77]. “Der Antizionismus in der arabischen Welt und der vieler PalästinenserInnen wird mit dem traditionellen Antisemitismus der westlichen Welt, der die Shoah hervorbrachte, in eins gesetzt.”

[78]. “Vielmehr manifestiert sich der Antisemitismus in Einwanderergruppen häufig erst aufgrund ihrer Erfahrungen im Einwandererland. Zu den Voraussetzungen gehört ihre soziale, rassistisch und religiös begründete Ausgrenzung.” Klaus Holz, Die Gegenwart des Antisemitismus. Islamistische, demokratische und antizionistische Judenfeindschaft (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2005), 9. [German]

[79]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”.

[80]. Günther Jikeli, “Qualitative Study: Antisemitic Patterns of Argumentation Among Youth with Muslim/Arab Background in Europe, 2006,” Unpublished Draft Report, Task Force Project # 2006-13.

[81]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”.

[82]. For an overview of the history of attempts at boycotting Israel by British university teachers’ unions in recent years see: Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Resource Center,

[83]. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Academics against Israel and the Jews,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed., Academics against Israel and the Jews(Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007), 17.

[84]. Gerstenfeld (ibid.) provides a good overview of anti-Israel boycott initiatives worldwide.

[85]. A collection of articles, some based on the speeches given by a number of the lecturers in the context of this lecture series, was subsequently edited by Meggle. See Georg Meggle, ed., Deutschland, Israel, Palästina. Streitschriften (Hamburg: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2007). [German]

[86]. Ted Honderich, “After Terror: A Book and Further Thoughts,” 9 December 2002,

[87]. Uri Avnery, “Manufacturing Anti-Semites,” Counter Punch, 2 October 2002.

[88]. Cited in Oliver Kamm, “Chomsky, Anti-Semitism and Intellectual Standards,” 15 February 2005,

[89]. “Eichmann hat übrigens auch nie einen Juden persönlich umgebracht, sondern nur bei deren Ermordung geholfen.” In Tobias Jaecker, “Antizionistisches Einerlei. Unter dem Deckmantel der Wissenschaftsfreiheit: Antisemitismus im akademischen Milieu,”, 24 February 2006. [German]

[90]. “Das, ‘was den Palästinensern unter der Besatzung alles tagtäglich angetan wird’, sei ‘beinahe identisch’ mit dem, ‘was man schon vor der ‘Endlösung’ mit den deutschen Juden machte.'” In Tobias Jaecker, “Antizionistisches Einerlei. Unter dem Deckmantel der Wissenschaftsfreiheit: Antisemitismus im akademischen Milieu,”, 24 February 2006. [German]

[91].”Wenn es überhaupt so etwas wie eine Zunahme des Antisemitismus gibt, dann liegt die Hauptursache dafür im politischen Verhalten von Israel selbst.” In Tobias Jaecker, “Antizionistisches Einerlei. Unter dem Deckmantel der Wissenschaftsfreiheit: Antisemitismus im akademischen Milieu,”, 24 February 2006. [German]

[92]. Georg Meggle, “Deutschland/Israel/Palästina,” Telepolis, 23 April 2006, [German]

[93]. “Freundschaft und Kritik. Warum die ‘besonderen Beziehungen’ zwischen Deutschland und Israel überdacht werden müssen/Das ‘Manifest der 25′,” Frankfurter Rundschau, 15 November 2006. [German]

[94]. “…weltweit historischen Einzigartigkeit des Holocaust…”

[95]. “Als Deutsche, Österreicher und Europäer haben wir nicht nur Mitverantwortung für die Existenz Israels…, sondern auch eine Mitverantwortung für die Lebensbedingungen und eine selbstbestimmte Zukunft des palästinensischen Volkes.”

[96]. “Und die palästinensische Bevölkerung hat an der Auslagerung eines Teils der europäischen Probleme in den Nahen Osten nicht den geringsten Anteil.”

[97].”Es ist der Holocaust, der das seit sechs Jahrzehnten anhaltende und gegenwärtig bis zur Unerträglichkeit gesteigerte Leid über die (muslimischen wie christlichen und drusischen) Palästinenser gebracht hat. Das ist nicht dasselbe, als hätte das Dritte Reich einen Völkermord an den Palästinensern verübt. Aber zahllose Tote waren auch hier die Folge, das Auseinanderreißen der Familien, die Vertreibung oder das Hausen in Notquartieren bis auf den heutigen Tag. Ohne den Holocaust an den Juden würde die israelische Politik sich nicht berechtigt oder/und gezwungen sehen, sich so hartnäckig über die Menschenrechte der Palästinenser und der Bewohner Libanons hinwegzusetzen, um seine Existenz zu sichern.”

[98]. For accounts of the role of the Mufti and the Arab national movement in Nazi Germany’s war against the Jews see: Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhaß. Über den neuen antijüdischen Krieg (Freiburg: ça ira, 2003) [German]; Klaus Gensicke, Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten. Eine politische Biographie Amin el-Husseinis (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007). [German]

[99]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”

[100]. “Zusammen mit dem eingangs erwähnten unausgesprochenen Verbot offener Kritik an israelischen Entscheidungen stärkt der Philosemitismus in Deutschland den Antisemitismus eher als dass er ihn schwächt.”

[101]. Ludwig Watzal, “Steht den Palästinensern eine neue Vertreibung bevor?” Intifada 11, 12 January 2003, [German]; Ludwig Watzal, “Zur Nahost- und Israelpolitik der USA und der Macht der Neokonservativen (Neocons) auf die Außenpolitik. Vom ehrlichen Makler zur Partei Israels,” Intifada 14, 11 December 2003, [German]

[102]. “Campo Antiimperialista: Solidarität mit der Hamas!” 13 September 2003, [German]

[103]. “Erklärung des Antiimperialistischen Lagers zum Krieg im Libanon. Stoppt den israelischen Terrorkrieg!” [German]

[104]. “Campo Antiimperialista: Spendet 10 Euro für den irakischen Widerstand!” 2 November 2003, [German]

[105]. Ludwig Watzal, “Eine Israelisierung der Welt?” International, March 2004. [German]

[106]. “Steht nach der Israelisierung der USA nun auch dem Rest der Welt die Israelisierung bevor?”

[107]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”

[108]. Israel Shamir, Blumen aus Galiläa. Schriften gegen die Zerstörung des Heiligen Landes (Vienna: ProMedia, 2005). [German]

[109]. For an overview of the anti-Semitic topoi contained in this book see Karl Pfeifer, “Zu Israel Shamirs Blumen aus Galiläa: Linke Antisemiten gibt es nicht?” 22 August 2005, [German]

[110]. Ludwig Watzal, “Die echten und die falschen Juden,” Freitag, 3 June 2005. [German]

[111]. “Hinzu kam, dass er zum Christentum konvertierte, wie dies auch Mordechai Vanunu tat; dies wird ihm seitens des Judentums niemals verziehen. Damit begannen seine Schwierigkeiten.”

[112]. EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”

[113]. Ludwig Watzal, “Haim Saban, die Medien und Israel,” DeutschlandRadio Berlin, 16 September 2004. [German]

[114]. “Die Eskapaden der so genannten Holocaust-Industrie sind jedenfalls ziemlich bizarr und eine Beleidigung für die Opfer der nationalsozialistischen Vernichtungspolitik. Die Aktionen Sabans haben aber nichts mit Verschwörungsdenken zu tun, sondern sie sind ein Beleg dafür, wie symbiotisch das Verhältnis von Macht und Geld ist. Sabans politisches Anliegen ist, eine möglichst große Kontrolle über die Medien zu erlangen. Dass sich der Hollywood-Mogul nicht nur aus finanziellen Erwägungen in Deutschland engagiert hat, sondern das Land als Basis für etwas größeres ansieht, hat Peter Chernin, Präsident und Leiter der News Corporation, deutlich gemacht.”

[115]. “Er bedient die typischen Klischees vom jüdischen Kapital und jüdischer Macht,” Benedict Maria Mülder, “Rassismus-Vorwurf gegen DeutschlandRadio Berlin,” Die Welt, 30 September 2004. [German]

[116]. For a more detailed though by no means exhaustive overview of the various publishing activities of Ludwig Watzal see Patrick Neu, “Pädagogisch wertvoll?” Tribüne. Zeitschrift zum Verständnis des Judentums, April 2005, 176 [German]; Patrick Neu, “Bundeszentrale hält an ihrem Kurs fest,” Tribüne. Zeitschrift zum Verständnis des Judentums, February 2006, 178 [German]; Alexandra Makarova, “Neutrales Haus in Erklärungsnot. Bei der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung häufen sich Israel-kritische Peinlichkeiten,” Jüdische Zeitung 6, 10, June 2006 [German]; Martin Kloke, “Israel-Alptraum der deutschen Linken?” in Matthias Brosch, Michael Elm, Norman Geißler, Brigitta Elisa Simbürger and Oliver von Wrochem, eds., Exklusive Solidarität. Linker Antisemitismus in Deutschland (Berlin: Metropol, 2007). [German]

[117]. Frank Jansen, “Juden protestieren bei Schäuble,” Der Tagesspiegel, 5 April 2008 [German]. The title of this article is somewhat misleading because the Koordinierungsrat deutscher Nichtregierungsorganisationen gegen Antisemitismus (Coordinating Council of German NGOs against Anti-Semitism) which is mentioned in the text is not a Jewish body but comprised of both Jewish and non-Jewish groups.

[118]. Letter by the Federal Ministry of the Interior to the President of the Jewish Community of Berlin et al., 25 July 2008 [German]. The letter reads: “Regarding the statements of an employee of the Federal Agency for Civic Education those measures which were possible in terms of labor law were taken and the employee was relocated. He does from now on no longer assume any editorial function.” (“Hinsichtlich der von Ihnen kritisierten Aussagen eines BpB-Mitarbeiters wurden arbeitsrechtlich mögliche Maßnahmen ergriffen und der Mitarbeiter umgesetzt. Er nimmt nunmehr keine redaktionellen Aufgaben mehr wahr.”)

[119]. “…dass nur die kritische öffentliche Durchdringung der mit antisemitischen Bildern verbundenen kulturellen Selbst-Anteile und politisch-psychologischen Motive in Koppelung mit einer konsequenten öffentlichen Diskreditierung antisemitischer Vorurteile kurz- wie langfristig zu einem Abbau judenfeindlicher Stereotypie beitragen können, insofern also die Bedeutung politischer Diskurse und Selbstverständigungsprozesse nicht unterschätzt werden sollte.” Lars Rensmann, Demokratie und Judenbild. Antisemitismus in der politischen Kultur der Bundesrepublik Deutschland(Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004), 39. [German]

[120]. “Senatsverwaltung für Inneres. Abteilung Verfassungsschutz,” Antisemitismus im extremistischen Spektrum Berlins (September 2004, Berlin), 7f [German]; Stefan Kestler, “Antisemitismus und das linksextremistische Spektrum in Deutschland nach 1945,” Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz: Neuer Antisemitismus? Judenfeindschaft im politischen und öffentlichen Diskurs. Ein Symposium des Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz, 5 December 2005, [German]; conversation with Thomas Sippel, President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the Federal State of Thuringia at the seminar “Bildungsinitiativen-Gegen Antisemitismus und Rechtsextremismus-für ein tolerantes und demokratisches Thüringen,” 27 November 2006. [German]

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Yves Pallade (D.Phil., M.Phil, B.A., AKC) is director of the Foreign Affairs Network (F.A.N.) of B’nai B’rith Europe. In this capacity he deals in particular with the question of Israel’s image in Europe and the political fight against anti-Semitism. He previously served as an expert on monitoring, analyzing, and combating anti-Semitism at the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee. He has also acted as an advisor on this issue to various members of Parliament. The focus of his research and writing is on modern anti-Semitism, political extremism, and international terrorism.