Germany outsources its Israel hatred now

By Benjamin Weinthal, November 18, 2010
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After Kristallnacht: this year’s commemoration was marred

After Kristallnacht: this year’s commemoration was marred

The Mayor of Frankfurt Petra Roth's decision to invite hardcore anti-Israeli academic Alfred Grosser to deliver the keynote speech at last week's commemoration of Kristallnacht, a wave of state-sponsored violence against German Jews on November 9, 1938, triggered a bitter public row in Germany and Israel. What's more, this outsourcing of hatred of the Jewish state to anti-Israeli Jews has become an annual fixture.

Last year, then-German president Horst Köhler issued the Federal Merit Cross, one of the country's most prestigious awards, to Israeli lawyer Felicia Langer, who has equated Israel with Nazi Germany and the former South African apartheid regime.

Mr Grosser, a French intellectual born to a German-Jewish family, is cut from the same cloth as the late British-American Historian Tony Judt, who argued that a cause of antisemitism was Israel and Jews. Mr Grosser, like Mr Judt, lacks credentials in the Middle East debate (and an understanding of modern antisemitism), but has German media outlets spreading a thesis that, if propounded by a non-Jewish German, would be labelled as being infected with antisemitism.

By comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the Hitler movement's persecution of Jews, critics argue that Mr Grosser panders to majority resentments against Israel and helps sanitise German guilt about the crimes of the Holocaust. Mr Grosser also argues that, "Criticism of Israel and antisemitism have nothing to
do with each other. It is rather Israel's policies that promote antisemitism globally."

There is a tendency to shower anti-Israel Jews with awards

The German Jewish Frankfurt–based professor Micha Brumlik has strongly criticised Mr Grosser for embedding the Israel-equals-Nazi Germany equation in "popular historical awareness".

By contrast, Mr Grosser sees himself as a "moral role model" in Germany and France.

The disproportionate attention devoted to a fringe group of anti-Israeli Jews has emerged in Germany as a tried and trusted method of inoculating politicians, academics and journalists against the charge of antisemitism while "saying what the Germans want to hear", according to Salomon Korn, a vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Indeed, the tendency to shower anti-Israel Jews with speaking engagements and awards is, following the logic of Mr Korn and other critics, a barely concealed cover for modern antisemitic attitudes toward Israel.

Mr Grosser's longstanding loathing of Israel is clear. In 2008, a B'nai B'rith official testified on Mr Grosser's crude views at a Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing in the Bundestag. According to the hearing, Mr Grosser's statements could be construed as meeting the EU's definition of contemporary antisemitism.

Several years ago, the German daily FAZ (along with a regional paper, Badische Zeitung) outsourced anti-Israeli hostility to an obscure German Jew, Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, who considers herself to be an "anti-Zionist Jew" and is a carbon copy of Mr Grosser. The intense coverage of Ms Hecht-Galinski prompted a columnist for Die Welt to write that "it is shameful that there are so few non-Jews who attack the dumb criticisms of Israel from Hecht-Galinski".

Based on the overwhelmingly pro-Grosser reception in the German media, the Federal Republic appears to be keeping up the tradition.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

    Last updated: 4:28pm, November 18 2010