In a scandal unfolding in a Cologne courtroom, a German Jewish journalist is standing up for his right to call another Jew anti-Semitic.
Henryk Broder, acerbic columnist for Der Spiegel magazine and a well-known pro-Israel blogger in Germany, has refused to settle a civil case with Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, daughter of a former leader of Germany's Jewish community, whom he has publicly accused of making anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist statements.
For now, Broder remains barred from publishing a certain open letter to Monika Piel, director of Westdeutsche Rundfunk radio, in which he referred to Hecht-Galinski in those terms.
Hecht-Galinski, who had been a guest on a WDR talk show focusing on Israel's 60th anniversary, has accused Broder of besmirching her reputation, and lodged the injunction against him. "It is not the anti-Zionist part to which I object, but the anti-Semitism,"
Hecht-Galinski said in a telephone interview, adding that she was pleased that the injunction against Broder remained in effect.
An activist in pro-Palestinian circles here, Hecht-Galinski -- whose father, Heinz Galinski, was a leader in the Berlin Jewish community and headed the Central Council of Jews in Germany until he died in
1992 -- has compared Israeli policies with those of the Nazis under Hitler and has suggested that the Central Council is a mouthpiece for the state of Israel. She has complained about what she calls a "Jewish-Israel lobby" with a "worldwide network" trying to control criticism of the Jewish state.
Broder, who wrote that Hecht-Galinksi "specializes in anti-Semitic statements," appealed her injunction against him, and the matter came before the Cologne district court on Wednesday, August 13.
Broder told the JC afterward that he had faced the "usual" argument:
"anti-Semitism is confined to Nazis. if you are not a Nazi you can not be an anti-Semite."
When he was exonerated in a similar case last year, Broder told reporters there are "nurses who kill their patients, attorneys who commit insurance fraud. Why can there not therefore be Jews who are anti-Semites?"
This time, according to today's Aachener Times, Hecht-Galinksi's attorney, Gernot Lehr, insisted his client had simply exercised her right to freely criticize Israeli politics. Which made Broder's remarks an actionable attempt to damage her reputation.
But Broder's attorney said Hecht-Galinski was simply trying to silence his client. Broder, who was in the courtroom, rejected the court's suggestion of an "amicable settlement," while Galinski's lawyer reportedly was ready to settle. The deal would have barred Broder from repeating his charge against Hecht-Galinzki as printed in the letter to Piel, but it would have left him at risk of further suits should he make such statements in other contexts.
"That was what the lawyer of the daughter threatened to do," explained Broder, who continues to refer to Hecht-Galinski on his website, albeit obliquely, using her initials and calling her "the daughter."
But it has nothing to do with a gag order, he said in an e-mail.
"That's just for fun," he explained. "She does not deserve to be mentioned by name."
Hecht-Galinksi's attorney, Lehr, declined to be cited.
The court is to decide on Broder's appeal against the injunction on September 3. The Central Council of Jews in Germany said it will stand by Broder, if Hecht-Galinski pursues the case.