The Simon Wiesenthal Center has triggered a major debate by listing a prominent German publisher and SPIEGEL ONLINE columnist among the world's top 10 anti-Semites. The evidence is debatable, but now the center refuses to speak to the publisher unless he apologizes first.Continue reading.
It seemed like a completely unexpected stab in the back -- a startling assault from someone who is generally considered to be harmless.
On December 27, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center published its current "Top 10" list (PDF) of the world's worst anti-Semites, a list the center has published near the end of each year since 2010. The Jewish organization has a good reputation, certainly due in part to the fact that it was named after the legendary Nazi hunter when it was founded in 1977.
The usual suspects can be found in the top spots of the 2012 list of "anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs": Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is in first place, followed by the Iranian regime, which aims to destroy the state of Israel. Not the kind of list one wants to be a part of.
But prominent German journalist Jakob Augstein, publisher of the weekly newspaper Der Freitag and author of a regular column on SPIEGEL ONLINE (which is occasionally translated into English for publication), appears in 9th place on the list.
It's a scandal. SPIEGEL immediately sought to find out what had happened and why Augstein had appeared on the list -- but failed. It is a failure that speaks volumes about the methods and position of the Wiesenthal Center. At issue are absurd demands and emails that seem to stem from a different world.
After the list was published, a passionate debate erupted in German newspapers over what constitutes justifiable criticism of Israeli policies and what exactly defines anti-Semitism. Most journalists felt that the accusation against Augstein was absurd, with the exception of Henryk Broder, a former SPIEGEL writer and well-known polemicist. Broder, in an effort to illustrate Augstein's lack of self reflection, even went so far as to liken him to a pedophile who views himself as a friend of children.
Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, seemed to put an end to the debate when he said that he had never had the impression that Augstein's writings were anti-Semitic, and suggested that the Americans hadn't done their homework. Korn said on the radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur, that the Americans were "pretty far removed, in a manner of speaking, from German reality."
Also, "What Makes an Anti-Semite? Wiesenthal List Induces Hand-Wringing in Germany." If this Augstein dude holds Israel to a separate standard than the Arab regimes, that'd be anti-Semitic. Here's the key column. Fawningly quoting Günter Grass would be anti-Semitic, no doubt, but again, I'm holding off judgment until I get up to speed.
Here's the Wiesenthal Center's list of "2012 Top Ten Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs." And Deutsche Welle has more, "German journalist condemned as anti-Semite."