Monday, July 15, 2019

German magazine under fire for promoting anti-Jewish conspiracy

The weekly magazine Der Spiegel has been plunged into a further fact-checking crisis after a massive backlash over its weekend publication alleging that two small pro-Israel organizations are directing German Middle East policy, with echoes of an antisemitic conspiracy theory. Uwe Becker, the commissioner to combat antisemitism in the state of Hesse, wrote on Twitter: “The Spiegel must officially apologize for practicing Israel-related antisemitism. The article contains all the stereotypes that constitute antisemitism and is an example of how deep these thought patterns are in mainstream society.” A team of six Spiegel journalists wrote in a three-page article that two organizations based in Germany – Values Initiative and The Middle East Peace Forum (Naffo) – are, according to the magazine’s headline, “controlling German Middle East policy.” After outrage on social media over the headline and the thrust of the article, Spiegel wrote: “How two associations want to influence the German Middle East policy.” The article reports that the two groups used “dubious methods” to mount a “targeted campaign” to secure a Bundestag resolution opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. Germany’s parliament passed a non-binding anti-BDS resolution in May. Spiegel claimed that members of parliament did “not want to reject the resolution out of fear of being labeled an antisemite.” The magazine did not provide any quotes from Bundestag MPs expressing such a sentiment. The website of Values Initiative published a detailed question-and-answer section on Sunday in response to the Spiegel article. The magazine claimed that the organizations run a “network” and wield outsized “influence.” “Both Naffo and the Value Initiative have contacts with specialist politicians in the relevant areas (foreign policy/domestic policy) and meet them for talks, send position papers or invite them to thematically oriented events,” Values Initiative wrote.DR. ELIO ADLER, who heads Values Initiative and was a member of Naffo, told the Bild paper that the Spiegel article “feeds antisemitic myths.” When reached on the text messaging system WhatsApp, Adler referred The Jerusalem Post to his organization’s website statement. The statement noted that: “Articles like this in Spiegel show how urgent our association work is. As a civic, Jewish voice in Germany, the Values Initiative advocates strengthening the values of the liberal-democratic order from a Jewish perspective.” Adler and his German-Jewish group have been involved in combating contemporary antisemitism in Germany over the years. Spiegel further alleged that Naffo “advocates for positions of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” and “carries out aggressive lobby work” in Berlin’s government district. The magazine claims that the “questionable methods” of Naffo involve a conference where positions were exchanged with politicians and trips were arranged to bring German MPs to Israel. Spiegel also reported that two Naffo members made a 1,500 euro donation to the Green Party in 2013. The magazine claimed that, “In the end, the question remains: Just how independent can politicians be when they make money off their contacts?” The donation was legal and, according to critics of the Spiegel report, was a modest contribution. Naffo executive director Mirjam Rosenstein told Bild that Naffo comments on political issues through publicly available position papers and meets with politicians, just as every association from the automotive industry “to the rabbit breeders’ association” does. She flatly rejected that Naffo represents Netanyahu, noting that last year Naffo hosted opposition politician Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. [...] The six Spiegel journalists who wrote the alleged antisemitic article are: Matthias Gebauer, Ann-Katrin Müller, Sven Röbel, Raniah Salloum, Christoph Schult and Christoph Sydow. Marc Felix Serrao‏, the Berlin-based correspondent for the Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wrote on Twitter: “ Jews’ lives in Germany depend on police protection. Anyone who publicly wears a kippa risks his health. And the Spiegel publishes a story about a Jewish conspiracy so thin and wanting that one would have to laugh if it were not so bitter.” The Spiegel article also quoted German Undersecretary of State Niels Annen, who criticized the two pro-Israel groups: “Any attempt to influence the balanced position of Germany or Europe in one of the sides’ directions is problematic.” Annen celebrated Iran’s regime, which frequently calls for Israel’s destruction, in February at Tehran’s embassy in Berlin. He also opposes a full ban of the Lebanese organization Hezbollah. The US, Canada, Britain, the Arab League, Israel and the Netherlands have proscribed Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

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