German Political Culture:
The Relationship to Anti-Zionism and Jihad before and after
11 September 2001
This lecture I have hold
on December 18th at the international Symposium "Antisemitism and
Anti-Zionism in Western Europe Since 2000" , organised by the Hebrew
University, The Vidal Sassoon
International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Jerusalem.
The words in italics were unspoken at my lecture because of lack of time.
Clemens Heni, Bremen
Dear Mr. Shafir, dear Mr. Wistrich, dear
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very grateful for this invitation,
for having the opportunity to speak here in Jerusalem about German
anti-Zionism and of course to discuss actual trends of Antisemitism and
anti-Zionism or Israel-hatred in Western Europe. I also thank Mr. Wiemer and
the German Embassy for giving a financial squirt. And of course I thank the
Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, who at short term provided financial support for my
flight to Israel.
Let me start with a kind of parable by Woody
Allen: Two New York Intellectuals small talking at a party: one to the
other: "Listen, I've written an essay, against antisemitism." – Did you ?
Nice. I prefere a bat."
My report handles with three aspects:
1) political culture as a concept –
anti-Zionism, projection and refusal of holocaust memory in Germany
2) the change of political culture in Germany since 2000 focussing on
Israel: results of media research
3) How do the Children and Grandchildren of Germans Willing Executioners
deal with anti-Zionism and Jihad ?
Analyzing political culture is one possible
way to approach German society and at the same time single out German
specifics of antisemitic impact. Firstly I would like to shortly introduce
to you a concept of political science to analyse political culture, in order
to operationalize it in a next stept with empirical material on anti-Zionism
According to the political scientist Karl
Rohe Political Culture should for a better understandig distinguished into
"political social culture" and "political culture of interpretation".
Whereas "political social culture" consists of common "self-evidence, the
"political culture of interpretation" points out the manifest sphere of
political culture." (1)
"From a conceptual point of view the
difference between political culture of interpretation and political social
culture is merely, that the political designs of the latter have already
crystallized into mentalities (…), whereas in the case of culture of
interpretation they either are still placed in the folder of the political
designer or are being handed to-and-fro between cultural and political
By applying this analytical pattern, I would
state, that since a certain time anti-Zionism is beeing shoved to-and-fro
between cultural and political system. Public opinion, media reports and
street demonstrations increasingly affect the federal government and the
political system, while statements of prominent representatives of society
or even the political class retroacitvely influence the climate in Germany.
This interaction is all the stronger, as the government comes from the left
and has closer relations to non-parliament movements or union activists than
right wingers usually have. This might seem paradox and astonishing just at
first sight – a closer view however reveals a specific german phenomenon.
Particularly and maybe even only under the auspices of a red-green
governement it was it possible to let ressentments against the USA and
Israel come to surface, which had to be sublimated in a a different way
under a conservative government. This unselfconsciousness might not
accidently be an emanation of a ‚left‘ government. Social-Democrats (SPD)
and the Greens consider themselves immune to german National Socialism. From
their point of view antisemitism is a problem exclusively for Conservatives
– refusal of Holocaust memory and projection of German guilt on to Israel's
existence or politics - are all phenomenons which they would never think of
arising from left-wingers.
The invitation of the prominent author and
antisemit Walser by the Federal Chancellor Schröder at the 8th of May 2002
was a sign. He suggests to forget the jewish victims of the Shoah. Germany
has become nowadays a state like any other, he declares. Exactly this
attempt to forget the jewish victims was defined as "secondary antisemitism"
by the Critical Theory of Adorno and Horkheimer, the term itself was
invented by their co-worker Peter Schönbach 40 years ago (2).
Buildt upon this social political foundation the anti-Zionist attack against
Israel is not in far distance. Refused german guilt is being projected on to
the jews becoming perpetrators now, symbolized in the State of Israel. The
first to introduce and to advocate the most sharply this perception of Jews
as perpretators was the radical german left in 1967. Increasingly the
pattern expanded within German society as a whole - not to mention
GDR-anti-Zionism. This psychological reaction is very important in order to
understand what happens in Germany. Germans do not want to talk any more
about Treblinka and Sobibor. Now they are looking for Auschwitz elsewhere:
in Yugoslavia, in Israel or as an aspect of modernity in general, as stated
by several philosophers and social scientists – following the so called
post-structural theories of Michel Foucault or even the Nazi-Philosopher
Martin Heidegger for example. This emanation of holocaust relativization
instead of it's denial has become an accepted history narration, not only of
course, but especially in Germany.
• Thus my conclusion at this point: "The
German way"(Schröder), anti-Americanism and antiimperialistic
tradition/positions of the SPD (unionism, the social movement attac)
amalgamate with strong anti-zionist groups of the Greens/the New Left in
general and are establishing new forms of antisemitism and anti-Zionism with
good feelings for the creators, because they are 'left'.
• The political culture in Germany has dramatically changed during the last
four years. Antisemitism has arrived in midst of German society expressis
verbis, whereas formerly it was uttered hidden behind the hand. As the
former Press Councelor of Israels Embassy in Germany, Yossef Levy told me
some months ago, he cannot understand the change since the celebration of
Israels 40th anniversary, which has been held in Berlin with a large fancy
cake, up to today. Nowadays he feels Israel-hatred all over the streets and
media in Germany. It just dashes you to the ground.
2) Let me now give you some hard facts about
Israel coverage in the German press and especially TV to be followed by
examples of a specific german anti-Zionism, which might illustrate the way
people in Germany think about Israel and German history.
Reports on the second Intifada since end of
September 2000 are clearly drawing a negative picture of Israel. Israel is
perceived as a cruel state, with tanks acting against stone throwing
children on German TV-Screens. Israel is the perpetrator, the Palestinians
are victims. The image of the jewish children murderer, an antisemitic item
of the christia middle ages, as you know, was held up several times at
demonstrations since 2002 until today.
Those antisemitic stereotypes have never been
broadly discussed and rejected in Germany. Some people made a graffity on a
synagogue in Berlin: "Israel kills children". There you can see the direct
line from antisemitism to anti-Zionism and vice versa. This visualised
anti-israelian view is accompanied by verbal pictures with a clear
antisemitic connotation. The characterization of Premier minister Sharon as
a "bulldozer" represents one semantic devaluation by german newspaper.
This is just one result of a qualitative study carried out by an institute
in Duisburg, examining the essential newspapers and journals in Germany
(FAZ, FR, SZ, Tagesspiegel, taz (3), Welt und
Spiegel). Besides the already mentioned labeling of Ariel Scharon as a
killing machine, which might be a synonyme for "bulldozer" – the study dealt
with four central events: the visit of the temple mount in Jerusalem by
Sharon, the death of the palestinian child Mohammed al-Dura (see the
screening of Esther Schapiras film this evening!), the lynch murder of two
israelian soldiers in Ramallah by Palestinians, and a suicide bombing in Tel
Aviv first of June 2001. Along with these events the image of Israel was
examined (4). A similar picture provides a study
of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, especially dealing with the
ultimate status of Israel as perpretator (5).
I would like to point out one aspect:
suicide bombings are beeing regretted by germans as actions of desperate
Palestinians, who actually want the best, but whose methods are a bit rude.
In Germany almost nobody mentions the aim of suicide bombings: killing as
many jews as possible, destabilizing Israel and, refering to an old PFLP
(Palestinian Front to Liberate Palestine) strategy of the 70s, killing Jews
in times of israelian-palestinian approaches. Nobody talks about the
antisemitic impact of Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad or the PLO in general.
Not a word about egyptian all-day antisemitism; the only documentation
originate from very few left-wingers, the jewish german community and the
Medien Tenor, which is associated with israel
media watch, has examined TV reports on Israel before and after the World
Trade Center massmurdering in New York. This study is first of it's kind in
the world (6). They covered the evening news of
the German TV channels ZDF, ARD, RTL, Sat 1 and Pro 7. (other countries,
Britain, USA, South Africa and the Czech Republikc were also examined).
"A uniform method was used in all countries, providing for the first time a
comparable database for objective media review in different countries.
supplying TV coverage to a population of almost 500 Million people. The sudy
covers quantitative aspects, topics covered and qualitative diagnosis."
Result: Israel's importance in German TV
coverage has dramatically decreased after 9 11 2001. Within the Middle
East coverage there have been some 80 % of the reports about Israel compared
to the Palestinian Authority before WTC. Whereas from Sept. 2001 to March
2002 the percentage is only 37 %. Even more striking is the dominance of the
topic ‚Terror‘ within Israel coverage. While terror represented some 49 % of
all informations about Israel broadcasted in German TV from September 2000
to August 2001, the other parts being Politics, international affairs,
Religion and culture, the percentage of the topic Terror has increased up to
89 % from October 2001 to March 2002.
Even worse is the characteriziation of
Israel in German Media. Already before the WTC murdering by islamic jhads,
the image was rather negative, in detail: 25% negative reports, 72% neutral
reports and only some 3% positive representations. After WTC the reception
of Israel has enormiously deteriorated: more than 45% of the news have a
clear negative pitch, 49% are neutral and just a few more than before, mere
5,5% report in a positive manner about Israel. In contrast the negative
Image of the PA has even decreased after 9 11 2001, from 45 to some 25 %,
while Israel is considered more negative im comparision with the PA after
WTC (negative Image of Israel is 40 % after WTC). It appears very
significant to me, that the antisemitic impact of suicide bombing as well as
islamistic antisemitism are being denied by significant parts of German
society. Along with this phenomenon comes a partial tolerance or even
support of these islamic groups. No prominent representative of the
political class, the establishment or the media interpreted the massacre of
New York as an antisemitic action. On the contrary the islamic Jihads are
more likely soft-pedalled by describing them as avengers on imperialistic
USA and israelian aggression against the Palestinians. The remark of the
former Federal Minister of Justice, Herta Däubler-Gmelin (SPD), comparing
Bush's policy wiht Hitler's, seconds the popular TV anchorman of the
Tagesthemen, Ulrich Wickert who supposed that Bush and Bin Laden have the
same way of thinking. The german refusal of any substantial critique of
Irak, along with the increasing economic relations to this antisemitic state
(8), is the youngest chapter in this anti-american
and also anti-israelian, german-arabic friendship.
3) Empirical examples contextualized with
part one and two
Let me characterize two main ropes:
1) indifference and the refusal to fight ani-Zionism
2) the affirmation of anti-Zionism.
Both are numerous and handled in the
political culture of interpretation in Germany.
1a) The Professor of Political Science
Wolfgang Dressen (Fachhochschule Duesseldorf) initiated an exposition
dealing with a middle age topos at first sight, but in fact with the aim of
reinstalling german-arabic friendship including the jewish community. It is
no accident that he set a link to an extremist islmamic homepage on the
internet. The press supported his claim for a "variety of opinion" and
refused to tell the public sphere anything substantial about this
anti-Israeli homepage of muslim-markt. To give you an impression about this
islamic group: they propose to all moslems in Germany not to buy any product
of Israel, to refuse Israel a right of existence and so on.
The following passage I mentioned during the
discussion about my lecture, especially focusing the ‘anti-racist' thinking
of a SPD-left wingers: In the state of Bremen, the Prime Minster of the
smallest state in Germany's north-west, Henning Scherf, gave an interview to
a journal of the largest and extremist islamic group in Germany, the Turkish
organisation Milli Görüs, and supports their activities in his territory.
While ignoring that at the mosques books like that of the french
Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy are offered for sale, Scherf prefers the
dialogue. The protestant church as well maintaines contacts with these
extremist islamic groups.
1b) The step from here tp the german
government is not far. Federal Minister of foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer
himself invited the President of Syrie, Assad (the son). Despite protests of
the Zentralrat der Juden in Germany and small groups against antisemitism
and anti-Zionism Fischer talked with Assad in a friendly manner. Neither did
Fischer demand the delivery of the Nazi mass murder Anton Brunner, whom
several jewish and non-jewish organisations assume living in harmony in
Syrie for several decades now, nor did he or Federal Chancellor Schröder
substantially criticize the antisemitism of Syries Minister of Defence, who
told the arabic world on TV:"If I see a jew, I would kill him. If every arab
kills one jew, the Problem is solved". Except for Fischer's hint to Assad,
to somehow change his rhetoric, you could not hear a real critism of this
very aggressive antisemitism. What does it mean: Change your rhetoric, if
you speek about a person like Syries Minister of Defence, who calls up to
kill a jew ? After this state visit, it can not be regarded an accident that
Fischer or Schröder did not react at all the day Möllemann held Sharon and
Friedman responsable for rising anti-israelian and antisemit feelings all
round the world respectively germany, because of their behavior as Jews
(!!!). At that point I would like to return to my scientific concept of
political culture. Politicial culture of interpretation is full of
anti-zionist activites and the political class refuses to fight them – more
often they affirm these anti-jewish positions in which twisted way ever.
Thus it has become a part of the poltical social culture not to fight
islamic groups and their anti-jewish impact. Only a few organizations have
been forbidden after WTC. And of course it is not just a question to
prohibit such groups or organizations. It's also a question of how to
reflect antisemitic and anti-zionist activities.
2) Affirmation of islamic Jihad in Germany
The most mass-effective manifestation of
actual anti-Zionism showed up in spring 2002 with numerous demonstrations
all over Germany for a free Palestine. Israel was accused of killing
children, there were posters with a Hamburger where the meat inside was a
palestinian inscribed "made in Israel" . Or posters with "the israeli
massacre of Jenin" were held up. The truth is not important for people with
such strong ressentments.
Several tenthousand people from left
organisations like the PDS (who called the WTC "something like this comes
from this") and the Greens, autonomous groups and of course arabic, islamic
groups including Hizbollah, Hamas, PLO with their flags and many other
groups or organisations like, for example, the Hizb ut-Tahrir. This group
scanned "Jews are monkeys" in arab, anyway some hundred meters behind the
Member of Federal Parliament Christian Ströbele walked with his friends.
Same time, same place, same anti-jewish impact.
Here you can see what I wanted to explain at
the beginning: the specific german need to project guilt on to Israel and
the Jews. The danger for Israel lies in the large variety and discoursive
practice of this "new anti-Israeliainsm" (9). The
conference in Durban in summer 2001 was a sign to the world: listen, Israel
is a racist state, Zionism means hate. (Did the Jews learn anything from
Auschwitz?) These antizionist Internationals (10)
suggest that the jews didn't learn anything since Auschwitz. After the
WTC attacks the danger for Israel has even increased, because the Jijahds
could see that European demonstrations do not call up to fight Jihad but the
USA and Israel instead, the same targets of Jihad. In addition the
Palestinians could registrate that suicide bombing gives the PA a better
position in the European Community and destabilizes Israel, psychologically,
politically, economically, and socially. The already mentioned
muslim-markt is a strong anti-israeli-group and is surely just one example
of few. Not to forget that it was no accident that the Al Kaida members
Mohammed Atta and his friends had good circumstances to prepare the massacer
in New York while living and studying in Hamburg and visiting several
mosques in this city for many years.
To come to an end let me please give
you a final example which shows you the convergence of left, right and the
center in Germany. Since several months left groups are collecting
signatures for a resolution pleading for a stop to deliver military
equipment and weapons to Israel. Besides this they call for a stop of import
of israel goods. At the same time, last week, President of State Katsav
visited Germany and the Nazi party NPD proclamated to a demonstration with
the slogan: "Solidarity with Palestine. No more weapons for Israel". You
might be astonished here but the reality in germany lies in this
Nazi-slogan. Although left wingers opposed this demonstration most of them
didn't realize that they are fighting for the same aim: "Free Palestine. No
more weapons for Israel." To complete this dramatic converge of left, right
and now the center, some days before the NPD Peter Struck, Federal Minister
of Defence told us, that Germany will not send the demanded transport tanks
called ‚Fuchs‘ to Israel. The Greens did also refuse such an export at a
party convent the same week-end. None of them was willing to talk about
Hamas or Hizbollah, about antisemitic speeches of Presidents of State of
Syrie for example.
This new anti-zionist view of world has
arisen since 2000 on a well grounded fundament by leftist since 1967. They
are talking about human rights, they never talk about the human
duty to fight anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
Not just at night in a dream, but in
everyday politics Federal Chancellor Schröder wants to install German
UN-Soldiers at the Golan for example, in order to tell the Jews in Israel
how to care about human rights. He and his Vice-Chancellor Fischer are
convinced that they can tell Israel the truth about Auschwitz. They also
know much better to talk friendly to Hizbollah, Hamas or Arafat himself in
order to bring peace on earth, they believe. I myself, according to the
Philosopher Adorno, I am convinced you cannot debate pro- and contra suicide
bombing with madmen. Considering the personality sructure of such persons
"le sort en est jeté- rien ne vas plus".(11)
To prevent such antisemitism Woody Allens bat is not enough.
The children and grandchildren of Germany's
willing executioners have become willing refusers to fight antisemitism and
anti-Zionism; they are oscilating between indifference towards and
affimation of islamic or arabic antisemitism/anti-Zionism. In Germany a
predilection for dead jews is maintained. There is a bad tune to support
living jews in fighting antisemitism and anti-Zionism today.
Thank you very much for your patience
(1) Karl Rohe (1987): Politische Kultur und der kulturelle
Aspekt von politischer Wirklichkeit, in: Berg-Schlosser, Dirk/Schissler,
Jakob (Hg.), Politische Kultur in Deutschland. Bilanz und Perspektiven der
Forschung, Politische Vierteljahresschrift, Sonderheft 18, S. 39-48, p. 42.
(2) Vgl. Lars Rensmann (1998): Kritische Theorie über den
Antisemitismus. Studien zu Struktur, Erklärungspotential und Aktualität,
Berlin-Hamburg, Argument, (Edition Philosophie und Sozialwissenschaften 42),
(3) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). tageszeitung
(taz), Frankfurter Rundschau (FR), Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).
(4) Duisburger Institut für Sprach- und Sozialforschung:
Die Nahost-Berichterstattung zur Zweiten Intifada in deutschen Printmedien
unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Israel-Bildes. Analyse diskursiver
Ereignisse im Zeitraum von September 2000 bis August 2001, Duisburg 2002.
(5) Forschungsbereich Öffentlichkeit und Gesellschaft –
fög, Universität Zürich: ISRAELI UND PALÄSTINENSER IM SPIEGEL DER MEDIEN
ANALYSE DER NAHOST-BERICHTERSTATTUNG IM ZEITRAUM ENDE SEPTEMBER BIS NOVEMBER
2000 fög, CH-8008 Zürich, 5. Januar 2001
(6) Vgl. Roland Schatz (Medien-Tenor, Bonn), translated
and edited by Prof Eli Pollak (israel media-watch) "The Image of Israel and
the Palestinian Authority in the International Media", Bonn 2002 (see a
german version: Roland Schatz: Der Blick auf Israel und Palästina, in:
Tribüne. Zeitschrift zum Verständnis des Judentums, 41. Jg., Heft 162, 2.
Quartal 2002, p. 93-113).
(7) See Schatz 2002.
(8) Klaus Thörner: Die Saddam AG. Trotz des Uno-Embargos
vertieft die deutsche Industrie die wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen zum Irak,
in: jungle world, Nr. 51, 11.12.2002.
(9) Günther Jacob (2002): Israel ist unser Unglück:
Anti-Israelismus nach dem 11.September, in Konkret 8/2002 and
(10) To transfer Hannah Arendt notion of the
"faschistische Internationale" from 1945, see: Hannah Arendt (1945)/1989:
Antisemitismus und faschistische Internationale, in: dies. Nach Auschwitz.
Essays & Kommentare 1, Berlin (Edition Tiamat, ciritica diabolis 21), p.
(11) See Theodor W. Adorno (1962)/1998: Zur Bekämpfung
des Antisemitismus heute, in: ders. Gesammelte Schriften 20-1, p.360-383.