Süddeutsche Zeitung
Front page of the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper . (photo credit:screenshot)


BERLIN – An article in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) has been accused of mimicking Nazi rhetoric by placing the blame for Palestinian terrorism squarely on Israel’s shoulders.

Titled, “Israel suffers for its cycle of revenge,” an article last week by the newspaper’s Israel-based correspondent, Peter Münch, quoted from an interview with Said Zidani, a Palestinian philosophy professor at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, in which he said Palestinians murder Israelis not only out of “desperation but [as] an act of resistance…”

According to the article, Zidani’s remarks did not amount to justifying the violence.

Experts on anti-Semitism thought differently.

“Such headlines project classical anti-Jewish stereotypes onto the Jewish state,” Prof. Monika Schwarz-Friesel told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Schwarz-Friesel has made an exhaustive study of anti-Semitic language in Germany. The SZ article uses emotional, anti-Jewish language from the Hitler movement to influence its readers, she said.

“The stereotype of Jewish revenge/vengefulness is an age-old Judeophobia concept that was articulated by the National Socialists,” she said. Schwarz-Friesel cited the infamous 1943 Posen speeches of SS head Heinrich Himmler calling for the extermination of European Jews. In addition to his call to murder all Jewish adults, Himmler urged the elimination of Jewish children to prevent them from seeking vengeance.

This is how Himmler’s quote went: “I did not consider myself justified to exterminate the men – in other words, to kill them or have them killed and allow the avengers of our sons and grandsons in the form of their children to grow up.

“The difficult decision had to be made to have this people disappear from the earth.”

Schwarz-Friesel, a professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, said the key question is: “Why does a German newspaper’s editorial office continue to consistently have the potential to evoke anti-Semitic thoughts and feelings in its headlines and articles regarding Israel and remain unfazed by all criticism of the rhetoric?”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that the center “protested about the Mark Zuckerberg cartoon [in SZ in 2014]. Their tepid response failed to convince me that they were unaware that the grotesque use of Nazi-like animalization was obviously inappropriate and never should have seen the light of day.

“Only a biased moron would characterize Israel’s desperate efforts to protect pregnant mothers, children and the elderly from knife-wielding Palestinian terrorists as a ‘cycle of revenge,’” Cooper said.

SZ published a cartoon of Facebook owner Zuckerberg as an octopus with a large nose gobbling up the world. The cartoon was widely condemned as anti-Semitic. The artist, Burkhard Mohr, said at the time that “anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies which are totally foreign to me,” and that he was not aware that the presentation of Zuckerberg could be a problem, “because he had not viewed Zuckerberg as a Jew.”

Dr. Matthias Küntzel, a Hamburg-based political scientist who has written extensively on modern German anti-Semitism, told the Post, “The SZ headline not only calls into question Israel’s right to self-defense but at the same time uses the anti-Semitic stereotype of the ‘vengeful’ Jew, who allegedly is driven by irrational and archaic motives.”

Dr. Charles Small, a New York-based academic who oversees the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, said in an interview, “It is disheartening to see SZincreasingly promote anti-Semitic tropes. The latest trend is to minimize and justify Palestinian terrorism against Jews, as an expected result of the conflict. In addition, to blame the prime minister of Israel for the supposed migration of citizens of Israel, is not substantiated by facts and reflects a bias against the Jewish state.

“It is especially negligent when millions of refugees have been create in neighboring Syria and where hundreds of thousands have been massacred in a horrific protracted conflict. The irrational focus on Israel is, therefore, all the more irresponsible for journalists,” Small said.

Small’s Institute, which runs programs at Oxford University in the UK and at universities in Paris, Canada, the United States and Italy, added that “in addition the SZ has published classical forms of hatred through cartoons demonizing accomplished Jewish citizens, and modern variations targeting Israel’s policies. Taking this ‘culture’ of SZ into account, it is sadly unsurprising that SZ refuses to publish a full correction of its false and hateful reporting.”

In 2013, SZ ran a caricature of Israel as a demonic monster. A young woman is depicted serving food to the monster with horns and holding a carving knife. The caption reads: “Germany at your service. For decades, Israel has been provided with weapons, partly free of charge. Israel’s enemies consider the country to be a voracious Moloch.”

Germany’s Press Council said the cartoon violated the council’s press code against discrimination. Peter Enno Tiarks, chairman of the complaints office at the press council, said at the time that the cartoon was “discriminatory and contributes to prejudices against Israel and Jews.” Franziska Augstein, the SZ editor responsible for the placement of the monster cartoon, attempted to block a complaint filed by the American Jewish Committee with the Press Council. SZ wrote that the cartoon had “nothing to do with anti-Semitic clichés,” but added that as “the photo led to misunderstandings, it would have been better to have chosen a different photo.”

Deidre Berger, the head of the Berlin-based office of the AJC, told the Post on Friday, “In the midst of a prolonged wave of terrorism against Israeli citizens, the Süddeutsche Zeitungascribes one-sided blame for the ongoing attacks against Israeli civilians to Israel. Instead of labeling the violence clearly as terrorism, the attacks are trivialized by equating them to Israeli responses to the terror.

“The article lacks journalistic balance, relying on assertions that reverse the context of the terrorist attacks, depicting Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs as victims instead of as perpetrators.  The quotations and examples used create imagery of an unending circle of violence driven by alleged Israeli motives for revenge. Imputing motives of revenge to Israeli counterterrorism efforts to stop the violence is a dangerous allegation: One of the oldest anti-Semitic stereotypes is the assertion that Jews have an innate lust for revenge. It is a perilous myth to ascribe revenge as a national characteristic. Instead, we should be looking at Israel as one of the front-line nations countering terrorism to defend our common core Western values,” said Berger.

Samuel Salzborn, a leading expert on anti-Semitism at the University of Göttingen in Lower Saxony, told the Post that SZ has reversed cause and effect by “playing down Palestinian terrorism and giving Israel partial responsibility for this anti-Semitic terrorism.” He added that the “old anti-Semitic motive that Jews are to be blamed for their persecution because of their behavior is carried over onto Israel as a Jewish state, and therefore the victim is turned into a perpetrator.”

Some German Jews have canceled their SZ subscriptions over the years because of its alleged contemporary anti-Semitism.

Grigori Pantijelew, the deputy head of the Bremen Jewish community, told the Post he canceled his subscription after a failed effort to explain the slanted anti-Israel coverage to theSZ editors.

Pantijelew, who runs workshops on modern anti-Semitism in Germany, wrote an exhaustive analysis of the anti-Israel “manipulation and one-sided articles” of the late historian Tony Judt in SZ.

“I see a clear position of SZ that does not seek friendship but rather seeks hostility between Jews and Germans. I deplore that. However, I am more concerned about the SZ readership which tolerates the position of the SZ editors. I am sorry about the people who read the SZ and do not protest against it.”

Lala Süsskind, the former head of the Berlin’s 10,000-member Jewish community, termed the paper’s coverage “very tendentious,” because it “shows Israel as always bad.”

Reinhard Schramm, the chairman of the Jewish community in Thuringia state, said the SZheadline “promotes anti-Semitism and is, above all, false and insulting.”

SZ stories prompted one of the first protests of Shoah survivors against post-Holocaust lethal anti-Semitism in 1949.

The paper published a letter to the editor in 1949 by Adolf Bleibtreu, a pseudonym, in which he said the Americans now have deal with Jews and claimed the Americans told him there is regret “that we did not gas all of them [Jews]….” A photograph from the protest shows the Holocaust survivors holding a banner reading, “Down with the Stürmer of 1949. TheSüddeutsche Zeitung.” Der Stürmer was a leading Nazi newspaper that dehumanized Jews with its anti-Semitic cartoons and articles.

In a telephone interview on Friday with the Post, Torsten Weber, the chairman of the German-Israeli Friendship Society (DIG) in Munich, said SZ’s recent anti-Israel headline is unsurprising because it is “one case of many.” He sees “frequent anti-Semitic connotations” in the paper’s coverage but said SZ does not have an anti-Semitic policy. In the case of the Peter Münch article, Weber said DIG views the headline as “an anti-Semitic stereotype.”

Ulrich Werner Grimm, the executive director of Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation in Berlin, told in the Post in his capacity as a private person not representing the society, that “the headline suggests the Old Testament ‘God of Revenge,’ which is a classic component of an anti-Jewish/anti-Semitic bias pattern. The headline gives the following article an anti-Semitic/anti-Israel tendency that is not found in the content of the article.”

SZ is the largest broad-sheet daily in Germany, with a paid daily circulation in the last quarter of 2015 of 367,924. Post email and telephone queries to SZ editors-in-chief Wolfgang Krach and Kurt Kister seeking comment about the allegations of anti-Semitism were not returned. Julia Bönisch, a deputy SZ editor, declined to answer Post queries. Email queries to Peter Münch via SZ were not answered.  Senior SZ editors Stefan Kornelius and Peter Lindner declined to respond to Post email queries.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post