The New York Times Profiles Cindy aus Marzahn
Trivia Contest: Identify This Film Still

What Jakob Augstein Actually Said about Israel

The U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center just named left-wing German journalist Jakob Augstein one of the 10 worst anti-Semites of 2012, which is raising eyebrows (g) in Germany. This puts him in the company of European neo-Nazi parties who explicitly advocate forced resettlement/annihilation, fanatical Muslims calling for Allah to destroy the Jews, and Louis Farrakhan. I decided to go read the report (pdf) and see which statements they cited as proof. Here they are:

“With backing from the US, where the president must secure the support of Jewish lobby groups, and in Germany, where coping with history, in the meantime, has a military component, the Netanyahu government keeps the world on a leash with an ever-swelling war chant.”

“Israel’s nuclear power is a danger to the already fragile peace of the world. This statement has triggered an outcry. Because it’s true. And because it was made by a German, Guenter Grass, author and Nobel Prize winner. That is the key point. One must, therefore, thank him for taking it upon himself to speak for us all.”

“Israel is threatened by Islamic fundalmentalists in its neighborhood. But the Jews also have their fundamentalists, the ultra-orthodox Hareidim. They are not a small splinter group. They make up 10% of the Israeli population. They are cut from the same cloth as their Islamic fundamentalist opponents. They follow the law of revenge.”

“The fire burns in Libya, Sudan, Yemen, in countries which are among the poorest on earth. But those who set the fires live elsewhere. Furious young people burn the American, and recently, the German flag. They, too, are victims, just like the dead at Benghazi and Sanaa. Whom does this all this violence benefit? Always the insane and unscrupulous. And this time it’s the U.S. Republicans and Israeli government.”

“Gaza is a place out of the end of times….1.7 million people live there on 360 sq. kilometers. Israel incubates its own opponents there.”

To quote Joschka Fischer, I'm not convinced. First of all, you'll notice that Augstein never refers to 'the Jews', like most of the others on the list, many of whom are despicable and/or nuts. He refers to Israel or the current Israeli government or the 'Netanyahu government'. Further, his statements are based on fact (Haredi Jews are in fact about 11% of the Israeli population, and growing fast), or are legitimate, if provocative, statements of opinion. To take one example, the assessment that Israel's possession of around 200 nuclear missiles is 'a' (not the only, but a) danger to peace:

  1. Israel has created a nuclear program and has 200 launch-ready missiles (some of them carried on German submarines provided free to Israel).
  2. This has, unsurprisingly, has helped motivate other states in the region to pursue their own nuclear programs.
  3. The Israel has bombed these states (Iraq and Syria) and is now threatening to go to war with Iran to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons, and has attempted to convince its ally, a world superpower, to join it.

You may disagree with this reasoning, but it's not irrational or stereotype-driven. Bombing other countries, whether justified or not, is a threat to peace. As for the notion that merely identifying the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. is somehow anti-Semitic, that dog hasn't hunted since at least 2006. One of Washington's most powerful lobbying groups, AIPAC, calls itself 'America's Pro-Israel Lobby', and all American Presidential candidates must make a pilgrimage to its annual meeting to declare their undying fealty to both it and Israel. Really, there is no other word for it. If you doubt me, read Obama's 2012 AIPAC speech here. I won't even mention Romney's speech, which is a self-parody of subservient pandering.

On a related note, why is it anti-Semitic to simply point out that 1.7 million people do, in fact live in Gaza? As for the notion that conditions there are creating future opponents, this is so obvious it hardly bears mentioning. I presume we're supposed to be outraged by the journalistic hyperbole 'end times'. Yawn. This is ar for the course in German advocacy journalism, and you'll find similar colorful exaggerations in article on tax reform.

Of course, the standard response is that Augstein is selectively criticizing Israel, without paying similar attention to the misdeeds of its enemies. This dog doesn't hunt either. Any polemic that's worth reading is going to be 'one-sided'. Further, none of the English-speaking readers of this report will have any idea whether it's actually true that Augstein only criticizes Israel, since they have no access to the other 99.999% of what Augstein has said on the Mid-East. Overall, Augstein's argument is that the extremists on both sides of the conflict, who are unfortunately in power at this point, have no interest in peace, and feed off each other.

The report cites Henryk Broder as proof of Augstein's anti-Semitism:

Respected Die Welt columnist Henryk M. Broder, who has testified as an expert in the Bundestag about German anti-Semitism, labeled Augstein a “little Streicher” adding: “Jakob Augstein is not a salon anti-Semite, he’s a pure anti-Semite…an offender by conviction who only missed the opportunity to make his career with the Gestapo because he was born after the war. He certainly would have had what it takes.”

Now that's what I call reasoned debate! I imagine Augstein will sue Broder for this comment under German law, and he'd have a pretty good case. What we have here is an unfortunate incident of cross-cultural blind spots. Broder is not to be taken seriously, he's a crank who reflexively smears mainstream German politicians as anti-Semites when he disagrees with them on Mideast policy. In 2011, for example, he declared that the leader of the Green party, a woman named Claudia Roth, would have been happy to visit the concentration camp Theresienstadt and compliment its commandant. He was sued (eventually unsuccessfully) for libel when he criticized Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, a German Jewish activist who criticizes Israeli policy, in the following terms (clumsy translation courtesy of Wikipedia): "Any carnival drunkard with two promille of booze in his blood is able even to recognize on women's carnival that Hecht Galinsky is just a hysterical, selfsupporting housewife with nothing more in mind than to promote herself. Her specialty is intellectually vapid anti-Semitic anti-Zionist phrases -- such as are currently in fashion."

Nuff said.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


The Wiesenthal Center did not actually call Augstein one of the worst anti-Semite, or an anti-Semite at all, they said he made some of the worst anti-Semitic OR anti-Israeli slurs. Augsteins defenders are attacking a strawman.
This said, anyone who spreads rumours that "the Israeli government" is behind Djihadist attacks in Lybia is an anti-Semite IMHO, Sartre's famous quote of anti-Semitism being "a rumour about the Jews" comes to mind.
BTW, Gaza's population density is about average for an urban area, and it has a border with supposedly friendly, Muslim-Brotherhood ruled Egypt.


@davidly: The whole idea with the "law of revenge" is wrong. The Israeli/Palestinan conflict is not a centuries old family feud spiraling out of control because the conflict parties take revenge on each other. There are interests involved which (for now) can't be solved politically and because of that there is war. A lot of Israelis are not very fond of the Haredim, up until a few month ago most of them refused to join the army and a significant part of them reject the Israeli state all together (because only the Messiah is allowed to create a Jewish state). In conclusion: The Haredim influence on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is very limited (they unfortunately do have some influence on other policies). This is also a good example where Augstein spins the facts against Israel: He suggests that 10% of Israelis are somehow escalated the conflict and are somehow responsible for the outbreak of violence in November due their revengeful behavior.

But the reason for the November clashes was the shift in the power balance due to Hamas' acquiring of new missile technology. Augstein is an extremely intelligent and well educated man - the explanation that Augstein just doesn't understand this conflict and just randomly sees the problem in revengeful ultra orthodox Jews is to me not acceptable.

About the AIPAC: Certainly AIPAC tries to influence US policy, and they do certainly have some influence. But how much? The idea, that American middle east policies would be fundamentally different were it not for Israeli lobbies is in my opinion wrong (and the ability to form an important part of a super powers foreign policy would not be world domination, but pretty close to it).


It wasn't me who wrote this quote. Please read more carefully.


@Stephan ..."Imagine an muslim organisation plans to construct a building on the ground of a historic jewish cemetary - what do you bet if the leader of that organisation would appear at the wiesenthal-center list of antisemits?.."

And, where, in your opinion, Al-Aqsa mosque is built?


As far as Augstein's implication that somebody might have prompted the video maker into action, hell, an entire brand of US media came to that very conclusion!

It is no big mystery that there is a false dichotomy at work in the two party chamber of American politics on the most serious issues of foreign policy. But this fact gets lost when analyzing Israeli influence over US politicians from this or that party, a difference which amounts to shades of black.

Notwithstanding MSNBC's having taken great pleasure in pointing out that Bibi was in the bag for Romney, you'd be hard pressed to make a viable claim that the network is antisemitic, especially when you consider the extent to which criticism of Israeli influence on US foreign policy wanes as soon as elections are over, including any serious look at how the United States finds itself alone with Israel in the UN on more than just a few occasions, regardless which party occupies the Whitehouse.

The difference is that Augstein's criticism is consistent, not dependent upon the American election cycles and includes not just Americans, but EU member countries.

So regarding your claim that he spins things that would speak for Israel, could you cite an example?

And Michael, this paragraph of yours...
Regarding antisemitism-buzzwords: This is not a personal view. Declaring Jews as revengeful (an eye for an eye as opposed to Christian love thy enemy), as world dominating force (leash, lobby) and as people who profit from the conflicts they create (setting fires) are antisemitic stereotypes.
...indeed displays antisemitic stereotypes, but Augstein made none of those claims. You just jumped from buzzwords to convenient misappropriation of language:

- saying Hareidim make up a tenth of the population does not equal "declaring Jews as revengeful"

- pointing to AIPAC's bipartisan inordinate influence over US legislators does not equal "declaring Jews as world dominating force"
(that seems, rather, to be conclusion you have come to)

- daring to mention that domineering militaries foment the fury of militants does not equal "declaring Jews as people who profit from the conflicts they create."
In this regard, he would have to be considered at least as anti-Christian as he is antisemitic, in that he criticizes some people of influence who happen to be Christian and some people of influence who happen to be Jewish, whose relationships to one another are convenient, at best.

Heck, Michael, even the Simon Wiesenthal Center kept the quotes direct and contextual enough that we could draw our own conclusions. Of course, I use the word "we" loosely. But if you really interpret his statements the way you have just summarized them, then why don't you think he belongs at number nine on that list?


@Andrew @Michael:
I hasten to note that Augstein's commentary on the subsequent events (video = fires) were inaccurate insofar as mass-media analysis had already begun to frame events as directly correlative which were not, ie. "the video caused riots".

This framework lazily (and conveniently) removes from the equation:
1) demos (which preceded and, at best, created an atmosphere in which one could more easily get away with rioting)
2) the fact that vast numbers of people were not protesting the video per se, but were encouraged to go and demonstrate by those who used the video as an excuse to do so and get people on the streets in larger numbers
3) all the other frustrations caused by geopolitical machinations

In other words, in spite of the fact that Augstein regularly points out the less than immediately obvious, in this case he had bought into a false notion to begin with.


@Andrew: To me the "fires were set elsewhere" is already a stretch. Well - the "movie" was created in the US geographically. But the writer/director/producer was an Egyptian Copt (who was born and raised in Egypt). The reasons why he hates Islam are most likely to be found in the persecution of the Copts by Muslims in Egypt.

Also Augstein then goes even a step further when saying (not quoted by the Wiesenthal Center) "Can one imagine, that a criminal Copt [...] could have acted on some orders other then his own orders? At least the fundamentalist in the republican party and the Israeli government know how to use [...]" (sorry, I am totally useless when it comes to translating). Also the last sentence of the "fire" paragraph from the Wiesenthal Center translation does miss two words: the "wie nebenbei" which can be translated as "like some coincidence".

Yes, he is not bluntly saying that the Israeli government or the Republicans financed the "movie". But he is very much hinting on it.

Augstein then goes on in writing "It was saddening to witness how he (Netanjahu) used it (the pictures of enraged Muslims) for his own purposes. At the weekend Netanjahu called once again for drawing red lines on Iran." (Augstein refers to an NBC Interview). Obviously the Netanyahus US-visit and his pledge for action on Iran was well organized in advanced and had absolutely nothing to do with the riots in the Muslim world. Should I now believe that Augstein just doesn't understand that?

As fas as AIPAC goes: well yes, there is some influence. But it is not totally unheard of, that politicians in front of an audience tend to say what those people want the hear.


It's true that Typepad software sucks really bad, but even so you should see deleted comments in a special folder that allows you to restore them selectively.

In any case, I doubt that I can find a half hour to recreate that long comment.


@Michael: If you read the comments about the fires burning in the mid-East carefully, they don't imply any conspiracy thinking. The point is that (1) the fires were set 'elsewhere' (that is, by a virulent Islamophobe in the US). The reaction among the poor and ignorant in these countries is to respond with violence, which is wrong and also counter-productive, since it plays into the hands of the 'insane' (the crank who made the film) and the 'unscrupulous' (the Rebublicans and the Israeli government). Once again, you may not agree with this argument, but it's not a smear.

What WOULD have been a conspiracy theory is to argue that the Republicans and the Israeli government had secretly financed the film in order to provoke a violent reaction which would discredit Muslims. This would be a conspiracy theory because it would be unsupported by known facts. But that is not what Augstein is saying.

Nor is the assertion that the current Israeli government wields disproportionate power an anti-Semitic trope. It's one thing to say that 'the Jews' control world events through dark channels. It's another thing to argue that the Israeli government has an outsized influence on world events because of its disproportionate influence on the foreign policy of a superpower. And if you doubt that outsized influence, read the AIPAC speeches.


@davidly: Obviously Augstein is not the ninth worst antisemit in the world. That he is included in this list is ridicules. But I read some of the articles at the time when they were first published at SPON (the quotes are not from one but from several articles he wrote). When I read his column about the Mohamed film (the one with the "the fires burn" paragraph) I honestly couldn't believe he would write something like this.

While you can argue that the individual sentences in the "fires" - paragraph are not technically wrong, the whole paragraph is complete nonsense. It is a typical cui bono of a conspiracy theorist. (As I mentioned earlier he writes here about the Mohamed film).

Regarding antisemitism-buzzwords: This is not a personal view. Declaring Jews as revengeful (an eye for an eye as opposed to Christian love thy enemy), as world dominating force (leash, lobby) and as people who profit from the conflicts they create (setting fires) are antisemitic stereotypes.

When Augstein writes about Israel, he disregards all complexity in the current situation Israel is in and spins it against Israel. On the one hand he seems to know a lot of stuff about Israel. On the other hand he seems to be totally clueless when something would speak for Israel.


Apropos Simon Wiesenthal Center: Actually it planes to build a "museum for tolerance" in Jerusalem - on the space of a historic muslim cemetary, that would have to destroyed for the building.
Imagine an muslim organisation plans to construct a building on the ground of a historic jewish cemetary - what do you bet if the leader of that organisation would appear at the wiesenthal-center list of antisemits?




@Michael | January 04, 2013 at 12:20 AM:
But the fires that burn in Libya, Sudan, and Yemen are set elsewhere. Augstein's reference to those particular countries--as opposed to other countries undergoing tumultuous conflict on the African continent--has to do with the kind of foreign military intervention that Augstein claims creates the the kind of hatred purportedly being battled.

The "All this talking about..." you refer to has been laid out extensively enough to be analyzed on its own merits. The paragraphs included in this post are limited to those cited by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. So when you say "Augsteins article" I have to assume that you have not read the arguments in the multiple sources that are being referenced.

Therefore, your antisemitism-sensors seem to have picked personal buzzwords from within these excerpts, the context of which, obviously, the author of this blog is aware, but seemingly, you are not, ie. that the draconian view of vengeance that exists in the Islamic world has a considerable parallel among the Israeli populace; that the US finds itself in a unique position politically vis a vis the Israel lobby; that the US finds itself increasingly isolated with Israel at the UN (Germany's recent choice to abstain re. recognition of Palestine having recent relevance); and the active military role NATO continues to play in the "war on terror" includes blowing people up by remote control from the American desert.

One can even disagree on these policies without coming to the conclusion that Augstein is the ninth worst anti-semite in world.


@Stephan: No, I do not agree with Gärtner. But Broder is lunatic, and Gärtner ist not - he is polemic and does not like Augstein in the first place, of course, and I think his argumentation is somewhat, well, dizzying. But I just wanted to link another opinion.


I don't delete comments, S. You accidentally used a blocked word in yours, which results in automatic deletion. Try avoiding brand names. If that doesn't work, email it to me and I'll post it.

buy facebook likes

Hi,I am new person to the blogging stuff.Thanks for sharing the informative news with us.Keep update plenty of news in the blog.


@Carsten: I think this is much closer to reality:

Since I am not sure, whether you linked to the Titanic article because you agree with the author or as another example for what Mr. Hammel was writing about: it's no secret that Stefan Gärtner is affiliated to a group of people around Hermann Gremliza, publisher of the magazine »konkret« ( ), who have, let's say, a very peculiar view on the matter — you might agree with or not (I obviously don't). Every now and then I enjoy reading Mr. Gärtner's waspish rants and occasionally even agree, but he's certainly no scholar on the subject... ;-)

I hope the fact that I'd like to quietly point to the fact how little media attention the omni-present and very physical antisemitism against Arabs and everything muslim (or believed to be that) is getting in comparison is no trigger to throw that A-word at me...


See also the essay (in German) ending with the conclusion that Augstein is an antisemite.


Couldn't handle disagreement, Andy? So you hit the delete button. You are an idiot.


I think Augsteins article is for the most part controversial. But the paragraph "The fire burns in Libya, Sudan...." is not. Nobody can possible defend something like this - its a pure conspiracy theory. He is not just hinting - he says explicitly "those who set the fires live elsewhere".

Also I want to add that while he does not mention the Jews: still all this talking about the lobby, law of revenge, setting fires - it just makes my antisemitism-sensors go off.

The comments to this entry are closed.