German-Jewish leader second-guesses anti-Semitic statements list


BERLIN (JTA) — Comments by the German journalist Jakob Augstein do not belong on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 10 worst anti-Semitic statements of 2012 list, a German Jewish leader said.

Despite his "horrible, hideous" articles on Israel, the inclusion of Augstein trivializes all the others on the list, said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany,  in an interview with the German weekly Focus magazine.

The annual list compiled by the California-based watchdog organization also includes statements by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, European soccer fans, the far-right parties of Ukraine, Greece and Hungary, and Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, as well as the country of Norway for honoring the creator of a notoriously anti-Semitic website.

Augstein, 49, publisher of the weekly magazine Der Freitag and columnist with online magazine, was blasted for his comments on Israel, such as "the Jews also have their fundamentalists,  the ultra-orthodox Haredim … They are cut from the same cloth as their Islamic fundamentalist opponents. They follow the law of revenge."

In a column on the unrest and violence in Libya, Sudan and Yemen, Augstein reportedly asked, "Whom does all this violence benefit? Always the insane and unscrupulous. And this time it’s the U.S. Republicans and Israeli government."

Augstein last year defended Nobel laureate Gunter Grass for a poem in which he charged Israel with threatening Iran when it was Iran threatening Israel.

Graumann said Augstein’s comments may be distasteful, incite hatred and feed stereotypes, but "I don’t agree with this ranking," he told Focus in the Jan. 6 interview. The inclusion of Augstein in the ninth position, with such neighbors as "the disgusting Nazi parties in our European partner countries of Hungary and Greece," serves to trivialize the entire issue, Graumann said.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, defended his decision to include Augstein in an interview with the German broadcaster ARD.

The Wiesenthal Center cites German Jewish columnist Henryk Broder as calling Augstein "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.”

Augstein in a statement to the German news agency dpa and reprinted in Der Freitag on Jan. 1 said he "deeply respects" the work of the Wiesenthal Center "in the confrontation with and fight against anti-Semitism. Which makes it all the more distressing when this fight is weakened, as is inevitably the case when critical
journalism is defamed as racist or anti-Semitic."

The European Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League recently told The Jerusalem Post that they were deeply troubled by Augstein’s record of comments on Israel. EJC head Moshe Kantor said one should "call this hatred … what it is."

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