The Jerusalem Post
Berlin – The bell has rung for the first round of a legal fight between renowned German-Jewish columnist Henryk M. Broder and Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, a hardcore anti-Zionist critic of Israel who happens to be a German Jew herself.
At issue is whether Broder may write that statements made by Hecht-Galinski are anti-Semitic.
In an open letter to Monika Piel, director of Westdeutsche Rundfunk (Western German Broadcasting), Broder referred to Hecht-Galinski and wrote that „anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist statements are her specialty.“
The Westdeutsche Rundfunk radio program Hallo Ü-Wagen had invited Hecht-Galinski to talk about Israel’s 60th anniversary, and Broder questioned the soundness of Hecht-Galinski’s credentials as an Israel expert who in the past has equated the Israeli government with Nazi Germany.
While Hecht-Galinski did not legally object to his characterization of her as anti-Zionist, she wants Broder to withdraw the anti-Semitic label.
The dispute has a number of subplots, the first of which will proceed within the German judiciary. A temporary injunction prohibits Broder from posting his open letter on his Web site „Die Achse des Guten“ (The Axis of the Good).
As reported in the Aachener Zeitung newspaper on Thursday, Hecht-Galinski’s attorney, Gernot Lehr, favors a settlement to resolve the dispute.
However, Broder told The Jerusalem Post that he opposes a deal „allowing anti-Semites to decide what anti-Semitism is. It is as if pedophiles can decide what real love toward children is.“
A settlement would „muzzle“ his free-speech rights and set an unacceptable legal precedent for future criticism of Jews who voiced anti-Semitic remarks and demonized Israel, he said.
After Wednesday’s hearing in Cologne, Broder’s attorney, Nathan Gelbart, told the Post that the regional court would decide on September 3 whether the interim injunction would be overruled or restricted.
He said the court recognized that the restraining order was too broad, and that the court had been unaware of the nature of Hecht-Galinski’s anti-Israeli tirades.
Hecht-Galinski has applauded parallels drawn between Israeli policies and Nazism, and raged against a world-wide Israel lobby that seeks to prevent criticism of the Jewish state.
Her attorney Lehr told the Post he was not prepared to comment on the case until the court issued a ruling.
After his legal victory last year in which a court of appeals in Frankfurt affirmed Der Spiegel magazine journalist Broder’s claim that Jews are just as capable of voicing anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic statements as non-Jews, Broder said, „There are nurses who kill their patients, attorneys who commit insurance fraud. Why can’t there not therefore be Jews who are anti-Semites?“
The second subplot will play out within German society. Hecht-Galinski’s father, Heinz Galinski, survived Auschwitz and became the first chairman of the Berlin German Jewish community following the Holocaust. He also served as the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Some of Hecht-Galinski’s critics say she is misusing her deceased father’s stature as an esteemed public figure to mount an anti-Israel campaign. She has invoked the phrase „as the daughter of Heinz Galinski“ to defend her criticisms of Israel.
In a Deutschlandradio interview last year, she defended the remarks of German Catholic Bishops Gregor Maria Hanke and Walter Mixa, who, while visiting Israel in March 2007, equated Israel with Nazi Germany.
„This morning we saw pictures of the Warsaw Ghetto at Yad Vashem and this evening we are going to the Ramallah ghetto,“ Hanke said. For Mixa, Ramallah was „ghetto-like“ and „almost racism.“
Hecht-Galinski told the radio interviewer she found the Nazi analogy to be „very moderate“ and that she „regretted“ the decision by then-German Cardinal Karl Lehmann to issue an apology on behalf of his colleagues.
But an apology for such remarks is in order, suggested Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Jewish Studies program at Indiana University and a leading expert on Jewish anti-Zionism.
„Anyone who tars Israel with the Nazi brush by drawing obscene analogies between Israeli policies on the West Bank and the Warsaw Ghetto is wandering into very questionable territory and is legitimately open to strong criticism,“ Rosenfeld told the Post.
His essay, „‚Progressive‘ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,“ which has been translated into German, asserts that vicious anti-Israeli statements and books from a number of British and American Jews are contributing to modern anti-Semitism.
Further commenting on Hecht-Galinski, Rosenfeld cited
the US State Department report „Contemporary Global anti-Semitism,“ which defines „drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis“ as anti-Semitic.
On this side of the Atlantic, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, formerly known as the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, issued a „working definition of Anti-Semitism“ that defines „drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis“ as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.
Reached at her home in Malsburg-Marzell, Baden-Württemberg, on Wednesday evening, Hecht-Galinski declined to comment and referred questions to her attorney.
In her frequent media appearances, Hecht-Galinski argues that a „tacit gag order“ exists in Germany preventing criticism of Israel.
„The Jewish-Israel lobby with its active network is extended over the world“ to clamp down on criticism of Israel, she said in a Deutschlandradio interview last year.
„For the practitioner to cry ‚foul‘ by claiming that the ‚Israel lobby‘ is out to silence all legitimate criticism of Israel is itself nothing more than another rhetorical trick in the standard lexicon of anti-Zionism,“ Rosenfeld said. „If Henryk Broder exposed one more example of this mendacious behavior, then good for him.“
Media critics in Germany have observed the ubiquitous presence of a few anti-Israel Jews who are provided platforms in major press outlets to stoke criticism of the Jewish state.
In an e-mail to the Post, the general-secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan J. Kramer, wrote, „I share Henryk M. Broder’s view. It is a rare phenomenon to find even Jews [in Germany] expressing themselves in an anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist manner, and Ms. Hecht-Galinski is a leading representative; she obviously tries to cope with her self-hatred through anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist statements. The Central Council will support Henryk Broder in this trial, if Ms. Hecht-Galinski thinks she has to solve the problem in the courts.“
In an interview with Deutschlandradio in 2006, Hecht-Galinski described the Central Council of Jews in Germany as the „mouthpiece of the Israeli government in Germany.“
Broder, who is considered a leading expert on anti-Semitism in Germany, testified before the Bundestag’s Domestic Affairs Committee in June. The „modern anti-Semite does not believe in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But instead he fantasizes about an ‚Israel lobby‘ that is supposed to control American foreign policy,“ he told the legislators.
And in reference to the „memory culture“ in Germany, which is consumed with the Holocaust and the period between 1933 and 1945, yet fails to see Iran’s genocidal policy as a real threat to Jews, Broder said, „For the modern anti-Semite, it goes without saying that every year on January 27 he will commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. But at the same time he militates for the right of Iran to have atomic weapons. Or he inverts the causal relationship and claims that it is Israel that is threatening Iran and not vice versa.“
Broder cited lawmaker Norman Paech, the foreign policy spokesman of Germany’s third largest party, The Left, as an example of contemporary anti-Semitism in Germany. Paech favors nuclear weapons for Iran and employs Nazi terminology when discussing Israel in the media.
„Devote your attention to the modern anti-Semitism that wears the disguise of anti-Zionism, and to its representatives. You will find some of the latter among your own ranks,“ Broder told the politicians from across the spectrum present at the Domestic Affairs Committee hearing.