January 08, 2013

Jakob Augstein: an also ran in Wiesenthal's Zionist Olympics

In the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's top ten antisemites list there were bound to be some real cases of antisemitism.  Carlos Latuff stood out in third place as the kind anti-zionist who you'd expect to be smeared by a zionist organisation like SWC.  Carlos came sufficiently high in the hit parade to be noticed.  He also has a very large anti-racist following.  But there is another highly questionable case and that is Jakob Augstein.



Here's Der Spiegel:
The usual suspects can be found in the top spots of the 2012 list of "anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs": Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is in first place, followed by the Iranian regime, which aims to destroy the state of Israel. Not the kind of list one wants to be a part of.
[note they stopped short of third place which was awarded to Latuff]
But prominent German journalist Jakob Augstein, publisher of the weekly newspaper Der Freitag and author of a regular column on SPIEGEL ONLINE (which is occasionally translated into English for publication), appears in 9th place on the list.

It's a scandal. SPIEGEL immediately sought to find out what had happened and why Augstein had appeared on the list -- but failed. It is a failure that speaks volumes about the methods and position of the Wiesenthal Center. At issue are absurd demands and emails that seem to stem from a different world.

After the list was published, a passionate debate erupted in German newspapers over what constitutes justifiable criticism of Israeli policies and what exactly defines anti-Semitism. Most journalists felt that the accusation against Augstein was absurd, with the exception of Henryk Broder, a former SPIEGEL writer and well-known polemicist. Broder, in an effort to illustrate Augstein's lack of self reflection, even went so far as to liken him to a pedophile who views himself as a friend of children.
Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, seemed to put an end to the debate when he said that he had never had the impression that Augstein's writings were anti-Semitic, and suggested that the Americans hadn't done their homework. Korn said on the radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur, that the Americans were "pretty far removed, in a manner of speaking, from German reality."
Now of course Germany has all sorts of issues around Jews, Israel and zionism so what's a mainstream publication to do when one of its own contacts is falsely accused of antisemitism by so august an organisation as Wiesenthal? And for Der Spiegel there was another problem:
It's a tricky issue for SPIEGEL. Augstein isn't a member of the editorial staff, nor does he have any influence over the content of the magazine. Augstein doesn't even write for the magazine per se, since SPIEGEL ONLINE, its Web-based sister publication, has its own editorial staff.

Nevertheless, he is the adopted son of SPIEGEL founder Rudolf Augstein. As heirs, he and his siblings own 24 percent of the SPIEGEL publishing house. We didn't want to attack him, because we believe that the accusation against him is wrong. But we could hardly defend him, because every reader would expect us to defend him. Doing so would devalue every sentence.

But there was a possible solution: We believed that readers could form their own opinions about the accusations if we presented both positions. So we tried to organize a debate between Augstein and the person at the Wiesenthal Center in charge of the list so as to allow the opponents to argue their sides in detail. We contacted Augstein by telephone, and he agreed.
But the SWC didn't seem up to defending its position:
It took Cooper less than 24 hours to respond by email. He wrote that he appreciated the "kind offer" and that he was willing to participate, but only under certain conditions. "If you wish to interview me together with him," Cooper wrote, "Mr. Augstein must publicly apologize in advance for the statements that earned him his designation on the Wiesenthal Center's Top Ten anti-Semitism List." Otherwise, he added, he would refuse to "sit in the same room with him."

Such a request is nothing less than a snub, yet Augstein reacted matter-of-factly when told about Cooper's response. Of course he wouldn't apologize for criticizing Israel, he said, noting that he is, after all, a journalist.

Since Cooper apparently finds Augstein's physical presence intolerable, we thought the debate could also be held via Skype. The two men could sit in two different rooms, as Cooper wanted, and conducting the debate online wouldn't diminish its quality.

Augstein doesn't really like Skype conversations owing to the sometimes poor technical quality, but there was no getting around it. The editorial office sent Cooper the proposal, along with a plan covering its technical aspects.

In his email response to the proposal, Cooper was even more adamantly opposed to the idea: "I will not participate in any face-to-face, 
simultaneous 'discussion' live, in the same room or digitally with Mr. Augstein unless he has apologized," Cooper wrote (italics in original). Instead, he added, he would prefer to have a page for himself in SPIEGEL, apparently so that he could tell its readers about his accusations without having to entertain any opposing arguments.
The SWC are actually being more underhanded than simply dodging the debate.  See this tweet:
It could be a withdrawal of the allegation but the link is to a Jerusalem Post article which pretty much supports the SWC.

All fairly standard zionist stuff. Allege antisemitism and then refuse to debate. The difference this time is that mainstream German media has come into the frame and traveled a long way up its learning curve in the process.

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