Research on anti-Semitism
Current anti-Semitism

Scientific studies confirm a decreasing trend of anti-Semitism in Germany. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Benz explains why this doesn’t mention anything about the extent of anti-Zionism and "secondary anti-Semitism". By WOLFGANG BENZ

Translated by Gunnar Ahrens and Christine Crawford.

The European public's perception of the Middle East conflict has shifted dramatically. The threat felt by Israel, which led people onto the streets in sympathy for the Jewish state during the 1967 Six-Day war, was followed by wide condemnation of the Israeli occupation and settlement policies, within Palestinian territories. Opinion polls showing that a large number of European citizens are opposed to Israel's policy, cannot be denied.

It should also be noted that the Jewish Diaspora increasingly asserts its solidarity with Israel, even though it doesn't always consider the occupation policy to be the greatest. Many Jews could come up with other ways to achieve peace and security with the Palestinians. The fact is, that in many European countries, public sympathy and to a large extent the media's sympathy towards Israel, has also disappeared. People no longer negatively judge Israel, based on the origins of the violence. It is noted that the media does not always report objectively about Israel, not even in Germany.

They focus heavily on the fact that Israel has built the largest concentration camp in the world and also on the fate of pregnant women suffering at border controls.Palestinians are portrayed as victims, via reports describing the suffering of individual families, whilst the suffering of equally innocent Israeli families caused by Palestinian guerrillas and suicide bombers on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – are hidden. Here, the presumption of unilateral partisanship is most probably correct – as well as the assumption that hostile emotions are involved.

Of course, it is legitimate to criticise a state's political and military activity, just like they were during the war between the US and Iraq, with all its highly unpleasant side effects and consequences for Israel.The difference in assessment is easily recognizable: During the Iraq war, people differentiated between the Bush administration and the US Army on one side and the American citizens on the other. Nobody explained the excesses experienced in Iraq, which fell onto the shoulders of individual soldiers or contributed to the controversial decisions made by the Bush administration, with the "national character of the Americans". Nobody suggested that the US should disappear from the world map for the mistakes they had made.

In the case of Israel, it is different. This can be seen via the monstrous comparisons, as well as the efforts to typify a "Jewish" character representing every Jew in the world. These are the well-known stereotypes – "Old Testament vengeance", "unforgiveness", "arrogance of the chosen people," etc.

The commitment, which is invested in condemning the Israeli security policy, is shown by a rage that must surely arouse suspicion. Israel's military actions are generalized to "acts of Judaism" and formulated as a moral indictment, often referring to the Holocaust. The latter suggests that Israel, on behalf of all the Jews worldwide, are taking a stand against the persecution they suffered as a consequence of genocide. Some people also argue that Israel are persecuting the Palestinians too, while a particularly high level of morale is demanded from the descendants of Holocaust victims.

Distinction between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism
When does justified and necessary criticism of the Israeli policy toward the Palestinians exceed the limits and actually become anti-Semitism? This happens when prejudices and stereotypes which have nothing to do with the matter, are widely used as an explanation. As a special form of anti-Semitism, the criticism of Israel on the grounds of anti-Zionism, has been established as a substitute for anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism has its own function, which is to enable aversion or hostility towards Jews to be communicated via seemingly rational arguments.

Since the escalation of the Middle East conflict in autumn 2000, the metaphor "an eye for an eye" has become inflationary. Anti-Israeli protesters in Europe held up banners everywhere, displaying the Bible's quote in front of cameras. It serves as a trite statement when Israeli policy is condemned as discharge of "Jewish" character traits. The political magazine "Der Spiegel" reported on "bloody Thursday from Ramallah," in which Israeli soldiers who accidentally drove into the Palestinian city had been lynched: "The television images shocked the world and the Israelis whom maintain a special loyalty to their army and its soldiers, didn't come to rest." The then Israeli Prime Minister, Barak, retaliated to the spiral of violence: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth [...]"1

The newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" published a series of articles on the Middle East conflict in December 2001, within which a Turkish guest author, under the headline "The problem is, Israel", was allowed to write the following: "Islam may possess characteristics that make it difficult to live with others. However, Judaism caused even more problems, affecting people's ability to live together with others on the same ontological and moral level. Jehovah has an agreement specifically with the Jews. He is not a universal God who sees all human communities as his flock. He is not a God of peace, but of revenge; An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth [...]" This fundamental particularism is also reflected in the racial justification of Judaism.2 In an open letter 200 public figures have protested against this anti-Jewish and anti-Israel tendency of media coverage. The Press Council nonetheless vindicated the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung". It claimed that the criticism came from one particular individual and was not the newspaper's opinion.

The method of anti-Jewish rhetoric includes the use of stereotypes with the distinct intention of creating influence and the stimulation of negative associations, such as revenge, being the chosen ones and with religious exclusivity.

A matter of expression
Despite the above claim, the fact still remains that anti-Semitism was actually published in a national newspaper and not only in the opinion of protesters. The method of anti-Jewish rhetoric includes the use of stereotypes with the distinct intention of creating influence and the stimulation of negative associations, such as revenge, being the chosen ones and with religious exclusivity. This was also once typical for the anti-Semitic weekly newspaper "Der Stürmer", which illustrated the same anti-Semitic message using a different stereotypes.

Again and again, we find the metaphor: "an eye for an eye", without reflection and without context, as a heading or title in the media. It often appears as a phrase used for confirmation. It cannot be viewed as a delicate journalistic trick, since the hackneyed phrase is used much too often. Ignorance also cannot be the cause, because it is too obviously used to exclude Jews. The example may indicate where criticism of Israel merges into anti-Semitism, juggling with stereotypes.

Of course, it is allowed to criticise a policy, but it is forbidden to deny a state's right to exist. Especially, when the arguments collectively devaluate every citizen. Generalisations that cast a negative view on a group of people (in this case the Jews), synonymous with Israel and Israelis, and arouse suspicion in any way, are forbidden.

The German public feel empathy for Israel in general, however, media coverage of Palestine's suffering population, following military action and the Israeli government's non-negotiable political stance, has stimulated a great deal of criticism towards the Israeli policy.

Hasty condemnation
It is neither right nor helpful, to highlight the attitude towards "new anti-Semitism" or revitalized neo-Nazi anti-Semitism. Jews are understandably deeply disturbed when demonstrations, like those seen during the summer of 2014, for the Gaza war are held in Germany. It is also understandable that Jews feel let down when young Arabs and Palestinian supporters chant maliciously, which also occasionally happened during the summer of 2014. The metaphor, Jews in Germany were sitting "on packed suitcases," was brought up again. Following past events, such emotions are regarded with the deepest respect.

It is counterproductive to refer to a "pogrom in Germany" and to conjecture a tsunami of "new anti-Semitism", as articulated by Jewish representatives and Israeli diplomats in the autumn of 2014. This is because, it ignores the considerable efforts made in recent decades to highlight and fight against anti-Semitism. The German culture of remembrance and the fact that anti-Semitism in the Federal Republic of Germany is morally ostracized and legally criminalized, unlike any other country in the world, is undeniable. This could be seen again in September 2014, by the large rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, which was requested by the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Undoubtedly, anti-Semitism appears in everyday life behind closed doors, in the form of innuendos and insults. Also bullying and violence against individual Jews. However, this is not the rule and it is dealt with severely. A "new anti-Semitism" and an increase in anti-Semitism in Germany is predicted every few years. However the reality, as far as scientific methods can identify, is a different story. An appointee of the federal government "Independent Expert Group on anti-Semitism", estimated the dimension of anti-Semitism based on recruitment patterns over the years, to a constant 15 to 20 percent. This means, in the minds of those 15 to 20 percent of German citizens, there is an aversion towards Jews. That does not mean that these people are fanatic or even violent Jew-haters. However, they do have obvious reservations, which they wouldn't articulate publicly. Compared to other nations, 15 to 20 percent is not a huge amount, however Germany does have quite a history of guilt, which does have to be taken into consideration.

Anti-Semitism in Germany, according to scientific knowledge and often in contrast to the perceived situation, is a decreasing trend. Nevertheless, there is resentment towards Jews in Germany. Through regular opinion polls the dimension is becoming clearer. Without significant change over decades of observation, the findings are that up to 20 percent of Germans harbour resentment towards Jews. These are related to instances disassociated with violence or accompanied by destruction or a desire for expulsion. Therefore, the roughly pared down survey results, giving rise to the headline "every fifth German anti-Semite", is completely wrong.

Secondary anti-Semitism
The regularly predicted "new anti-Semitism" is nothing more than a monotonous hatred of Jews with stereotypes, legends, insinuations and blame, which has evolved over centuries. While religious anti-Jewish arguments play a marginal role in Germany, anti-Semitism is palpable as a political, social, economic and cultural bias with racist tradition.

It is also the "secondary anti-Semitism", which holds resentment towards Jews, not despite of, but because of Auschwitz. This is because they allegedly enrich themselves using the memory of the Holocaust: By compensation and rehabilitation, in addition to blackmailing others with the memory of the murder of the Jews. Ultimately, this leads "secondary anti-Semitism" to the denial of the Holocaust.

Anti-Zionism is another version of anti-Semitism. The core is the denial of Israel's right to exist. Here, Arab enemies of Israel meet with like-minded people from all over the world. It is here that the anti-Semites, who have something against "the Jews", privately unite with them and show their support, but never publicly, because that would fundamentally contradict the political side of our society. They operate under the guise of criticising Israel; but they are easily identifiable because not only do they criticise the state of Israel and its actions, but "the Jews" in general.

It is not only Jew-haters and enemies of Israel which are causing concern. Israel's friends try to narrow down the term anti-Semitism regarding the attitude towards Israel and include any critical stance on Israeli policy in their judgement. However, unfortunately, this sentiment towards Israel is eroding. This is not synonymous with anti-Semitism. The fact that anti-Semitism in the 21st century is all the rage, as a political tool, as a private conviction and as ineradicable prejudice – is shameful and scary enough.

[1] Bednarz, Dieter; Follath, Erich; Großbongardt, Annette: Schlachthaus der Religionen, in: Der Spiegel, Hamburg 2000, Vol. 54, No. 42, pp. 238-241, URL:, 18.05.2015.
[2] Tezel, Yahya Sezai: Das Problem heißt Israel, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (09.12.2001).


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Ronen Zilberman   23:40 Uhr 18.04.2017

Die Herren Murphy und Weghorn beschreiben umgehend was ein Jude ist oder nicht ! Klassisch !

Frank Murphy   02:36 Uhr 23.06.2015

Dear Doctor,
i must disagree with the suggestion that anti-Zionism is anti-semitism in disguise. Partition on grounds of religion has always been an ill-thought out idea, whether it be in Ireland, India, or now in the land now known as Israel. Positions become entrenched, as must always be the case with religious beliefs, and this underpins political positions leaving little room for compromise. So we see what happened in Northern Ireland, the nuclear-armed standoff over Kashmir and the increase in territory claimed by Israel at the expense of Palestinians, along with other maltreatment.

Being against the existence of a single religion state is not to be against adherents of that religion.

Yours faithfully
Frank Murphy

Gerd Weghorn   17:39 Uhr 31.05.2015

Sehr geehrter Herr Benz,

Sie gehen davon aus, dass es so etwas wie "Antisemitismus" gäbe, weil sie ihn bestimmen „als politisches Instrument, als private Überzeugung, als unausrottbares Vorurteil“, und sie finden seine Existenz im 21. Jahrhundert als „beschämend und beängstigend“.

Ich habe nun den Nachweis geführt, dass Ihre psychologischen, personalisierenden Bestimmungskriterien nichts mit dem zu tun haben, was man spätestens seit dem Ende des „Dritten Reichs“ unter Antisemitismus zu verstehen hat, und was zumindest die (proto)zionistischen Profiteure der Instrumentalisierung der Antisemitismuskeule darunter auch verstehen: die "Endlösung der Judenfrage" nämlich.

Auch Sie werden nun nicht bestreiten können, dass die von den Zionisten diesbezüglich an die Wand gemalte „Gefahr eines zweiten Holocausts“ angesichts der militärischen Lage eine glatte Lüge ist, gehört doch die Sicherung der Existenz Israels und des jüdischen Volkes zur Staatsräson aller Atomwaffenstaaten.

Ich habe zudem den Nachweis geführt, dass man von Antisemitismus seit 1945 nur noch dann sprechen darf, wenn es sich um ein politisches System handelt, das den RASSISMUS ALS STAATSDOKTRIN etabliert hat und das die Potentiale besitzt, diese Doktrin militärisch durchzusetzen zu KÖNNEN.

Ich habe des Weiteren den Nachweis geführt, den auch Sie nicht widerlegen konnten, dass im 21. Jahrhundert nur noch der jüdische Staat Israel den RASSISMUS ALS STAATSDOKTRIN etabliert hat, und dass einzig das zionistische Regime Israels imstande ist, auch in einem völkerrechtswidrig besetzten Territorium namens „Westbank“ genau die Potenziale militärisch durchzusetzen, die eine "Lösung der Araberfrage“ zum Zwecke der Annexion von Judäa und Samaria bewirken können; ich empfehle Ihnen hier das Studium des zionistischen Masterplans oder zumindest des Interviews, das Staatspräsident Rivlin der SZ gegeben hat.

Ich habe des Weiteren den Nachweis geführt, dass der von Ihnen auch hier propagierte psychologistische Antisemitismusbegriff nicht nur eine zionistische Waffe darstellt, sondern sogar grundgesetzwidrig ist: Ihre explizite Inquisition / Ächtung von „Ressentiments gegen die Juden“, von“ Antizionismus als einer weiteren Form der Judenfeindschaft“ als Straftatbestand offenbart nicht nur ein zionistisches „Missverständnis“ von Art. 5 GG, sondern auch eine Billigung der eklatanten Verletzung von Art. 3 GG durch das zionistische Regime, das ja – wie Ihnen nicht unbekannt – in Israel Staatsbürger erster und zweiter Klasse kennt.

Die Erbärmlichkeit Ihrer Schutzbehauptungen offenbart sich exemplarisch auch in diesem Halbsatz, mit dem Sie deutlich machen, dass Sie das Grundrecht mit herrschender Meinung gleichsetzen: „weil das dem politischen Comment unserer Gesellschaft fundamental widerspricht.“

Eine unglaublich totalitäre Rechtfertigung Ihrer Hasstiraden gegen Antizionisten, wie ich es bin.

Sehr geehrter Herr Benz: ich habe in meiner Ihren Psychologismus von „Vorurteil und Holocaust“ als das bezeichnet, was es ist: als zionistische Geschäftsidee von Antisemitismusforschung: Only “Anti-$emitism” $ells!

Natürlich müsste es mit dem Teufel, genauer gesagt: grundgesetzkonform (Pressekodex: Richtlinie 2.6 für Leserbriefe) zugehen, wenn dieser Kommentar hier veröffentlicht werden würde, würde das doch zeigen, dass man keine Angst davor hätte, meine Argumente nicht kritisieren zu können, dass man vielmehr meiner Argumentation gewachsen wäre und mich sogar – wie das zumindest wissenschaftlicher Comment sein sollte – widerlegen könnte, doch ich gehe davon aus, dass die Redaktion im Falle der Nichtveröffentlichung wenigstens Ihnen persönliche meine Philippika persönlich zukommen lassen würde, Sehr geehrter Herr Benz, denn Ihre Kritik interessierte mich schon sehr!?

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