Anti-Semitism commissioner Klein criticizes Deutschlandradio

Felix Klein is the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism.
Image: dpa

Stephan Detjen, chief correspondent of the public service Deutschlandradios, supports an initiative that criticizes the Bundestag resolution against the BDS movement, which denies Israel’s right to exist. The anti-Semitism officer Felix Klein finds this fatal.

Dhe anti-Semitism commissioner of the federal government, Felix Klein, accuses the public radio Deutschlandradio of partisan reporting in connection with the Israel-critical BDS movement. Chief correspondent Stephan Detjen had “mixed up the roles, which was not without problems,” Klein told Focus magazine. Detjen had repeatedly criticized a Bundestag resolution on Twitter and in the Deutschlandfunk program according to which the BDS organization, which calls for a boycott of Israeli goods, is no longer financially supported. The broadcaster rejected the allegation of “mixing up roles,” as the magazine confirmed.

Last week, Detjens name was also part of the plea for the new “Initiative GG 5.3 Open-mindedness”. The paper, signed by several heads of German cultural institutions, also opposes the anti-BDS Bundestag resolution of May 2019 and claims that it leads to censorship. The signatories would like to thank several people for “professional advice and contributions to the discussion”, including the Deutschlandradio journalist. “That undermines the broadcaster’s balanced reporting,” said Klein.

In a statement by Deutschlandradio it says: Detjen, along with other scientists and experts, was invited to a group of large, publicly funded cultural institutions. There he explained his personal positions in discussions, which he also represented publicly on Deutschlandradio and in other media. Detjen did not appear there as a representative of Deutschlandradios, according to the broadcaster. His name is therefore mentioned in the acknowledgment of the “Initiative 5.3 GG Weltoffenheit” for contributions to the discussion without naming the institution.

“The program director was informed,” it continues. “We cannot therefore determine a mixture of roles.” The personalities the initiative thanks for providing expert advice include literary scholar Aleida Assmann, Andreas Görgen from the Foreign Office and law professor Christoph Möllers.

The BDS initiative (“Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”) denies Israel’s right to exist. As a protest against the Palestinian policy, it calls for a boycott of Israel and attacks scientists, artists or athletes, sometimes massively, personally when they appear in Israel or together with Israelis. BDS activists specifically call for a boycott of Israeli goods. In the Bundestag debate, parliamentarians repeatedly pointed out that the BDS movement was close to the National Socialist smear campaign “Don’t buy from Jews!”.


Felix Klein one year after the attack in Halle: “Fears are back”

One year after the attack in Halle, the anti-Semitism officer Felix Klein worries about the Jewish community – and criticizes Saxony-Anhalt’s interior minister.

This is where the assassin failed a year ago: the door to the synagogue in Halle Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / dpa

taz: Mr. Klein, A year ago a right-wing extremist attacked the synagogue in Halle and killed two people. Do you remember how you found out about it back then?

Felix Klein: Yes, my wife and I were on the way from the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial back to Berlin. It was a shock to me as it was to everyone. We had just launched important structures against anti-Semitism, a federal-state commission, the Rias reporting system. And then that. I felt very powerless.

The perpetrator wanted to cause a massacre. Only the synagogue door prevented him from doing so. Would you have thought such an act possible?

I thought that an attack was possible. Especially when you saw how radical the tone was on the Internet. But I did not expect such a hateful, inhuman act in this dimension.

The synagogue was not protected by the police at the time. An unforgivable mistake?

It would have been unforgivable if it had happened willfully. But apparently the police didn’t even know that Yom Kippur was being celebrated there and that there was an increased need for security.

But that’s also a problem.

the lawyer and diplomat is the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish life and the fight against anti-Semitism.

Yes of course. That was a negligence that is unacceptable. And this anti-Semitic attack, which ultimately cost the lives of two non-Jews, was also a turning point. He shook up the security authorities. Today the community in Halle is permanently guarded. And the police have evolved, the handling of religious holidays has improved.

A few days ago, however, a man attacked a believer in front of a synagogue in Hamburg, seriously injuring him. How safe do Jews still live in Germany?

Hamburg has shown that this time protective measures took effect. The police had the holiday on their radar there. And the police property guards immediately arrested the attacker and prevented further violence.

But not the attack on the young believer.

There can be no absolute protection. But of course the attack should be an occasion to re-examine the security measures in front of Jewish institutions.

So too little has happened since the attack in Halle?

In my opinion the opposite is the case. The federal government and the states are doing their utmost here. The Federal Ministry of the Interior has just made available 22 million euros for structural protection measures, and the federal states have also taken money into their hands again. In addition, the federal government has launched a comprehensive package of measures, such as the obligation to report online hate postings to the BKA, which I expect a lot from in the fight against anti-Semitism. Because the clientele backs away when they receive counter pressure and the police are at the door. And we saw in Halle that the root of the threat was radicalization on the Internet.

Is that enough? After the Hamburg attack, the Central Council of Jews once again called for more protection for religious institutions and a resolute social commitment against anti-Semitism.

There are certainly further opportunities for improvement. For example, I would like the police nationwide to know the Jewish calendar and on which occasions special protection is necessary. And it is also correct that the state cannot resolve the matter alone. This requires a courageous civil society that counteracts when anti-Semitism is expressed. That is the most important thing. I think the best protection would be if Jewish life were perceived much more as something that is taken for granted, as part of German diversity. We have to do more for that.

After the attack in Halle and the attack in Hambrug, the situation is different: the Jewish community feels seriously threatened.

Yes, that’s how I perceive it, she is very worried. And that is also very understandable. After politics reacted to Halle, my impression was that the community had settled down somewhat. But now the fears are back. We have to take that very seriously.

Isn’t that an indictment of poverty, especially for Germany with its history?

These concerns must alarm us, absolutely. The very fact that Jewish families are discussing whether they can continue to live in Germany is more than an alarm signal.

As the anti-Semitism commissioner, you report to the federal government. Don’t you have to put more pressure on in view of this?

We are making a significant effort. The Chancellor herself is also very committed. Everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation.

But many of those affected say: we don’t want more encouragement, we want to see action.

It has already existed. Many of the measures decided must now be implemented first. Nevertheless, there will be another catalog of measures shortly, from the cabinet committee to combat right-wing extremism.

Last year the number of anti-Semitic crimes rose by 13 percent to a good 2,000 crimes. What’s your explanation for that?

The increase is mainly due to the brutality on the Internet and the local incitement to hatred and Holocaust denial. But there is also a positive explanation: those affected report these incidents more strongly. This is a good development and something that I also encourage. Making hatred visible is the first step in combating it.

Why does such hatred always end up in anti-Semitic attacks?

That does not surprise me. Anti-Semitism is so practiced in our culture that it is used again and again, especially in times of uncertainty. Jews were blamed for the plague as far back as the Middle Ages; today this is repeated with the corona virus. This is really fatal.

Even Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Minister Holger Stahlknecht (CDU) has just promoted anti-Semitism by referring to the times of police officers in front of Jewish buildings that were missing elsewhere.

To portray Jews as privileged people, for whom action would be taken at the expense of the general public, actually fuels anti-Semitism. It is not possible that groups are played off against each other. Unfortunately, Jewish communities need increased security, but that’s not because of the Jews, but because of the threats against them. And the state has a duty to ensure that they can practice their religion without restriction. I think he has to bear 100 percent of the security costs for this. Because this is a fundamental right.

Do you think anti-Semitism can one day be defeated?

It can at least be pushed back so far that the quality of life can be significantly improved. The whole of society benefits from this, not just the Jews. The vast majority in Germany is democratic and vigilant. That gives me hope.


Why Felix Klein, the anti-Semitism officer, should stay

Felix Klein, Special Representative for Relations with Jewish Organizations and Anti-Semitism Issues at the Federal Foreign Office
Image: Helmut Fricke

Felix Klein has to stay. We see the demand to remove him from his position as an invitation to be careless in the fight against anti-Semitism. An appeal from Lea Rosh.

We live in a time of rapidly increasing anti-Semitic attacks on fellow Jews. The assassination attempt on the Halle Synagogue on Yom Kippur Day in October 2019 clearly showed how fluid the transitions from verbal attacks to the most brutal violence can be. In view of this experience, we are very grateful that in addition to most of the federal states, the federal government also created the position of anti-Semitism officer and filled it with Felix Klein in 2018. He has many years of experience in German-Jewish dialogue and exactly the unwavering commitment that is required for this task.

We see the demand to remove Felix Klein from his position implicitly as an invitation to the German state and German society to put aside the culture of memory of the crimes of National Socialism and the murder of six million European Jews that has been built up over the past decades and to become careless and arbitrary in the fight against anti-Semitism. But we need the developed networks of the culture of remembrance as well as our top “guardian” against anti-Semitism (a term that Stephan Detjen used defamatory in his contribution to Deutschlandfunk on May 23rd). We reject the allegations and slander that Felix Klein uses his responsibility to suppress critical positions on the current policies of the Israeli government.

We are watching the hostile language with concern in the media controversies of the past weeks. We cannot and do not want to take a position on the scientific background of the various contributions. However, we have the impression that German learning from history, our commitment to Israel’s right to exist and our commitment to anti-Semitism are positioned against the experiences of suffering of the African and Arab peoples through colonialism and post-colonial incapacitation, exploitation and European racism. But that shouldn’t be. Because we share the concern about the right of the Palestinian people to exist and the worsening Middle East conflict. We too are very critical of developments in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly the Israeli government’s latest plans for annexation. We encourage everyone involved to work to curb anti-Semitism as well as to relax Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Lea Rosh is chair of the support group Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.


Debate over Achille Mbembe: Klein gets support

After criticism of the anti-Semitism officer Felix Klein, his supporters speak up. Mbembe, however, demands an apology from Klein.

Criticized and defended: Felix Klein, the Federal Government’s Anti-Semitism Commissioner Photo: dpa

BERLIN taz | In the debate on the criticism of the occupation by the philosopher Achille Mbembe and the controversial anti-Semitism commissioner of the federal government, Felix Klein, several German-Jewish initiatives took a stand for Klein. “Dr. Small is still an excellent choice for this position, ”says an open letter to Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

Several dozen Jewish scholars and artists demanded that Klein be deposed at the end of April. They accused him of “putting anti-Semitism against critics of the Israeli government”. The debate broke out after Klein Mbembe accused of questioning Israel’s right to exist and relativizing the Holocaust.

In the most recent letter to Seehofer, which Elio Adler, the chairman of the lobby group “Values ​​Initiative”, put up, it says: “Anyone who seriously combats the issue of ‘anti-Semitism’ and does not only focus on the easily recognizable, obvious anti-Semitism must be ready to go to the ‘canned’. ”Felix Klein does this.

“We support him and his work,” continues the letter, which was signed by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, the Makkabi Germany Association, the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin and the Berlin Jewish Community. First she had world reported about the letter.

Mbembe apologizes

Mbembe, however, spoke in a detailed post on Facebook about racism, spoke of a “defamation campaign” and asked Klein to apologize. “Because he expressed himself by virtue of his office and therefore in the name of the German state, Felix Klein owes me a public apology and I will not stop asking for him until my last breath.”

The dispute over Mbembe and Klein is being fought against the background of two major debates: firstly, the relationship between postcolonial theory and anti-Semitism, secondly, a narrowing of the debate on the Middle East conflict and shrinking room for maneuver for critics of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Mbembe sees Israeli rule over the Palestinian territories as a “colonial occupation” and criticizes this with controversial comparisons with South African apartheid and the Holocaust – the latter explicitly pointing out the limits of comparability. Critics accuse him of anti-Semitism based on these statements.

Critics Felix Klein, on the other hand, see his allegations of anti-Semitism as restricting freedom of expression and complain that Klein is using the term anti-Semitism to prevent an open discussion about human rights in the Israeli-occupied territories. In the criticism of Mbembe, they see a targeted defamation of the intellectual in order to silence him.

It had caused astonishment that it was initially unclear whether Klein was aware of Mbembe’s entire work when he made the allegations of anti-Semitism against him. Of the FAZ Klein had only asked for appropriate evidence to refer to a letter in which the cultural policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament, Lorenz Deutsch, quoted from Mbembe’s work.


Anti-Semitism charge against cabaret artist Lisa Eckhart

Dhe Austrian cabaret artist Lisa Eckhart (27) is accused of being hostile to the Jews because of a contribution to the WDR program “Mitternachtsspitzen”. The Federal Government’s Anti-Semitism Commissioner, Felix Klein, described her 2018 contribution to the “Jewish General” (Tuesday) as “tasteless and worthy of criticism”. Eckhart seeks attention by deliberately setting her punch lines on the basis of anti-Semitism, racism and misanthropy.

The cabaret artist was a guest at the “Midnight Spikes” in September 2018. In her appearance, she addressed political correctness towards members of minorities such as Jews, blacks and the disabled, who behaved morally wrong. For example, the Jews Harvey Weinstein and Woody harassed women and were criticized by the “MeToo” movement. “It is probably only a good thing if we now allow the Jews to reach out to a few women. Nothing can be made up with money, ”says Eckhart.

If the “untouchables” touched others, it was the “wet nightmare of political correctness,” she said. “Now suddenly it comes out, the Jews really don’t care about money. They care about women, and that’s why they need the money. ”At the request of the Catholic News Agency (KNA), the WDR rejected allegations against the broadcaster. He has been campaigning for diversity of opinion and cohesion in society for decades and at the same time stands for freedom from satire. Eckhart appeared in the middle of the MeToo debate. The artist chose a highly topical subject that was close to satire and took up prejudices against minorities in order to expose precisely these prejudices. In the context of the MeToo debate, their satire worked. There was no criticism at the time.

Program complaint to the WDR

However, the WDR regretted misunderstandings in connection with a later publication of Eckhart’s appearance on Facebook. In November 2019, the video was posted on the occasion of an action day for women on the social network. A few weeks earlier, the Jewish synagogue in Halle was the target of an attack. According to the WDR, the impression had to arise that the artist was up to date and in a different context.

Several Jewish organizations such as the Research and Information Center for Anti-Semitism (RIAS) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Berlin endorsed Eckhart’s criticism in the “Jewish General”. The Green Party politician Volker Beck said that the WDR is presenting “with Lisa Eckhart a potpourri of anti-Semitic clichés and thumping humor that can only make your laugh stuck in your throat”. Last Friday, he filed a program complaint, as the WDR confirmed. The former member of the Bundestag headed the German-Israeli parliamentary group from 2013 to 2017.


How respect for the Holocaust is declining in Germany

Entrance gate to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
Image: AP

Smeared memorials and teachers who do not dare to speak about the persecution of Jews in class: experts observe growing anti-Semitism and lack of interest in history. A research from last January.

LHonors, historians and Jewish organizations complain that right-wing radicals and history revisionists are becoming increasingly brazen in Germany. Educators describe how it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to keep the memory of the Shoah alive and to convey the lessons from history to young people.

Livia Gerster

Editor in the politics of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The head of the Buchenwald memorial, Volkhard Knigge, has been facing right-wing radicals in the former concentration camp for years. He reports of increasingly inhumane entries in the guest books: “This ranges from the narrowest forms of confession in the form of an 88 to more clearly formulated views.” If you had to fight with Holocaust deniers in the past, you will now find supporters of the Holocaust. Then sentences like: “In Buchenwald it would be better to deal with the refugee problem.”