German Court: Anti-Zionism May Be Anti-Semitism

A Cologne court allows a pro-Jewish activist to call a local Jewish commentator’s anti-Zionist remarks anti-Semitic.

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Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel,


"To give someone carte blanche for anti-Semitism because of Jewish origin or meritorious ancestors is racism."

A regional court in the German city of Cologne handed a partial legal victory to a renowned Jewish activist and writer, when it nullified an order restraining him from labelling the anti-Zionist statements of another Jewish commentator as anti-Semitic.

Henryk M. Broder, a Polish-born Jew known for his polemical columns in the German magazine Der Spiegel and other national media, called Eveyln Hecht-Galinski’s remarks  “anti-Semitic” after the latter was invited to speak on a German national radio program. Hecht-Galinski, in return, filed a restraining order against further such statements from Broder, which was granted temporarily.

Hecht-Galinski, like Broder a prominent Jewish commentator, also enjoys recognition as the daughter of the head of Berlin’s first Jewish community after the Holocaust and one-time president of German’s Central Council of Jews. She speaks out consistently against Israel, whose policies she equates with those of Nazi Germany.

In addition to praising a German bishop’s recent anti-Israel statements, she has been quoted as saying that a “Jewish-Israel lobby with its active network is extended over the world and thanks to America its power has become so great.”

While the court waived the unconditional injunction against Broder, it does require him to accompany any charges he makes of anti-Semitism with an explanation of those charges.

The legal battle began when Broder wrote a letter to West German Broadcasting Corporation protesting its invitation to Hecht-Galinski to speak in a special episode marking the 60th birthday of the State of Israel. "The only claim to fame of Evelyn Hecht-Galinski (who first adopted her father's name after the latter's death) is the fact that she is 'the daughter of Heinz Galinksi,' as she introduces herself at each of her appearances,” wrote Broder in the letter. 

“There is no justification for describing her as an 'author,' since apart from letters-to-the-editor she has written nothing and published nothing. Even a drunken reveler at carnival in Cologne could recognize that Ms. E.H.G. is a hysterical housewife in need of affirmation, who speaks for no one and talks nonsense. Her specialty is intellectually vapid anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist statements - such as are currently in fashion."

Hecht-Galinski filed a motion for a court order following publication of the letter, along with her attorney Nathan Gelbart, who is also a Jew. Anti-Semitic remarks and actions carry heavily penalties in Germany, which enacted strict legislation forbidding hate speech in the wake of the atrocities committed when the country was governed by the Nazi regime.

In the wake of the legal proceedings and the growing national debate over the definition of anti-Semitism, representatives of the Jewish community in Germany and Austria spoke out overwhelmingly in support of Broder.The very same Central Council of Jews in Germany that Hecht-Galinsky’s father once headed expressed its solidarity for Broder's position.

On Wednesday the Austrian Jewish community issued a statement saying that allegations of anti-Semitism "are of course based on the substance of the anti-Semitic statements and not on the ethnic origin of the person making them. If that person formally belongs to a Jewish community, or is in fact or supposedly of Jewish or Israeli origin, the definitions of anti-Semitism still apply.”

“To give someone carte blanche for anti-Semitism because of Jewish origin or meritorious ancestors is racism," continued the statement.

Ariel Muzicant and Raimund Fastenbauer, the president and the secretary of the Jewish community in Austria, respectively, concluded their statement by asserting their "complete support for and solidarity with Henryk Broder in his statements regarding Ms. Evelyn Hecht-Galinski. [We] fully share his opinion in this regard, and reject any attempts to criminalize him."