American Jewish Committee begrüßt Stellenwert Israels im Koalitionsvertrag: „Sicherheit Israels für uns nicht verhandelbar“.

December 2, 2013

Pressemitteilung

Berlin, den 02.12.2013

Das American Jewish Committee (AJC) begrüßt das deutliche Bekenntnis zu Deutschlands Verantwortung für die Sicherheit Israels im Koalitionsvertrag und wertet die Aussagen als wichtiges Fundament für den Ausbau der deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen. Zugleich mahnt das AJC vor dem Hintergrund der jüngsten EU-Antisemitismusstudie die zügige Umsetzung des Bundestags-Maßnahmenbeschlusses an.

„Dass in diesem Koalitionsvertrag noch stärker als in der vergangenen Vereinbarung von 2009 die besondere Verpflichtung Deutschlands für den Schutz der Sicherheit Israels betont wird, zeigt den besonderen Stellenwert der deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen auf. Wir begrüßen zudem, dass die Feierlichkeiten zum 50-jährigen Jubiläum der Aufnahme diplomatischer Beziehungen zwischen Deutschland und Israel für das Jahr 2015 im Koalitionsvertrag hervorgehoben werden und das deutsch-israelische Verhältnis dadurch eine besondere Würdigung erhält“, so Deidre Berger, Direktorin des AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations.

Im Koalitionsvertrag heißt es: „Wir bekennen uns zu der besonderen Verantwortung Deutschlands gegenüber Israel als jüdischem und demokratischem Staat und dessen Sicherheit. Das Existenzrecht und die Sicherheit Israels sind für uns nicht verhandelbar. 2015 feiern wir das 50-jährige Jubiläum der Aufnahme diplomatischer Beziehungen zum Staat Israel. Dieses Jubiläum wird die Bundesregierung angemessen würdigen.“

Auch die transatlantischen Beziehungen werden im Vertrag besonders betont.

„Ein wichtiges Signal angesichts der jüngsten Spionage-Diskussionen“, sagte Berger weiter.

Beim Thema Antisemitismus und Rechtsextremismus wollen CDU/CSU und SPD zivilgesellschaftliche Initiativen und Programme verstetigen. Weitergehende Umsetzungsstrategien zum Thema Antisemitismus finden sich im Koalitionsvertrag jedoch nicht. Erst am 13. Juni beschloss der Deutsche Bundestag einen fraktionsübergreifenden Antrag zum Thema Antisemitismus. Die Resolution forderte die Bundesregierung dazu auf, den Maßnahmen-Katalog zur Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus umzusetzen.

„Die Ergebnisse der jüngsten EU-Studie, wonach mehr als 63% der deutschen Juden angaben, das Tragen jüdischer Symbole aus Angst vor Antisemitismus zu vermeiden, erhöhen den Handlungsdruck. Es braucht nun einen Umsetzungsplan der beschlossenen Maßnahmen, auch damit die Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus verbindlicher und kontinuierlicher erfolgen kann“, sagte Berger weiter.

Der Bundestags-Beschluss vom 13. Juni sieht unter anderem Förderprogramme zum deutsch-israelischen Austausch, Maßnahmen zur Unterstützung von Holocaust-Überlebenden durch deutsche Jugendliche und eine bessere Darstellung jüdischen Lebens im deutschen Schulunterricht vor.

Zum Thema Ghettorente vereinbarten CDU/CSU und SPD, dass „den berechtigten Interessen der Holocaust-Überlebenden nach einer angemessenen Entschädigung für die in einem Ghetto geleistete Arbeit Rechnung getragen wird“.

„Es ist wichtig, dass die zukünftigen Koalitionsparteien endlich eine Lösung beim Thema Ghettorenten erzielen wollen. Nun kommt es darauf an, dass CDU/CSU und SPD in den nächsten drei Monaten einen Umsetzungsplan für das Thema Ghettorenten vorlegen. Die noch wenigen Überlebenden können nicht noch länger warten, um verspätete Entschädigungszahlungen zu bekommen“, so Berger abschließend.

Pressekontakt

Deidre Berger, Director

Email: berlin@ajc.org

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Berlin Office

Leipziger Platz 15, Mosse Palais

10117 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 22 65 94-0

Fax: +49 (0)30 22 65 94-14


Wolfgang Kubicki: „Große Koalition ist großer Mist“

November 28, 2013

FDP-Präsidiumsmitglied und Vorsitzender der FDP-Fraktion im Landtag von Schleswig-Holstein Wolfgang Kubicki hat die Große Koalition wegen nicht eingehaltener Wahlversprechen und mangelhafter Wirtschaftspolitik kritisiert.

1

In einem „Stern“-Gastbeitrag wirft er der Bundeskanzlerin vor, die deutsche Wirtschaft durch staatliche Eingriffe zu schwächen. Immerhin seien die meisten Versäumnisse der Koalitionsverhandlungen der SPD zuzuschreiben.

Zum Artikel.


Neues aus der Anstalt: Das Guttenberg-Syndrom in der Politik

December 25, 2011

Ein Kommentar von David Berger

WAS KÖNNEN WIR VOM VERHALTEN DES QUARTALS-IRREN DER KONSERVATIVEN GUTTENBERG LERNEN?

Mit Glämour wollte der Telenovela-Populist Karl-Theodor beim Fußvolk punkten, was ihm gelungen ist, da die Massen bekanntlich dumm und leicht manipulierbar sind. Eine heile Welt und schnelle Lösungen zu allen Problemen versprach denen der Messias des deutschen Stammtisches.

Wie es sich an der Bundeswehr-Reform herausstellte, ist davon nicht viel übrig geblieben, ausser mehr Probleme, die sein Nachfolger Thomas De Maizière ausbaden muss…

Mit mimosenhaften Verhalten, den man sonst nur aus dem Kindergarten kennt, meldet sich der narzissistische Baron zurück. Auf der einen Seite, Schelte für die Parteikollegen austeilen (nach dem Motto: “Ihr habt mein Spielzeug kaputt gemacht!”), auf der anderen Seite Mitleid beim Stammtisch suchen, um zumindest als Märtyrer bei denen besser anzukommen (nach dem Motto: “Seht ihr, sie sind alle böse zu mir!”).

Diagnose: Patient Guttenberg leidet offensichtlich an einer negativen narzisstischen Persönlichkeitsstörung.

Die Betonung liegt auf “negativ”, weil Selbstliebe an sich gut ist. Schlimm wird es erst, wenn der Patient an mangelndem Selbstwertgefühl leidet. Vermutlich hatte dieser Patient als Kind nicht genug Bestätigung von seinen Eltern bekommen. Die sucht er nun bei der Öffentlichkeit.

Rezept: solche Patienten sollte man möglichst den Zutritt zum Polit-Geschäft verweigern. Gefährlich und unberechenbar, daher ungeeignet ein politisches Amt zu bekleiden.


Zum Ausklang eines Jahrzehnts der Angst und Hoffnung

December 31, 2010

Eine Glosse von Narcisse Caméléon, Ressortleiter Deppologie

“Es gibt keine Hoffnung ohne Angst und keine Angst ohne Hoffnung” verkündete einst der Philosoph Baruch de Spinoza. 

11. September 2001, globaler Terror und Kriege, Epidemien, Finanzkrisen, aber auch Fortführung der digitalen Revolution, Einführung des Euro, listiger Sieg der historischen Vernunft i.e. Gleichstellung in den USA mit dem ersten schwarzen Präsidenten, und in Deutschland mit der ersten Frau als Bundeskanzlerin: Das erste Jahrzehnt des XXI. Jahrhunderts  wird sicherlich als das Jahrzehnt der Angst und Hoffnung in die Geschichte eingehen.

Angesichts dieser schwebenden Dialektik zwischen Furcht und Aussicht, zwischen Demagogie und Pädagogie, zwischen Obskurantimus und Aufklärung, zwischen Manipulation und Emanzipation, stellt sich die Frage des kommenden Jahrzehnts: Was ist ein Menschenleben wert in einem vom Informationsüberfluss behafteten Zeitalter? Was ist der Menschen Leben im Zeitalter des “letzten Menschen”, in dem Freizeit Freiheit definitiv begraben hat?

Was ist der Menschen Leben?

von Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843)

Was ist der Menschen Leben? ein Bild der Gottheit.

Wie unter dem Himmel wandeln die Irdischen alle, sehen

Sie diesen. Lesend aber gleichsam, wie

In einer Schrift, die Unendlichkeit nachahmen und den /Reichtum

Menschen. Ist der einfältige Himmel

Denn reich? Wie Blüten sind ja

Silberne Wolken. Es regnet aber von daher

Der Tau und das Feuchte. Wenn aber

Das Blau ist ausgelöschet, das Einfältige, scheint

Das Matte, das dem Marmelstein gleichet, wie Erz,

Anzeige des Reichtums.


WikiLeaks Bullshit: Much Ado About Nothing, False Flag, Strategia della Tensione, or Sabotage Act against U.S. Foreign Policy?

November 29, 2010
WIKILEAKS REAL AGENDA

WIKILEAKS REAL AGENDA

A Satirical Op-Ed by Narcisse Caméléon, deputy editor-in-chief

***

On Bullshit: It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose. (Princeton University Professor Harry Frankfurt)

And if, to be sure, sometimes you need to conceal a fact with words, do it in such a way that it does not become known, or, if it does become known, that you have a ready and quick defense. (Niccolò Machiavelli)
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. (Edward L. Bernays)

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. (Edward L. Bernays)

WikiLeaks released yesterday a batch of about 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, exposing confidential information about U.S. relationships with the rest of the world and U.S. assessments of foreign leaders.

The White House denounced the disclosures as “reckless and dangerous".

The White House denounced the disclosures as “reckless and dangerous".

In light of the revelations, apparently leaked by US Army soldier Bradley Manning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information (check out statement below).

The cables – a sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates – specify that Iran has obtained nineteen BM-25 missiles from North Korea with a range adequate to reach western Europe, and they also document Arab leaders calls for a military strike on Iran.

The documents also divulge U.S. diplomats were ordered to engage in spying by obtaining foreign diplomats’ personal information, such as frequent-flier and credit card numbers. The documents could abash the Obama administration and destabilize its diplomacy. In cables drafted by U.S. diplomats, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is called “Emperor without clothes”, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is described as an “alpha-dog,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai is “driven by paranoia,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “avoids risk and is rarely creative.” It also allegedly said that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi never travels without a trusted Ukraninan nurse, a ‘voluptuous blond’.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed concern in a statement that Wikileaks release could jeopardize private talks with foreign governments and opposition leaders. The Pentagon announced yesterday it will take action to prevent future illegal releases of classified information.

In a opinion piece for the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, calls these revelations an act of sabotage. Really? Or: Better bad press than no press at all? Or Bullshit as usual…

Read full story.

***

Remarks to the Press on the Release of Confidential Documents

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
November 29, 2010
Hillary is very angry about the disclosures...

Hillary is very angry about the disclosures...


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. Do we have enough room in here? I want to take a moment to discuss the recent news reports of classified documents that were illegally provided from United States Government computers. In my conversations with counterparts from around the world over the past few days, and in my meeting earlier today with Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey, I have had very productive discussions on this issue.

The United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information. It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems. This Administration is advancing a robust foreign policy that is focused on advancing America’s national interests and leading the world in solving the most complex challenges of our time, from fixing the global economy, to thwarting international terrorism, to stopping the spread of catastrophic weapons, to advancing human rights and universal values. In every country and in every region of the world, we are working with partners to pursue these aims.

So let’s be clear: this disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community – the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.

I am confident that the partnerships that the Obama Administration has worked so hard to build will withstand this challenge. The President and I have made these partnerships a priority – and we are proud of the progress that they have helped achieve – and they will remain at the center of our efforts.

I will not comment on or confirm what are alleged to be stolen State Department cables. But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential, including private discussions between counterparts or our diplomats’ personal assessments and observations. I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington. Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world.

I would also add that to the American people and to our friends and partners, I want you to know that we are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information. I have directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department, in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again.

Relations between governments aren’t the only concern created by the publication of this material. U.S. diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders, and others outside of governments who offer their own candid insights. These conversations also depend on trust and confidence. For example, if an anti-corruption activist shares information about official misconduct, or a social worker passes along documentation of sexual violence, revealing that person’s identity could have serious repercussions: imprisonment, torture, even death.

So whatever are the motives in disseminating these documents, it is clear that releasing them poses real risks to real people, and often to the very people who have dedicated their own lives to protecting others.

Now, I am aware that some may mistakenly applaud those responsible, so I want to set the record straight: There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations on which our common security depends.

There have been examples in history in which official conduct has been made public in the name of exposing wrongdoings or misdeeds. This is not one of those cases. In contrast, what is being put on display in this cache of documents is the fact that American diplomats are doing the work we expect them to do. They are helping identify and prevent conflicts before they start. They are working hard every day to solve serious practical problems – to secure dangerous materials, to fight international crime, to assist human rights defenders, to restore our alliances, to ensure global economic stability. This is the role that America plays in the world. This is the role our diplomats play in serving America. And it should make every one of us proud.

The work of our diplomats doesn’t just benefit Americans, but also billions of others around the globe. In addition to endangering particular individuals, disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper function of responsible government.

People of good faith understand the need for sensitive diplomatic communications, both to protect the national interest and the global common interest. Every country, including the United States, must be able to have candid conversations about the people and nations with whom they deal. And every country, including the United States, must be able to have honest, private dialogue with other countries about issues of common concern. I know that diplomats around the world share this view – but this is not unique to diplomacy. In almost every profession – whether it’s law or journalism, finance or medicine or academia or running a small business – people rely on confidential communications to do their jobs. We count on the space of trust that confidentiality provides. When someone breaches that trust, we are all worse off for it. And so despite some of the rhetoric we’ve heard these past few days, confidential communications do not run counter to the public interest. They are fundamental to our ability to serve the public interest.

In America, we welcome genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. We have elections about them. That is one of the greatest strengths of our democracy. It is part of who we are and it is a priority for this Administration. But stealing confidential documents and then releasing them without regard for the consequences does not serve the public good, and it is not the way to engage in a healthy debate.

In the past few days, I have spoken with many of my counterparts around the world, and we have all agreed that we will continue to focus on the issues and tasks at hand. In that spirit, President Obama and I remain committed to productive cooperation with our partners as we seek to build a better, more prosperous world for all.

Thank you, and I’d be glad to take a few questions.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll begin with Charlie Wolfson of CBS in his last week here covering the State Department.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Where are you going, Charlie?

QUESTION: I’ll (inaudible) into the sunset, but let me get to a question.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, sir. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, are you embarrassed by these leaks personally, professionally? And what harm have the leaks done to the U.S. so far that you can determine from talking to your colleagues?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Charlie, as I said in my statement, and based on the many conversations that I’ve had with my counterparts, I am confident that the partnerships and relationships that we have built in this Administration will withstand this challenge. The President and I have made these partnerships a priority, a real centerpiece of our foreign policy, and we’re proud of the progress that we have made over the last 22 months.

Every single day, U.S. Government representatives from the entire government, not just from the State Department, engage with hundreds if not thousands of government representatives and members of civil society from around the world. They carry out the goals and the interests and the values of the United States. And it is imperative that we have candid reporting from those who are in the field working with their counterparts in order to inform our decision-making back here in Washington.

I can tell you that in my conversations, at least one of my counterparts said to me, “Well, don’t worry about it. You should see what we say about you.” (Laughter.) So I think that this is well understood in the diplomatic community as part of the give-and-take. And I would hope that we will be able to move beyond this and back to the business of working together on behalf of our common goals.

MR. CROWLEY: Kim Ghattas of BBC.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Kim.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I was wondering whether you could tell us what you think your upcoming trip is going to look like. Presumably, a lot of the people who have been mentioned in those alleged cables are going to have conversations with you. Do you think it’s going to cause you discomfort over the coming week as you engage in conversations with those leaders?

And I know you don’t want to comment on the particulars of the cables, but one issue that has been brought up into the daylight is the debate about Iran. What do you think the impact is going to be of those documents on the debate about Iran in the coming weeks and months?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, you’re right. And I don’t know if you’re going on this trip or not, but we will be seeing dozens of my counterparts in Astana, and then as I go on from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and then ending up in Bahrain for the Manama dialogue. And I will continue the conversations that I have started with some in person and over the phone over the last days, and I will seek out others because I want personally to impress upon them the importance that I place on the kind of open, productive discussions that we have had to date and my intention to continue working closely with them.

Obviously, this is a matter of great concern, because we don’t want anyone in any of the countries that could be affected by these alleged leaks here to have any doubts about our intentions and our about commitments. That’s why I stressed in my remarks that policy is made in Washington. The President and I have been very clear about our goals and objectives in dealing with the full range of global challenges that we face. And we will continue to be so and we will continue to look for every opportunity to work with our friends and partners and allies around the world and to deal in a very clear-eyed way with those with whom we have differences, which of course brings me to Iran.

I think that it should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a source of great concern not only in the United States, that what comes through in every meeting that I have anywhere in the world is a concern about Iranian actions and intentions. So if anything, any of the comments that are being reported on allegedly from the cables confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of many of her neighbors, and a serious concern far beyond her region.

That is why the international community came together to pass the strongest possible sanctions against Iran. It did not happen because the United States went out and said, “Please do this for us.” It happened because countries, once they evaluated the evidence concerning Iran’s actions and intentions, reached the same conclusion that the United States reached – that we must do whatever we can to muster the international community to take action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

So if anyone reading the stories about these alleged cables thinks carefully, what they will conclude is that the concern about Iran is well founded, widely shared, and will continue to be at the source of the policy that we pursue with likeminded nations to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve got to let the Secretary get to her airplane and get to her trip. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will leave you in P.J.’s very good hands. Thank you.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, did you talk to anyone in Pakistan or India?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. (Inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: What we’ll do is we’ll take, say, a 30-minute filing break, and then we’ll reconvene in the Briefing Room and continue our discussion.


Alan Posener’s Column: The Open Society and its Trends

October 23, 2009

by Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

Something’s going on in Europe, and I don’t like it.

There’s the future German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s refusal to even listen to the question of a BBC correspondent, unless it’s put to him in German:

There’s the BBC giving the British National Party’s Nick Griffin a nationwide TV platform for his racist and anti-Semitic views.

And there’s people not only defending German Central Banker Thilo Sarrazin’s right to make racist comments, but denying that they are racist and demanding a muzzle for people who dare to say they are racist.

You only have to look at the comments on Youtube and elsewhere to realize what it is that is going on here: the political and chattering classes have abandoned the rules governing their chatter; nationalism, racism and intolerance in general are being allowed back into polite society after spending the past 40 years out in the cold.

Political correctness – that great civilizer – is dead. Multiculturalism is under siege. And the ban on anti-Semitism – which the Catholic Church has already lifted by welcoming back the anti-Semitic Pius Brotherhood into its ranks – will soon be as worthless as the paper on which Sir Karl Popper’s great book on the Open Society was written.

I mention Karl Popper, because in the age of Totalitarianism he confronted a vexing question of democracy head-on: was the open society bound by its own philosophical, legal and political parameters to tolerate the propaganda of its enemies?

Popper said no: there was no reason to tolerate intolerance; no reason to grant freedom to the enemies of freedom; there should be no openness towards the enemies of openness. People who want one man, one vote one time should not – as they were in Gaza – be allowed to contest elections. Democracy is more important than freedom; more important than truth; more important than justice – or any one of the multitude of ideas, concepts, slogans and ideals in whose name one could (and people have tried to) suspend democracy.

It’s always the enemies of tolerance who chafe at this seeming intolerance of democracy. One shouldn’t let oneself be fooled. People say, “If you stop people from saying what Sarrazin said, you are denying 80 percent of the population a voice.”

Well, if 80 percent of the population are racist, which I don’t believe for a moment, but I’m saying if, then fuck them and there’s all the more reason to keep a tight lid on what is said by public figures, isn’t there?

Popper didn’t call his book “The Majority Rules”, he called it “The Open Society”. Even 99 percent of the population don’t have the right to dismantle the open society and replace it with a society in which privileges are awarded or denied according to race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation or social background.

That’s what Europe has been about this past half-century. Let’s keep it that way.


Alan Posener’s Column: German Election Blues – and Reds, Greens, and Yellows

September 24, 2009

by Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

With the German election drawing near, commentators have turned from castigating the politicians for the alleged lack of alternatives they present (bullshit, actually), to a more general wail of despair about an alleged crisis of democracy itself, as represented by the growth in the number of non-voters.

In the last election, we are told, non-voters were a bigger group than those who voted for Angela Merkel, and polls seem to indicate that the number of non-voters will be even higher this time around. Crisis! Bullshit again.

The point about democracy isn’t that everyone goes to vote. That’s what happens in dictatorships. The point about democracy is that I’m free to vote or not as I see fit. So if people don’t go to vote, that’s a sign that democracy is working.

The point about democracy isn’t that voting produces good governments. That’s patently not the case. The point about that democracy is that really bad governments can be voted out. (Good governments can be voted out, too.) Karl Popper once compared the democratic procedure to the procedure by which a scientific theory is defined. If a theory is scientific precisely because it can be falsified (J.B.S. Haldane’s famous “Precambrian rabbits” that would falsify Darwin’s theory of evolution), a government is democratic if it can be falsified – i.e. discarded – by the voters. If the voters choose not to – either by voting for the government or by not voting, i.e. not voting against it: well, that’s the way the democratic cookie crumbles.

As I said above, I don’t think the German election is boring at all. We have a clear choice: between Angela Merkel plus Walter Steinmeier and a continuation of the high-tax / high-spending CDU/CSU/SPD coalition, and Angela Merkel plus Guido Westerwelle and a CDU/CSU/FDP coalition dedicated to boosting growth through lower taxes. As a taxpayer, I know where I’m going to make my cross. It isn’t rocket science.

Ousting the Social Democrats from power will probably result in a putsch by the Left within the SPD, which will eventually lead to some form of rapprochement between the SPD and the “Linke”. This in turn will mean that in 2013 at the latest, probably much sooner, say 2011, a left-wing coalition will challenge Merkel’s right-of-centre government, and things will get really exciting again: How will the Greens react? Will they choose “Jamaica” in order to keep the extreme left out of power, or will they try to tame the left by joining a “Red-Red-Green” government?

And what will the electorate say? One good guess is: they won’t be staying at home.


Alan Poseners Kolumne: Dienstwagen und Diners

August 28, 2009

Der britisch-deutsche Journalist Alan Posener startet heute eine neue Kolumne. Er wird  wöchentlich das Zeitgeschehen in Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Kultur für HIRAM7 REVIEW unter die Lupe nehmen.

Von Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

Es ist schon komisch: Milliarden und Abermilliarden gibt die Regierung aus, um Banken zu retten, Firmen vor den Folgen unternehmerischer Fehlentscheidungen zu schützen oder dem Volk vor der Wahl zu neuen Autos zu verhelfen. Und worüber regt sich der Wähler auf?

Über die paar tausend Euro Steuergelder, die Ulla Schmidt verpulvert hat, um ihr Dienstauto und ihren Chauffeur in den Urlaub zu nehmen. Oder über Angela Merkels Geburtstagsessen für Josef Ackermann.

Eine solche Personalisierung der Politik ist Ausdruck einer Infantilisierung. Einer Kapitulation vor der Komplexität. Wer kann aus dem Kopf sagen, worin die Gesundheitsreform eigentlich besteht? Aber es sagt einem doch der gesunde Menschenverstand – also der Neid, dieser verlässlichste aller Sozialinstinkte, dass die Ministerin in Spanien keinen gepanzerten Dienstwagen mitsamt Chauffeur braucht. Unsereiner fährt doch auch Fiat Panda.

Und wer vermag schon zu beurteilen, ob die Banken, die ihrerseits gnadenlos jeden vor die Hunde gehen lassen, der seine Raten nicht zahlen kann, wirklich so systemisch relevant sind, dass sie ihrerseits nicht pleite gehen dürfen?

Aber es sagt einem doch der gesunde Bürgerneid, dass die Kanzlerin unsere Steuergelder nicht verpulvern darf, um  Herrn Ackermann ein Geburtstagsessen auszurichten. Vielleicht schweigt aber auch der Neid. Denn wir mögen die Kanzlerin.

Die Gesundheitsministerin hingegen können wir nicht leiden. Neulich mussten wir für die Zahnfüllung zuzahlen, und der Zahnarzt sagte, das sei wegen der Gesundheitsreform. Und dann fährt sie auch noch mit dem Dienstauto in den Urlaub!

Zwei Drittel aller neu zugelassenen Autos in Deutschland sind Dienstwagen. Man darf annehmen, dass damit auch privat gefahren wird, und dass nicht jede private Fahrt abgerechnet wird. Und wer private Essen als Geschäftsessen abrechnen kann, tut es. Wir haben die Politiker, die wir verdienen. Und gerade das nervt uns.

Natürlich nervt auch die Patzigkeit, mit der die ehemalige Genossin des Kommunistischen Bundes Westdeutschland und heutige Sozialdemokratin Ulla Schmidt ihr Recht auf einen Dienstwagen verteidigt. Ein bisschen Zerknirschtheit wäre angebracht. Deutsche Politiker sollten wenigstens so tun, als gehörten sie zu uns.

Was man Ulla Schmidt vorwerfen kann, ja muss, ist dies: sie hat dieses Grundgesetz der deutschen Politik vergessen. Das ist eher ein intellektuelles als ein moralisches Versagen. Umso schlimmer übrigens. Wie konnte sie glauben, das käme nicht raus? Oder dass sie damit durchkäme? Es kommt immer raus.

Und man kommt damit nicht durch. Es sei denn, man ist französischer Präsident. Aber das ist eine andere Geschichte. 

Die in HIRAM7 REVIEW veröffentlichten Essays und Kommentare geben nicht grundsätzlich den Standpunkt der Redaktion wieder.


Merkel & Calmy-Rey: A Tale of Two Leaders

March 20, 2008

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
New York, March 19, 2008

What a week!

Two European leaders made headlines. As it happened, both were women, born in the postwar era. Both led pathbreaking visits to the Middle East. But they couldn’t have struck a greater contrast.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Israel. It was not her first visit, but it was surely her most historic. She was accompanied by eight Cabinet ministers, an unprecedented number. She planned the visit in connection with the celebration of Israel’s sixtieth anniversary. And she left no doubt that Germany was committed to elevating its special relationship with Israel to a still higher level.

Her words could not have been clearer. In the Knesset and elsewhere, she spoke about Germany’s obligations and responsibilities. She spoke about Germany’s friendship and support. She spoke about the threats facing Israel, whether from Iran or Gaza, and Israel’s right of self-defense, not to mention Germany’s steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. And she spoke about planting the seeds for the future link between her country and Israel, in order to sustain the close ties built around not only the painful past but also a promising future.

Even sixty-three years after the war’s end, the visit of a German leader to Israel still awakens emotions and heightens sensitivities. How could it not? Chancellor Merkel fully understood both the risks and the opportunities. Impressively, she avoided the former and maximized the latter. And she did it in her characteristically understated manner. No razzle-dazzle, no hype. Yet, if anything, the understatement made the messenger” and her message” all the more powerful, for it came across as heartfelt, not manufactured for the occasion.

And, maybe, her well-honed instincts were shaped not only by the long shadow of the Shoah, but also by her own experience growing up in the inaptly named German Democratic Republic. There, she trained as a physicist, but she had another classroom as well. It was the daily lesson of totalitarianism, which has given her a moral clarity that serves her equally well in today’s Middle East. She is instinctively drawn to Israel as a free nation struggling not simply to survive, but to protect its value structure against those who would destroy it and against its enemies’ Western enablers, who, as during the Cold War, fail to grasp the fundamental distinctions between an open, democratic society like Israel and its ruthless adversaries.

Perhaps the photo that best captured the chancellor’s visit was at Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial to the Holocaust, where she bent down to lay a wreath. The image revealed what Chancellor Merkel knows full well that truly confronting the horrors of the past means being alert to the dangers of the present.

merkel_wreath.jpg 
(Photo: Agence France-Presse)

By contrast, while the German leader was in Israel, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey traveled to Iran.

The image that best captures her trip may be the picture that shows her laughing with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

calmy-rey2.jpg

(Photo: Tages-Anzeiger)

Imagine.

Here is a top official of a full-throttled democracy, Switzerland, breaking ranks with her European colleagues to journey to Tehran in the wake of a third sanctions resolution against Iran adopted by the UN Security Council and after the International Atomic Energy Agency raised still more questions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Her goal? To witness the signing of a major gas deal between a Swiss energy giant and Iran.

The Swiss reply is that the trip broke no laws. True enough. There are no UN sanctions prohibiting travel to Tehran or, for that matter, signing energy deals.

But is the discussion just about laws?

At a time when key countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany, are leading the effort to isolate Iran for its violation of UN measures, “neutral” Switzerland decides to move ahead, essentially taking sides by conducting business as usual.

When major trading partners are being asked to rein in their economic links with Iran to demonstrate the cost of flouting the will of the international community, Switzerland decides to go forward.

And when democrats around the world seek to highlight the brutal repression of women, homosexuals, dissenters, and religious minorities in Iran, the Swiss foreign minister dons a headscarf that her hometown Tribune de Genève describes as “the veil of discord.”

What kind of a message does the Swiss visit send to Iranian leaders? The answer is all too clear. Tehran’s policy of “divide and conquer” can work. By exploiting the differences between Switzerland and fellow European democracies unwilling to make cordial trips to Tehran, Iran benefits.

In addition to citing its energy needs, Switzerland argues that dialogue that holiest of holies, for some can induce a change in Iranian behavior. Of course, dialogue has its place at certain times and in certain situations. But what kind of dialogue? The kind that demands nothing of the Iranians?

In the 1980s, the United States desperately wanted to sell wheat to the Soviet Union, where it was in chronically short supply because of Soviet inefficiencies. The talks took place in London. The lead U.S. negotiator had been instructed to find an opportunity during the talks to raise American concerns about the plight of Soviet Jews. During a break, he took aside his Soviet counterpart and mentioned the issue. The Soviet, surely prepared for the moment, feigned surprise before commenting (and here I am paraphrasing), “Does this mean you are cutting off these talks?” Taken aback, the American replied, “No, of course not, but I thought you ought to know how the American people feel about this issue.” “Then,” said the Soviet, “let’s get back to the room and talk about what brings us together here, wheat.” End of story.

Even if they raised nuclear matters or human rights issues, who is to believe that the Swiss made any more progress than the American negotiator in London? After all, the Iranians achieved their twin goals: the signing of the energy deal and the conferral of legitimacy by the foreign minister’s visit.

For a variety of reasons, I know Switzerland well. I also know the foreign minister. She is by no means an enemy of Israel or the Jewish people. But in this case, driven by economic objectives and perhaps political illusions, she made a mistake. And, let’s be clear, there will be a price for that error.

It’s best summed up in that picture. Did the Swiss foreign minister really want her visit to Iran to be memorialized by a photo of herself laughing with the Iranian president, a man who has repeatedly called for a world without Israel, who dismisses the Shoah, who supports terrorist groups that have killed Americans, Argentines, French and Israelis, and who stomps on the basic human rights of women, gays, students and journalists? But there she was. And while she might wish the photo’s disappearance, I suspect it will long be displayed in Ahmadinejad’s office.

Yes, it was quite a week. It was the best of visits, it was the worst of visits. It was, one might say, a tale of two leaders in two cities.

Reprinted with kindly permission of the American Jewish Committee.


Interviews mit Diplomaten der Botschaft des Staates Israel zum Israelbesuch von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

March 17, 2008
Alexander Krahe hat vor dem Hintergrund der Israelreise von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel am 17.03.2008 ein Interview mit dem israelischen Gesandten Ilan Mor auf Inforadio mit Fragen zur Zukunft der deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen geführt:

 „Wir müssen gemeinsame Projekte finden, um die Beziehungen zu erweitern und zu vertiefen. Die Tatsache, dass wir darüber sprechen, ist an sich ein Schritt in die gemeinsame (..) Zukunft der Beziehungen. (…) Die deutsche Regierung spielt eine wichtige Rolle auch innerhalb der Europäischen Union, und die Europäische Union hat für sich die Verantwortung übernommen, um den Palästinensern zu helfen. Israel begrüsst diese Bemühungen, und wird mitmachen”, so der Gesandte Ilan Mor.

Das vollständige Gespräch finden Sie hier.

Die Berliner Zeitung vom 16.03.2008 hat das Sonntags-Interview von Autor Friedemann Weckbach-Mara der Reise Angela Merkels nach Israel gewidmet und ein Gespräch mit Israels Botschafter Yoram Ben-Zeev geführt, in dem es um die Symbolik, Inhalte und Zukunft der deutsch-israelischen Regierungskonsultationen ging:

„Schon heute besteht in Kenntnis der Vergangenheit bereits eine tiefe Freundschaft zwischen beiden Ländern. Diese Freundschaft ist das Markenzeichen der Kanzlerin. Sie hat das bevorstehende Treffen mit den regelmäßigen Konsultationen angeregt. Sie ist eine wunderbare Frau. Wir setzen ihre Idee jetzt nur um”, so Botschafter Yoram Ben-Zeev.

Das vollständige Gespräch finden Sie hier.


Israeli PM presses German Chancellor on Iran sanctions

February 12, 2008
Tougher sanctions against Iran and other Middle East issues have dominated the agenda of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Olmert showed Merkel intelligence information regarding the Iranian nuclear program in order to persuade her to continue acting to bolster the sanctions against Iran, a senior government source told the Israeli newspaper ‘Ha’aretz’.

Before the talks, Olmert visited the German capital’s Jewish Museum, where he left a wish in a pomegranate tree that read: “May this place serve as a memory and witness to what happened, and a hope for a future of flowering and flourishing for the Jewish people.” Olmert is expected to use the visit to try to win German backing for tougher sanctions against Tehran. “There is a request from the prime minister that the restrictions and the inspections of Iran be increased, including through the intensification of sanctions,” Yoram Ben-Zeev, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, told ‘Army Radio’ in Israel.

Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest allies in Europe, is involved in efforts of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Germany is also a main contributor to the international force deployed in south Lebanon after Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah guerrillas. In her weekly internet podcast, Merkel said the two leaders would also be preparing for the launch of German-Israeli government consultations, expected in March.


Setback for Angela Merkel’s Party

January 28, 2008

The party of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered heavy losses in regional elections in the German state of Hesse. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle says the party has suffered from a polarizing strategy.

Read full story.


German chancellor Angela Merkel shaken by labor minister’s resignation

November 14, 2007

The International Herald Tribune reports that Germany’s ruling coalition has been shaken by the sudden resignation of the labor minister.

Read full story.


World Jewish Congress favours bigger role for Germany in the Middle East

October 2, 2007

PRESS RELEASE

Berlin, 01 October, 2007

The President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Berlin.

The president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Ronald S. Lauder, has met in Berlin with Germany’s federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

It was Lauder’s first meeting with Germany’s political leadership since he was elected WJC president in June 2007. He was accompanied to the meetings by the president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Moshe Kantor, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and WJC vice-president, Charlotte Knobloch, and the new WJC secretary-general, Michael Schneider.

The talks focused on rising anti-Semitism in Europe, on the protection of vulnerable Jewish communities in Germany and central and eastern European countries, and on Iran’s nuclear program which threatens the existence of the State of Israel.

Lauder told Merkel about his growing concerns regarding Iran’s aggressive stance in the Middle East. “We must not let fanatics such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad destabilize the entire region, ” the WJC president said, adding that “six decades after the Holocaust, Germany – under Mrs. Merkel’s leadership – commands sufficient respect among the family of nations to be a measured and moderate force in world affairs. It has become a symbol for democracy, the rule of law and the protection of minorities in the world.”

Lauder also supported tough measures against the threat posed by Islamist terrorism, saying: “Not only Jews, but Western society as a whole needs the strong democratic state,” he pointed out. He condemned developments in certain central European countries where far-right paramilitary groups were being formed and who parade in the streets.

The WJC president said: “The specter of Nazism and Fascism must not be allowed to get the upper hand again in Europe.” Lauder supported calls by German NGOs for an annual report on anti-Semitism to be compiled, following the example of other countries.

Media contact

Michael Thaidigsmann – World Jewish Congress, Brussels Office

Tel. +32 2 552 09 24 – Email: press@worldjewishcongress.org


Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism: A New Frontier of Bigotry

August 26, 2007

Alvin H. Rosenfeld, professor of English and Jewish Studies and director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University, surveys the contemporary scene in Germany and France, detailing the rise in anti-American and anti-Semitic incidents.

Insightfully, he observes that anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism serve a similar social function: to focus discontent and explain internal failures.

***

“Hitler Had Two Sons: Bush and Sharon” reads the slogan on a so-called “peace-poster” carried in European anti-war rallies; and in this and countless other crude formulations of a similar nature, one finds expressed a hostility toward America, Israel, and the Jews that has been gaining force across much of Europe in the last few years.

The American-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, launched in March 2003, may have brought this animus to a head, but it was in evidence well before the war began. Indeed, an American Jew visiting Europe in the spring of 2002 would have been justified in feeling doubly uneasy, for these passions were then at their most intense: Anti-Semitism of a vocal and sometimes violent variety was in greater evidence than at any time since the end of World War II; and anti-Americanism was making itself felt as an increasingly common and acceptable form of public expression.

As I intend to show, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism reveal certain structural similarities and often take recourse to a common vocabulary of defamation and denunciation. While their developmental histories may differ, the hostilities they release may converge, driven as they are by the same negative energies of fear, anger, envy, and resentment. We are witnessing such a convergence today, with consequences that have the potential to do serious harm.

In the news media, over the Internet, in street demonstrations, and in common parlance, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have taken on global dimensions and now have a worldwide reach. They have become intimately bound up with one another, so much so that it sometimes seems that the growing hatred of America is but another form of Judeophobia-and vice versa. Precisely what drives these animosities is not always clear, but their resurgence in our time is an ominous development and should not be treated lightly. Observing the extremity of some of the rhetoric being voiced these days about America, Israel, and the Jews, one becomes aware that it moves well beyond principled disagreements with American or Israeli policies and into the realm of the fantastic.

To demonstrate how anti-American and anti-Semitic attitudes mingle in this bizarre realm and to expose the kinds of trouble they can create, I turn first to an examination of these trends in Germany, a country in which even the slightest offense of this nature makes one sit up and take notice. Thereafter I shall look at some of the same issues on a broader front, examining in particular France, the European country that seems most seriously infected with anti-American and anti-Semitic biases.

The Significance of Germany

Europe’s largest and economically most powerful country, Germany exerts a sizable influence on the continent’s political priorities and some of its more prominent social and cultural trends. In addition, its close diplomatic alliance with France and determined effort to act with that country as a European counterweight to American interests in foreign affairs puts Germany in the foreground of attention. Add to these reasons Germany’s Nazi past, and it should be clear why any signs of hostility to Jews and others within its borders warrant serious attention. German authorities are well aware of the damage their country could suffer if these tendencies get out of hand, and they usually make special efforts to restrain the open expression of anti-Semitic and anti-American biases.

These animosities sometimes seem to have a will of their own, however, and erupt periodically in ways that can introduce a note of discord into the country’s cultural life and disrupt its normally well-managed international relations. Tensions of this kind surfaced this past year on both the cultural and diplomatic fronts.

I was in Germany for two weeks in May 2002, when some of these trends were coming to the fore. Before describing what I observed, however, it will be helpful to advance the calendar by a few months and recall that on September 22, 2002, German voters reelected Gerhard Schröder to a second term as chancellor.

Schröder’s victory was by no means a certainty in the months leading up to the election. In fact, for most of that time, the polls showed him several points behind his chief rival, Edmund Stoiber, the prime minister of Bavaria and the candidate of the conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union parties. In the final weeks of the campaign, Schröder closed this gap and ultimately prevailed.

According to most commentators, he won the election as a result of two key factors: his media-savvy handling of a crisis in the eastern part of the country brought on by a destructive flood; and his clever but costly strategy of running the last leg of his race not so much against Stoiber as against President George W. Bush.

The American president, who was accused of “playing around with war,” became a prominent election issue, and Schröder did not hesitate to level heavy rhetorical assaults against him. The chancellor declared that he would not “click his heels” to an American commander-in-chief and categorically refused any German support for American military “adventures” in Iraq, even if such action had the sanction of a United Nations mandate. These moves were calculated to attract voters on the left of the German political spectrum, among whom a militant pacifism is part of the cultural norm. (In fact, an ingrained pacifism has become a part of the postwar mentality of much of the younger generation of Germans.)

At the same time, Schrder’s evocation of a special “German way” in the formulation of foreign policy might sit well with nationalist sentiment on the political right. His open defiance of the United States would also appeal to voters in the former communist states in the eastern part of Germany, who had been educated to see America as the enemy and still hold lingering resentments against it. The strategy worked, and Schröder managed to squeak through by the thinnest of margins.

But at a price. Angela Merkel, leader of the opposition Christian Democrats, went on record on the day of the election as saying, “German-American relations were never as bad as they are this evening…. This is a high price to pay for this campaign.” Wolfgang Schäuble, a fellow Christian Democrat, agreed, stating, “German-American relations are at their lowest level since the founding of the state in 1949.”

Coming from two prominent members of the political opposition, these views are not surprising, but other, less partisan voices confirmed this negative assessment. Christian Hacke, a political scientist at Bonn University, for instance, declared: “For the first time in fifty years a German government has become anti-American in both style and substance. This is a catastrophe.”

Seemingly agreeing with this sentiment, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. secretary of defense, saw German-American relations as “poisoned” and refused to meet with Peter Struck, his German counterpart, at an international meeting of allied defense ministers in Warsaw shortly after Schröder’s victory.

Whether for opportunistic or other reasons, a change of attitude toward America was becoming apparent in Germany. Moreover, while Schröder certainly exploited anti-American feelings for his own purposes, he did not have to newly create them. Such sentiments were there already and, as Henry Kissinger wrote at the time, may now be a “permanent feature of German politics.”

It did not take long for these sentiments to surface aggressively under the sanction that the German chancellor’s blunt and highly public criticism of the American president had seemed to give them. In one especially notorious incident, Schröder’s justice minister, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, reportedly compared President Bush’s tactics toward Iraq to those of Hitler: “Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It’s a classic tactic. It’s one that Hitler also used.”

In another instance, Ludwig Stiegler, a member of Parliament from Mr. Schröder’s party, likened Mr. Bush to an imperialist Roman emperor bent on subjugating Germany. (Embarrassed by these incidents, Schröder relieved both of his colleagues of their jobs in the postelection period, but by then the damage had already been done.) If further proof were needed that the climate had turned nasty, it was provided by Rudolf Scharping, Schröder’s former defense minister, who reportedly stated, at a meeting in Berlin on August 27, 2002, that President Bush was being encouraged to go to war against Iraq by a “powerful-perhaps overly powerful-Jewish lobby” in the United States.

In Scharping’s formulation, reminiscent of older, far-right claims about excessive Jewish power, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism come together as common bedfellows.

Anti-Bush Demonstrations

I was in Berlin on May 22, 2002, when President Bush came for a stay of less than twenty-four hours. It was his first trip to Germany and followed an earlier visit to the White House by Chancellor Schröder. (As matters transpired, it was probably to be the last visit to the White House by Schröder or any other German government official for a long time.)

Anti-Bush sentiments, including popular derision of the American president as an unruly Texas “cowboy,” had surfaced long before this visit and intensified notably during the president’s brief stay in Berlin. Ten thousand German police, some in riot gear and backed up by armored vehicles, were assigned to safeguard him. The center of Berlin was cleared of all traffic, and the area around the Brandenburg Gate, where the president’s hotel was located, was closed off almost entirely.

Public protests began on Tuesday and carried on for two more days. On Wednesday, a crowd estimated at 20,000 was out on the streets, most peacefully demonstrating, but some determined to be more aggressive in voicing their opposition to the American president. Signs denouncing Bush as a “terrorist” and a “warmonger” were on display, together with others declaring that “war is terror” and demanding a “stop [to] Bush’s global war.”

By now, such public displays of oppositional politics had become common fare throughout Europe and were hardly restricted to Germany. But to be in Berlin at the same time as the American president and observe that it was deemed necessary to field a small army of German police to protect him was startling. One is no longer surprised to learn of virulent anti-Americanism in places like Cairo, Tehran, and Ramallah, but to witness the public torching of America’s flag in the capital of a European country that supposedly is a close ally was disconcerting and brought me to reflect on what was stirring in Germany to fuel such passions.

German spokesmen took pains at the time to explain that these protests were not directed at America per se or at the American people but only against specific policies being promoted by President Bush. In part, such explanations ring true, but only in part. There is widespread dislike of what is commonly denounced as American “unilateralism” and open displeasure over America’s pulling away from international agreements on the environment, ballistic missiles, trade, and other things. Many West Europeans do not take well to this American president’s personal style any more than they like his policies, and this generation of Germans, in particular, has been nervous about what they see as his penchant for aggressive use of the military to solve international problems.

These and a host of other differences had contributed to a widening gap between Washington and Europe-a “continental drift” that had preceded President Bush’s assumption of office, but his coming into power brought numerous problems to the fore. It was precisely to quiet German nerves on these matters, and especially on the matter of a possible war with Iraq, that President Bush came to Berlin and addressed the German Parliament. As one commentator put it at the time, he could not possibly settle people’s minds on all of these issues with even the best of speeches, but he gave a “moving and important speech, if there’s anyone left in Europe to be moved.”

The skepticism in these words is justified, for the more closely one looks at anti-American rhetoric, the more one sees that it often moves beyond criticism of specific policies to expose envies, fears, and resentments of a deeper kind. These are not new, and no matter what it is that may prompt them, their recurrence and exaggerated expression suggest that a cultural repetition compulsion is at play. Consider the following news items, for instance, taken from the German press:

A cover page of Stern magazine … showed an American missile piercing the heart of a dove of peace…. Prominent German politicians also freely [have] expressed such attitudes. Oskar Lafontaine, deputy cochairman of the Social Democratic Party [SPD], called the United States “an aggressor nation.” Rudolf Hartnung, chairman of the youth organization of the SPD, accused the United States of “ideologically inspired genocide” in Central America, among other places. Another SPD politician, state legislator J�rgen Busack, had this to say: “The warmongers and international arsonists do not govern in the Kremlin. They govern in Washington. The United States must lie, cheat, and deceive in an effort to thwart resistance to its insane foreign policy adventures. The United States is headed for war.”

Students of German political history will recognize that, while the language quoted is of a piece with today’s accusatory rhetoric, it actually comes from the Germany of the early 1980s. Some twenty years ago, when another American president was regularly identified with the Wild West and denounced as a trigger-happy cowboy, Germany’s media and many of its political figures were voicing the same charges against President Reagan now made against President Bush.

The images in both cases were virtually identical: Governed by political leaders who are not only crude philistines but reckless and aggressive warriors, America is a menacing country that threatens world peace. It is for this reason that, in confronting German and other European views of America, one is tempted to consider anti-Americanism not just as a form of cultural and political criticism but as a form of psychopathology.

Definition of Anti-Americanism

To understand its nature, let’s borrow a working definition of anti-Americanism from Paul Hollander’s book on the subject: The term “anti-Americanism,” Hollander writes, denotes a “particular mind-set, an attitude of distaste, aversion, or intense hostility the roots of which may be found in matters unrelated to the actual qualities or attributes of American society or the foreign policies of the United States. In short, … anti-Americanism refers to a negative predisposition, a type of bias which is to various degrees unfounded…. It is an attitude similar to [such other] hostile predispositions as racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism.”

Hollander is correct in recognizing that anti-Americanism implies more than taking a critical view of real American shortcomings, but rather has an irrational side. It expresses a sharp distrust and dislike not just of what America sometimes does but of what it is alleged to be-a mighty but willful, arrogant, self-righteous, domineering, and dangerously threatening power.

What we confront here are fantasies that posit an untamed, ferocious country, unrestrained by moral conscience or international laws-in short, an “American abomination” or “American peril.” Observing that America is sometimes seen in just such terms, Hollander correctly notes the resemblance of anti-Americanism to other kinds of deeply felt aversions and hostilities, including those that fuel anti-Semitism. The link between these two biases became evident during my time in Germany last spring.

George Bush and Ariel Sharon: Parallel Images

One way to observe this linkage is to reflect on the two figures who, more than any others, seem to occupy the German and general European imagination today as larger-than-life figures of menace: George Bush and Ariel Sharon. Popular images of the American president as a wild man and a warmonger have already been cited. As exaggerated as these are, they are at least matched, and sometimes even superceded in their extremity, by the images projected of Ariel Sharon. Ever since the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, on September 28, 2000, Sharon has been regularly described in the German media in terms that demonize him as a “bull,” a “bulldozer,” a “warmonger,” and a “slaughterer.”

He has been compared to Hitler and Nero and said to be “Israel’s highest-ranking arsonist.” Other references peg him as a “political pyromaniac,” an ungainly “old war criminal,” a “right-wing extremist,” a “warhorse,” and “catastrophe personified.” In addition to these epithets, Sharon is frequently referred to in terms of his physical traits and mocked as being “constipated” and “pot-bellied,” a “fat, lonely old man’ with the “sluggish gait of an elephant.” He is also described as being “politically deranged” and thirsty for Palestinian blood. (According to Die Welt, “a lot of blood clings to his hands, starting from his Kibiya days in the 1950s, to Sabra and Shatila, up to his most recent provocation in the mosque in [September] 2000.”)

In sum, the Israeli prime minister is seen as a loathsome monster running amok, the very personification of “the ugly Israeli.”Insofar as Ariel Sharon is seen as representative of his country’s Jewish populace, Israeli society too is being portrayed as implacably brutal and as associated with the rule of war criminals. It is little wonder, then, that Israel has taken on something like pariah status and is sometimes even referred to as “the most hated country in the world.”

The distinction of being reviled in such terms is one that Israel shares with only one other country: the United States of America. The two are now commonly denounced as “outlaw nations” or, in the demonology of Muslim orators, as “the Great Satan” and “the Little Satan.”

German political rhetoric does not generally approach anything so extreme, although the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk not long ago named America and Israel as the only two countries today that strike him as being “rogue states.”

More typically, Germans are content if they feel they have the right to “criticize” Israel. At the same time, they bristle at the thought that some of the more extreme forms their criticism may take might themselves be subjected to criticism not to their liking. In the run-up to the German elections in the spring of 2002, for instance, when the FDP politician Jürgen Möllemann seemed to lend public sanction to the murderous assaults of Palestinian suicide bombers against Israeli civilians, Jews in Germany were troubled. Michel Friedman, a prominent figure in the Jewish community of Frankfurt and the host of a popular television talk show, was especially sharp in his criticism of Mr. Möllemann, who in turn excoriated Mr. Friedman, declaring that it was figures like Ariel Sharon and Friedman himself, “with his intolerant and malicious manner,” who provoke anti-Semitism in Germany.

Although Mr. Möllemann’s colleagues in the FDP were slow to react to these ill-tempered charges, Jews in the country immediately recognized that in blaming the Jews for anti-Semitism and then complaining that he was being unfairly called to task for doing so, Möllemann was employing a tactic from the familiar repertoire of anti-Semitic clichés. At about the same time, Martin Walser, a prominent German writer, published a highly controversial novel, Tod eines Kritikers (”The Death of a Critic”), which liberally exploited this same repertoire by projecting an altogether contemptible Jew as one of his main characters. Walser’s novel was roundly denounced as a “document of hate” by some critics and defended by others. Before long, a debate about lifting the taboos regarding criticism of Israel and Jews living in Germany became another in a long series of German debates about anti-Semitism and the burden of Holocaust memory on postwar German society.

Pairing America and Israel as Rogue States

To return to Sloterdijk’s singling out of America and Israel as rogue states: Pairing the two countries in this way is hardly new, nor is the temptation to link them as outlaw nations indulged in only by German intellectuals.

Some thirty years ago, the British historian Arnold Toynbee remarked that “the United States and Israel must be today the two most dangerous of the 125 sovereign states among which the land surface of this planet is at present partitioned.” And more recently the British columnist Polly Toynbee, granddaughter of Arnold, has written that “ugly Israel is the Middle East representative of ugly America.”

Numerous other references of this kind could be cited as well, linking the Jewish state and the United States as paramount threats to world peace. The message is unsubtle and can be handily summed up by a few words on a popular sign-board carried at European peace rallies: “Bush and Sharon, Murderers,” or, in a more extreme formulation of this same charge, “Bush + Sharon = Hitler.”

What lies behind these obscenities is worth pondering. The easy application of Nazi-era references to Israel and America is one of the most repugnant features of present-day anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric. It is also becoming commonplace, and not only in the sensationalizing language of the mob talk that often accompanies street demonstrations. The Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize laureate José Saramago famously likened the Israeli siege of Yasir Arafat’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah to nothing less than Nazi actions against Jews in Auschwitz.

The Israeli incursion into Jenin, which cost the lives of twenty-three Israeli soldiers while killing some fifty-two Palestinians, most of them armed fighters, was likened to “Leningrad” and denounced as “genocide.” Others in Europe, mainly on the intellectual left, think in similarly extravagant terms. When they say “Israeli” or “Jew”-and in the minds of many, the two have become almost one -they are not far from thinking “oppressor” or “murderer.” The shorthand term for this despised type is now “Sharon” or, stated simply but perversely, “Nazi.”

President Bush is similarly branded, his visage adorned with swastikas and his name changed to “George W. Hitler.” As in the case of the former German Minister of Justice, such coarse semantic switches are now made all too easily, as if an off-the-cuff association of the president of the United States with the most monstrous figure in German history were both natural and acceptable.

As Dan Diner has shown convincingly in two recent books on this subject, anti-Americanism has a well-established history in Germany dating back at least to the nineteenth century. Animated at times by cultural motives and at other times by political motives, German hostility to America crystallized ideologically in the early twentieth century as a reaction to modernity itself. Urbanization, commercialization, secularization, social mobility, mass culture, meritocracy, democracy, feminism-these and other components of modernity were considered unwelcome encroachments on traditional ways of life. In opposing them, German critics of the United States tended to conflate fears and resentments regarding America’s alleged imperial hegemony with similar fears regarding imagined Jewish money, power, influence, and control. Diner quotes Max Horkheimer to this effect: “…everywhere that one finds anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism is also prevalent.” Horkheimer further explains that America is frequently singled out as the scapegoat for a host of German and general European problems, brought on, at the time he was writing, by “the general malaise caused by cultural decline.” In seeking causes for this malaise, people “find the Americans and, in America itself, once again the Jews, who supposedly rule America.”

Horkheimer was hardly alone in this analysis. Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, numerous others expressed anti-American sentiments in ways that directly implicated the Jews. According to Diner:

It became commonplace to characterize America, according to the words of Werner Sombart, as a “state of Jews” (Judenstaat). In particular after Taft’s presidency, this view saw the “Jewish” influence on public life in the United States as having gained the upper hand. Jews were thought to be pulling the strings in the trade unions, which were also centers of power and influence. During the war they succeeded in moving into big capital and supposedly profited substantially from Allied war loans. Jews were also believed to have considerable intellectual influence. In early nationalist literature, for instance, Wilson’s Fourteen Points were depicted as a product of Jewish minds. The “enslavement” of Germany was also ascribed to the Jews.

In the aftermath of World War I and into the Nazi period, charges of this kind became prevalent in Germany, and an ideologically tempered anti-Americanism intimately linked to anti-Semitism became commonplace. It saw American culture as degenerate, its debased condition a function of Jewish influence. “My feelings against America are those of hatred and repugnance,” Hitler said, “half-Judaized, half-negrified, with everything built on the dollar.”

Beyond purportedly corrupting culture, however, this presumed Jewish influence was seen to be everywhere: in the person of Bernard Baruch, Wilson’s hand-picked representative at the Versailles Conference, who was prominently identified as a Wall Street financial magnate who allegedly had pushed hard for war to advance his personal fortune as well as the aims of Jewish world domination; in the person of Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s secretary of finance during World War II, who was widely seen as a Jewish avenger out to destroy Germany economically; and other “Jewish” influentials who were regarded as hostile to German interests, such as New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia; Felix Frankfurter, the law professor and Roosevelt confidante; and even President Roosevelt himself, sometimes (mis)identified as being really named “Rosenfeld.” America, in sum, was under a “Jewish dictatorship” and, as such, implacably anti-German. Indeed, it was the Jews, so the charge went, who forced the United States to enter the war in the first place.

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, blatant conspiracy theories were not commonly voiced in Germany. Nevertheless, the notion that Jewish “influence”” continued to make itself felt in invidious ways hardly disappeared, and to this day polls of German public opinion regularly show sizable numbers of Germans affirming the notion that Jews exercise too much power in world affairs. Jews are believed to do so in their own right and through their alleged “control” over American foreign policy. For instance, in 1991, prominent figures on the German left held Jews responsible for the first Persian Gulf war, alleging that the battle was being waged on Israel’s behalf, not Kuwait’s. As Sander Gilman summed up the mood at the time, the Gulf War “showed how anti-Americanism in Germany and especially anti-Jewish resentment in the peace movement and among its fellow travelers saw the war as an American/Jewish/Israeli invasion. The virulent shouts that it was Israel that was causing the Gulf War, rather than Iraqi expansionism, simply echoed the cries against American imperial hegemony that carried on the anti-Semitic associations of Jew and American from the nineteenth century.”

A “Cabal” of Neoconservatives

The issues examined here within a German context are now observable on a much broader front, and the Jews once again have been blamed for propelling America into war in the Persian Gulf. A powerful “cabal” of American supporters of Israel-Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, William Kristol, and others of the so-called “neoconservative war party”-are said to be shaping American foreign policy and to have pushed President Bush into attacking Iraq to serve the ends of a stronger Israel. In this view, President Bush is portrayed as little more than a client of Ariel Sharon, and American national security interests remain in the grip of the “Zionist lobby” or powerful “East Coast” influentials-code words employed by writers who seem to believe, but generally will not bring themselves to say outright, that the Jews are really running America’s affairs.

The use of coded language has gone so far that it is no longer unusual for writers who comment on the neoconservative movement to use the term “neocon” as synonymous with “Jew,” excepting those with similar views who lack Jewish roots. Whenever such inferences are drawn, it is now common to point to “plots” underway that threaten to steer American policy in the wrong direction-namely, the direction its Jewish manipulators, and not America’s elected officials, would have it go.

Antiwar conservatives like Patrick J. Buchanan espoused conspiracy theories regarding the origins of the war against Iraq. Buchanan wrote in the American Conservative on March 24, 2003:

Here was a cabal of intellectuals telling the Commander-in-Chief, nine days after an attack on America, that if he did not follow their war plans, he would be charged with surrendering to terror. … What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel. They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.

But it wasn’t only right-wingers like Buchanan who claimed that the war served Israel’s, not America’s, security objectives. On the left, too, there were those who saw the war as being waged at the behest of Israel and, more cynically, also in pursuit of American Jewish political support. In writing about the “power” of the neocons in the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew refers to both of these motives.

Because some-but certainly not all-of the neoconservatives are Jewish and virtually all are strong supporters of the Likud Party’s policies, the accusation has been made that their aim to “democratize” the region is driven by their desire to surround Israel with more sympathetic neighbors…. But it is also the case that Bush and his chief political adviser Karl Rove are eager both to win more of the Jewish vote in 2004 than Bush did in 2000 and to maintain the support of the Christian right, whose members are also strong supporters of Israel.

To those who share these views, the Jewish hand is to be seen virtually everywhere. Robert J. Lieber, summing up the conspiracy theory in the Chronicle of Higher Education, found that it had many proponents:

A small band of neoconservative defense intellectuals, led by the “mastermind,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (according to Michael Lind, writing in the New Statesman), has taken advantage of 9/11 to put their ideas over on an ignorant, inexperienced, and “easily manipulated” president (Eric Alterman in The Nation), his “elderly figurehead” Defense Secretary (as Lind put it), and the “dutiful servant of power” who is our secretary of state (Edward Said, London Review of Books).

The tendency to ascribe exaggerated power to Jews in public life is not new nor is the belief that “Jewish power” is deployed to achieve Israeli objectives. Here, for instance, is how the historian Perry Anderson puts it:

Entrenched in business, government, and media, American Zionism has since the sixties acquired a firm grip on the levers of public opinion and official policy toward Israel…. The colonists have in this sense at length acquired something like the metropolitan state-or state within a state-they initially lacked.

Sentiments of this nature exist among Germans, but they are usually muted, especially with reference to Jews. With regard to America, the German rhetoric became less inhibited in the time leading up to the invasion of Iraq. The writer Peter Schneider recently said that he has “never seen so much anti-Americanism in my life, not in the Vietnam war, never.”

The public voicing of such sentiments regarding both Jews and Americans is by no means confined to Germany. Abandoning coded language altogether, Tam Dalyell, a member of the British Parliament from the Labour Party, told an interviewer for Vanity Fair flat out that both Tony Blair and George Bush were “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers.” Never mind that most of George Bush’s closest advisers are Protestants or that most of those helping to guide British Middle East policy are also not Jewish. To Mr. Dalyell and others like him, it has become open hunting season on Jews, and even the suspicion of Jewish ancestry is enough to inspire wild accusations.

We are living at a time when hostility to America has become almost a worldwide phenomenon, and a parallel dislike of Israel and distrust of the Jews frequently accompany this hostility. When a member of the Canadian Parliament can be heard to declare on television, “Damn Americans. I hate those bastards”; when a French diplomat posted to England is widely quoted as referring to Israel as that “shitty little country” pushing the world toward war; when a prominent Irish poet denounces Jewish settlers living on the West Bank as “Nazis [and] racists” who “should be shot dead” and is on record as stating, “I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all,” we are in a troubled time.

French Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism

Much of the worst of this trouble has taken place over the past two years in France, where anti-Americanism has become highly vocal in both political and cultural life and anti-Semitism has turned more openly aggressive than at any time since the end of World War II. These antagonisms reflect a political disposition toward the Middle East conflict that is highly critical of Israel and also sharply at odds with the United States, understood to be Israel’s guardian. French attitudes toward both countries are often negative. It is small wonder then that militant members of France’s large Muslim communities openly proclaim their hatred of the United States and regard French Jews as surrogate Israelis whom they feel entitled to abuse at will. Some have been doing just that, as if the verbal violence against Israel in the French media can be taken as justification for physical assaults against French Jews.

At the same time, teachers who are prepared to teach about the Holocaust in French classrooms are often intimidated from doing so by angry Muslim students, some of whom act aggressively to prevent knowledge of Jewish victimization during World War II from being disseminated in the schools. The subject has fallen effectively under a taboo, and many of these schools are now almost extraterritorial enclaves. The suppression of this history, together with frequently expressed attitudes of hostility toward Israel, adds to the unease of Jews in today’s France.

Anti-Jewish hostilities began to surge in France in the fall of 2000 and have continued in waves of greater or lesser virulence to this day. On the night of October 3, 2000, a synagogue in the town of Villepinte, not far from Paris, was set ablaze. French police at first explained the incident as accidental, but six Molotov cocktails discovered at the site belied the notion that the building’s near destruction was the result of nothing more than a trash fire. Within the next ten days, four more synagogues in the greater Paris area also were burned, and nineteen Jewish homes and businesses likewise became the target of arson attempts. There have been hundreds of other assaults against individual Jews and Jewish property throughout France, most of them perpetrated by young Muslims. In the spring of 2002, the front gates of a synagogue in Lyon were intentionally rammed by two cars driven by masked and hooded men, and the synagogue itself was then set on fire. In April, the Or Aviv Synagogue in Marseilles was torched, and in Toulouse shots were fired at a kosher butcher shop. A bus carrying Jewish children to the Tiferet Israel School in Sarcelle was stoned; shortly afterward, the school itself was destroyed by fire; the same happened to the Gan Pardess School in Marseilles; Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Jewish school in Créteil and at a synagogue in Garges-les-Gonesse; Jewish students have been assaulted at Metro stops in central Paris and subjected to verbal and physical abuse in schools; Jews walking to synagogue have been variously insulted and harassed; a Jewish soccer team was roughed up at Bondy, a suburb of Paris; and in March 2003 Jewish teenagers were beaten with metal bars during antiwar protest marches in the French capital; banners equating Sharon with Hitler and intermingling the Star of David with the Nazi swastika have become familiar sights at these marches; and at some, shouts of “Kill the Jews!” can be heard.

French authorities were slow to acknowledge the true character of these outrageous actions and for too long passed them off as part of a general social unruliness that reigns in France’s often destitute immigrant suburbs. Criminal acts against Jews, in other words, were to be understood as merely part of a more general phenomenon of heightened criminality in French cities as a whole. Or the anti-Jewish violence was explained away as part of a “natural” interethnic rivalry, an inevitable spillover onto French shores of the continuing violence between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. President Jacques Chirac for a time even insisted, “There is no anti-Semitism at all in France.” Jewish houses of worship were being set on fire, but during the height of these outrages, neither Chirac nor then Prime Minister Lionel Jospin saw fit to visit the sites of the desecrated synagogues. (Only later, on the eve of his reelection campaign in the spring of2002, did the French president bother to pay a sympathy call to Le Havre, where a small synagogue had been attacked.)

The sheer volume of assaults on Jews and Jewish institutions render such public denial untenable, however, and in recent months, with the appointment of Nicolas Sarkozy as the new interior minister, a greater resolve to curb such violence seems in evidence. And well it should, for the dynamic of French anti-Semitism long ago moved beyond public slurs against Jewish symbols to open aggression against Jews and Jewish property. Between January and May 2001, more than 300 attacks against Jews took place in France. By the spring of 2003, the number of such hate crimes since January 2001 stood at over 1,000. Marie Brenner, who has reported on these incidents extensively, notes that in the first three months of 2003 there were already 326 verified reports of anti-Jewish violence in Paris alone. While any analogies to Vichy would be far-fetched, the social environment has clearly changed for Jews in today’s France, and the country no longer seems so hospitable. As French writer Alain Finkelkraut recently put it, “To their own amazement, [French] Jews are now sad and scared.” Some are leaving the country for Israel or are giving serious thought to settling in the United States or Canada.

The outbreak of violent anti-Semitism in France has occurred at a time when anti-Americanism has also become a more prominent feature of French political and intellectual life. Hostile attitudes toward America are not new but have a history in France that dates back to the eighteenth century. The degree of French antipathy to the United States has heightened in the last few years, however, for reasons that are as much related to France’s ambivalence about its place in the new Europe and its reduced standing in the world as about real policy differences with America. The latter are not insignificant, as became all too clear in the diplomatic feud that Paris aggressively waged with Washington during the run-up to the war against Iraq. However, over and beyond the tensions between the two countries that accompany France’s determination to present itself as a rival power to America in the international arena, the polemical nature of French anti-Americanism has deeper causes.

The best analysts of this phenomenon are the French themselves, and in the past two years French authors have produced a number of perceptive books on the obsession with and national disdain for America. Among the best of these are Philippe Roger’s L’Ennemi américain: Généalogie de l’antiaméricanisme français (”The American Enemy: A Genealogy of French Anti-Americanism”) and Jean-François Revel’s L’Obsession anti-américaine: Son fonctionnement, ses causes, ses inconséquences (”The Anti-American Obsession: Its Functioning, Causes, and Inconsistencies”).

In addition to these studies, there has also been a spate of books on “Why the Whole World Hates America,” which exemplify the very phenomenon that the analytical studies set out to clarify. The most extreme of these is Thierry Meyssan’s L’Effroyable imposture (”The Frightening Deception”). Its bizarre thesis is that the received accounts of the 9/11 terror attacks are mostly an American government fabrication; in fact, so Meyssan alleges, the strikes were actually carried out by reactionary elements of the American military. Yet this outlandish work quickly became a big hit, selling almost a quarter of a million copies in the first few months of publication. While one would be hard put to find many serious people in France who would credit Meyssan’s argument as plausible, his book’s popularity underscores the basically irrational, but evidently appealing, character of French anti-Americanism.

David Pryce-Jones partly clarifies the psychological grounds of this appeal in commenting on Phillipe Roger’s study: “Since the eighteenth century, the French have been treating America less as a real country than as a theater in which to work out fears and fantasies of their own.” Or, in the words of Roger himself, “We keep creating a mythological America in order to avoid asking ourselves questions about our real problems.”

Why Anti-Americanism Functions Like Anti-Semitism

Anti-Americanism, in this understanding, clearly has some benefits for those who embrace it. It functions as both a distraction and a relief, diverting attention from issues that can be divisive within French society: ongoing economic concerns, political discord, the challenges of absorbing large and still growing immigrant populations, and vexed questions of national identity in a society rapidly becoming more diverse in its ethnic, racial, and religious makeup. To one degree or another, many European countries have problems of this nature, but not all of them look to place the blame for their troubles on America. To the degree that France does, it gains neither credit nor effective help. Far from being an efficient way to engage real problems, anti-Americanism is no more than a trumped-up means of diverting attention from them.

Seen in this light, anti-Americanism functions in much the same way that anti-Semitism has over the centuries-as a convenient focus for discontents of many different kinds and a ready-made explanation of internal weaknesses, disappointments, and failures. It is, in short, both fraudulent and counterproductive.

The French writer Pascal Bruckner precisely captures the self-deluding nature of anti-Americanism and sees its link to anti-Semitism: “We delight in casting all our sins onto this ideal scapegoat, because everything that goes wrong in the world can be laid at Washington’s door. In the imagination of many intellectuals and political leaders, America plays the role the Jews once did in National Socialist demonology.”

If hostility to America were confined to the French elites that Bruckner singles out, it would be bad enough, but there is evidence that anti-Americanism is now broadly shared by the French public at large. At the height of the war against Iraq, for instance, Le Monde published the results of a poll that showed 30 percent of the French actually wanted Iraq, and not the coalition led by America, to win the war. This view is of a piece with notions, also broadly held in France and elsewhere, that between George Bush and Saddam Hussein, it was the American president who was the more menacing figure and the greater threat to world peace. Such judgments are less political in nature than pathological, but they can take on a political resonance of a harmful kind. In light of such extreme prospects, Bruckner concludes: “It is hard to tell what is most hateful in present-day anti-Americanism: the stupidity and bitterness it manifests or the willing servitude that it presupposes toward a superiorityit denounces…. The time for being anti-American has passed.”

One can only voice a hearty “amen” to Bruckner’s words and add to them the wish that the time for being hateful to Jews might also quickly pass. Unfortunately, though, most of the signs point to an increase rather than a lessening of anti-American and anti-Semitic hostilities. Indeed, many of the same kinds of developments described within the borders of Germany and France have been occurring across much of Europe over the past two years or so and show no signs of diminishing. According to a recent report, the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Great Britain increased by 75 percent during the first three months of 2003. There has also been a rise of such incidents in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere. In all of these countries, anti-American resentments have surfaced alongside resentments of Israel, and allegations are commonly made that “Zionist interests” and the “Jewish lobbies” are working manipulatively behind the scenes to the detriment of the world order.

In an especially irresponsible display of such accusations, the New Statesman of London on January 14, 2002, ran a cover displaying a gold Star of David piercing the British Union Jack over the caption “A Kosher Conspiracy?” Similarly vicious graphics have appeared in newspapers and journals elsewhere in Europe. Almost everywhere, the passions that give rise to regular denunciations of Israel and conspiratorial charges against the Jews are blended with sentiments that British writer Michael Gove says produce “myths of America the Hateful.” “Yankee-phobia,” as Gove calls it, and Judeophobia have now coalesced, and what they have produced is not good: “Both America and Israel were founded by peoples who were refugees from prejudice in Europe. Europe’s tragedy is that prejudice has been given new life, in antipathy to both those states.”

Who Is an Anti-Semite?

What has brought us to such a sorry moment, how long it is likely to last, and what its consequences may be are matters that deserve serious reflection. Yet not everyone agrees that Europe is witnessing a serious increase in hostility to either Jews or America. The former, it is argued, is an unpleasant but limited affair, carried out mostly by disaffected Muslim immigrants, who are themselves subjected to acts of racial hatred and discrimination. What Jews label as anti-Semitism is something that really does not exist in Europe in any substantial way, but whose “purported existence is being cynically manipulated by some in the Israeli government to try to silence debate about the policies of the Sharon government.” In this view, the Jews are seeking to squelch criticism of Israeli actions against the Palestinians by putting those who make such criticisms beyond the pale. In the words of one British commentator, “Criticize Israel and you are an anti-Semite just as surely as if you were throwing paint at a synagogue in Paris.”

To cite the words of another, Timothy Garton Ash, “Pro-Palestinian Europeans [are] infuriated by the way criticism of Sharon is labeled anti-Semitism.” Those who are so accused, the argument goes, then turn against their accusers and brand them as media manipulators working on behalf of the “Jewish lobby” to advance Jewish and Israeli interests.

This is a vexed and increasingly contentious issue. No one likes to be called an anti-Semite, and no one should be called an anti-Semite who is not one. At the same time, anti-Semites exist, and their words and actions cause great harm. It should come as no surprise, then, that Jews who are alert to the resurgence of anti-Jewish hostilities in Europe are naturally concerned and are not reluctant to call attention to them. They understand that Israel, like all states, makes its share of mistakes and should not be immune from criticism. At the same time, legitimate criticism of Israeli policies sometimes escalates into condemnation of Israel as an entity. Especially on the left, the European debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict has taken on the character of a polemic about the Zionist project itself and calls into question the moral standing of the Jewish state and sometimes even its right to exist. At its furthest extreme, such “criticism” of Israel amounts to a rejection of Israel, mirrored in the vilification of the Israeli prime minister as a “war criminal” comparable to Milosevic and of the Israeli people as latter-day fascists or Nazis. In the Muslim world, these views are standard fare, but they show up in Europe as well. To call them anti-Semitic is to call them by their proper name.

On another level, the European media debate about Israel is less crude and not necessarily hostile in tone, but its obsessional quality and its espousal by people who focus their criticism almost exclusively on Israel and show little interest in injustice elsewhere in the world raise questions of another kind. Shalom Lappin, a professor at King’s College, London, has written about this phenomenon in an especially perceptive way and comes to conclusions that are sobering. After making the by-now ritual acknowledgment that not all criticism of Israel is unfair, he demonstrates that a lot of European commentary is in fact excessive, historically inaccurate, and distorted by ideological prejudices:

A large part of the contemporary European left has inherited the liberal and revolutionary antipathy toward a Jewish collectivity, with Israel becoming the focus of this attitude. While acculturated intellectuals and progressive Jewish activists are held in high esteem, a Jewish country is treated as an illegitimate entity not worthy of a people whose history should have taught them the folly of nationalism. The current intifada is regarded as decisively exposing the bankruptcy not so much of a policy of occupation and settlement, but of the very idea of a Jewish polity.

In other words, the arguments that some of Israel’s most determined critics now pose are no longer about 1967 and political issues involving territories that Israel has held since the Six-Day War, but about 1948 and existential issues involving the fundamental right of the Jews to a state of their own. Hostility to Israel along these lines, in sum, is the result of a basic failure to reconcile with the idea of Jewish political independence and national sovereignty. Such opposition was prominent in some circles prior to the establishment of the Jewish state. No less a figure than Karl Marx, for example, famously held that a “state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state” and that “the political emancipation of the Jew … is the emancipation of the state from Judaism.”

But the reappearance of this idea after more than half a century of Jewish statehood is astonishing. Lappin correctly claims that attitudes of this kind render illicit any idea of the Jewish people as a nation. Deeply rooted in both religious and secular European culture, as well as in the Islamic world, such attitudes represent an aversion to the idea of Jewish empowerment itself and, in essence, delegitimize the State of Israel in its present configuration. Most Jews would see the public voicing of such an aversion as inherently anti-Semitic. But whatever one calls the propagation of such ideas is less important than the recognition of their fundamentally hostile character. Not to see them for what they are and not to resist them would be to live in denial, a luxury that Jews, of all people, cannot afford.

Denial of Anti-Americanism

Just as there are those who deny that anti-Semitism exists, there are also those who deny that anti-Americanism exists. They stress that the world publicly expressed its sympathy for America in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes against New York and Washington, and they claim America has squandered the goodwill it enjoyed at the time through its arrogant and ill-conceived policies in the international arena.

It is true that large numbers of people in many countries displayed solidarity with America following the shocks of 9/11, a solidarity they evidently could express readily so long as they perceived Americans to be victims. (As Pascal Bruckner reminds, us, though, “By the evening of September 11, a majority of our citizens, despite their obvious sympathy for the victims, were telling themselves that the Americans had it coming.”) At times, the world’s sympathy has also flowed toward the Jews, when it has been perceived that they, too, have been victimized. Assertions of American or Jewish strength, however, seem to quickly neutralize these benevolent reactions and turn them into their opposite.

Some of what animates anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, in other words, is distrust of American and Jewish power and the fear that such power will be used in menacing ways. “The American administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal,” declared British playwright Harold Pinter, long before a drop of blood was spilled in the second Gulf War; and, similarly, bloodthirsty behavior was also widely attributed to Ariel Sharon. In both cases, it is the specter of the unrestrained use of force that seems to generate such concerns. They are heightened many times over when the Jews are imagined to be the ones who actually control such might and can unleash it anytime, against anyone, and in unpredictable ways. In a climate of such exaggerated feeling, restraints on political rhetoric fall away. So an American congressman, Representative James Moran, Democrat of Virginia, charges in public, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

An American poet, Amiri Baraka, links Israel to the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center, alleging that the Jews had advance warning of what was coming on September 11 and stayed home from work in the Twin Towers on that day; and various people throughout the world indulge in the fantasy that the space shuttle Columbia disaster was actually the work of “a secret Jewish-Israeli conspiracy.” As evidenced by these and other similarly wild charges, conspiracy theories about the pernicious effects of American-Jewish “power” seem widespread.

As already noted, some of what drives this lunacy may be fear, but analysts of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism also recognize other factors at work. Writing shortly after 9/11, the British historian Bernard Wasserstein noted:

A century ago, anti-Semitism was called “the socialism of fools.” Now something similar threatens to become rampant: anti-Americanism. Psychologically, it fulfills some of the same functions as anti-Semitism. It gives vent to a hatred of the successful, and is fueled by envy and frustration…. Like historical anti-Semitism, [anti-Americanism] transcends ideological barriers and brings together economic, social, religious, and national animosities in a murderous brew.

The brew is a poisonous one, mixing such noxious ingredients as classical anti-Semitic blood libel charges and conspiracy theories about a Jewish drive for world domination with annihilationist rhetoric, directed against both Israel and America. As part of this destructive mix, Hitler-era language, as we have seen, is often used to smear the American president and the Israeli prime minister, and Holocaust denial also sometimes figures in. In such a climate, Jews are regularly denounced as “Zionist pigs” and Americans as rapacious thugs and murderers. In general, when Jews are now demonized, anti-American charges are likely to proliferate as well. It is a heady combination, especially in the Muslim world, where the language of violence has helped to unleash the most destructive forces aimed at those who are routinely condemned as “the enemies of Islam”-preeminently “Crusaders” (Americans) and “Jews.”

In analyzing this situation, Josef Joffe, editor of the prominent German newspaper Die Zeit, finds a number of common links:

Images that were in the past directed against the Jews are now aimed at the Americans: the desire to rule the world; the allegation that the Americans, like the Jews in the past, are invested only in money and have no real feeling for culture or social distress. There are also some people who connect the two and maintain that the Jewish desire to rule the word is being realized today … by the “American conquest.”Joffe also sees envy as a factor contributing to a common hostility against Americans and Jews:

They are the two most successful states in their surroundings-the U.S. in global surroundings, and Israel in the Middle East. Israel is in fact a constant reminder to the Arab world of its failure in economic, social, political, and gender-related development. So much so that it is difficult to decide whether the Jews are hated because of their close alliance with the U.S., or whether the U.S. is hated because of its alliance with the Jews.

To many, Americans and Jews are not only paired but are now virtually interchangeable as targets of a common hostility. During the Nazi period, a popular slogan clearly identified the source of Germany’s troubles: “The Jews are our misfortune.” Today it is the Americans who are the focus of such an exaggerated grievance. But the Jews have hardly disappeared. Rather, negative images of them have blended with negative images of Americans, and the two together-symbolized by the ubiquitous bogeymen, “Bush and Sharon”-are commonly denounced in a single breath. Indeed, in France one now finds the new coinage “Busharon” to designate this invented ogre. As a French Jewish woman recently put it, “When they say ‘America’ they think ‘Israel,’ and when they think ‘Israel,’ they think ‘Jewish.’”

Fantasies and their Antidotes

Or, one could say more accurately, they don’t think at all. For what I have been describing has very little to do with real Americans and real Jews and points instead to largely phantasmagoric figures that inhabit the heads of growing numbers of people throughout the world. In confronting the passions that fuel anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, in other words, we enter the realm of symbolic identities and see mostly spectral figures-imagined Americans, imagined Jews.

A phenomenon as widespread and intensely animated as this one is not likely to soon pass from the scene. The branding of the United States and Israel as outlaw nations is a serious matter, and the political, ideological, and religious passions that give rise to such hostility will not quickly dissipate. Writing in 1985, years before the American-led wars in the Persian Gulf, Stephen Haseler predicted: “Anti-Americanism is here to stay, as long as the United States retains its powerful role on the world stage.” Since it is unlikely that America will soon reduce its power or the reach of its global presence, it is also unlikely that opposition to it will lessen; on the contrary, it is likely to only increase. Some fifteen years ago, Haseler, in fact, accurately predicted the present moment with uncanny insight:

The United States will continue to be isolated at the United Nations; anti-American protests and rioting will increase; tensions within America’s alliance systems will continue; and a powerful intellectual and emotional critique of the direction of American foreign and defense policy can be expected at home.The new era ushered in by the terror attacks of 9/11 was not in sight when Haseler offered this view, but otherwise his prognosis is accurate.

As to what might be done to counter such developments, the best antidote to anti-American animosities, Haseler avers, is not a lessening of American power and resolve but the opposite-a reassertion of American strength and self-confidence. Such assertions of national will were marshaled impressively in the war against Iraq, and yet it is precisely the projection of such power that unnerves people abroad and contributes to their wariness of the United States. Ironically, therefore, while it may be true that nothing succeeds like success, success American-style seems to have the unintended consequence of provoking the kinds of fear and resentment that help to foster anti-American sentiments.

As for antidotes to anti-Semitism, these are harder to identify, largely because anti-Jewish passions have been around for so long and are energized today on so many different fronts. In the Muslim world, Jew-hatred is now pervasive, but in Europe and elsewhere, anti-Semitisms of every imaginable kind-political, social, cultural, theological, economic-are no longer held in check by the taboos that have restrained them in recent years but circulate openly and broadly.

Judeophobias are so many and various today, in fact, that a full taxonomy would require a large book. The reemergence of such hostility has come as a shock, especially to those who have thought that the scandal of the Holocaust was so great as to inhibit public manifestations of anti-Jewish feelings for generations to come. In fact, though, that sense of the scandalousness of the Holocaust has greatly weakened over the years or been perversely transferred to Israel, which is repeatedly accused of resembling a Nazi state for its allegedly “genocidal” treatment of the Palestinians, who have been elevated to supreme victim status as the “new Jews.”

Among the many pernicious elements in the repertoire of anti-Semitic stereotypes, the inversion and manipulation of the Holocaust is potentially the most lethal. For those intent on usurping the history of Jewish suffering and mobilizing it against the Jewish state are also intent on bringing about the end of that state by delegitimizing the very ground of its existence. If, after all, there really is no difference between Israelis and Nazis, then Israel itself has no moral basis for continuing.

That is what the sinister equation “Sharon = Hitler” really means. Adding the name of the president of the United States to this formula, as in the vile epithet at the beginning of this essay, only deepens the aggression and adds to the challenges that we face in a world in which anti-Semitism, a notoriously light sleeper, is now awake and stirring and has been joined by a resurgent anti-Americanism. Neither is new, but their convergence is potent and the obsessive focus of so much of their negativeenergies on Israel and on America as a faithful ally of Israel is ominous. Unless they are effectively checked, the two together will influence the condition of life for Americans and Jews in the years ahead in ways that will not be easy for either.

Reprinted with kindly permission of The American Jewish Committee.


Merkel issues call for anti-terror military deployment

July 3, 2007

Terror response systems perked up across Europe in light of the attempted attacks on Great Britain.

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel renewed calls for the right to deploy German troops domestically should an attack appear imminent.

Read full story.


European leaders edge toward Nicolas Sarkozy

April 27, 2007

The Financial Times reports that European leaders are already making plans under the assumption that Nicolas Sarkozy will win France’s presidential elections 2007, and are trying to shore up their relationships with him.

Angela Merkel, German chancellor, José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, and Tony Blair, British prime minister, have privately discussed the idea of forming a “strategic partnership” with Nicolas Sarkozy.

Read full story.


European Jewish Congress meets with German chancellor

March 27, 2007

The European Jewish Congress, the representative body of European Jewry, meets today with German chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel to raise with the German EU Presidency its concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism, to discuss a proposal to harmonize hate crime legislation throughout the European Union, and to discuss the future of the now 27 member bloc.

“Europe’s Jewish communities have always been full partners in the European project,” said European Jewish Congress President Pierre Besnainou.

“Like all other Europeans, we too will reflect on the future of the Union, and I look forward to sharing our contributions, concerns and ideas with the German chancellor.

On the 50th anniversary of the European Union, this heavily symbolic meeting between the highest representative of European Jewry and the German Presidency of the European Union is a testament to the laudable progress that Europe has made.” added Pierre Besnainou.


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