US expert: Berlin antisemitism center ignores Israel-related antisemitism

The Berlin Center for Antisemitism Research has faced criticism for employing a researcher who worked for an organization that promoted a rally calling for Israel's destruction.
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BERLIN–The prominent American historian, Dr. Jeffrey Herf, sharply criticized the Berlin Center for Antisemitism Research (ZfA) for failing to address radical left-wing, communist and Islamic Jew-hatred.

Herf, one of the world’s leading experts on antisemitism, wrote on Thursday in the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that: “The Center for Antisemitism Research in Berlin has been noteworthy in recent decades for standing outside this scholarly consensus due to its reluctance to address the Communist/radical leftist, as well as the Islamist strains of antisemitism.”

He added that, “Scholars at the Center for Antisemitism Research, despite being located within a short distance from the key archives of the former DDR [German Democratic Republic], did not write an archivally based history of the East German diplomatic and military assault on the Jewish state. I did. No amount of theoretical gymnastics can avoid the simple truth that those in the Soviet bloc, including the DDR, who used force and falsehoods to attack and defame the State of Israel with the hope of destroying, wrote a chapter in the longer history of antisemitism.”

In 2016, Cambridge University published the distinguished historian Herf’s monumental work: Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989.

The highly acclaimed book was published in German by Wallstein Publisher in September 2019.

“Three Faces of Antisemitism: A Response to Stephanie Schüler-Springorum,
” was the title of Herf’s FAZ article. Schüler-Springorum is the director of the controversial antisemitism center.

Herf teaches German history at the University of Maryland.

The scandal-plagued ZfA has faced intense criticism over the years for employing a researcher who worked for an organization that promoted an Iranian regime-sponsored rally calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

The Jerusalem Post reported in 2018 that the center, which is part of the Technical University of Berlin, hired Luis Hernandez Aguilar, who was previously listed as a research officer of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a main organizer of the Iranian regime-sponsored al-Quds Day march.

According to a report in the London-based Jewish Chronicle at the time, Hezbollah flags were on display at the march in London, where one speaker said Israel should be “wiped from the map.” The founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, created al-Quds Day in 1979 as worldwide rally to urge the destruction of Israel. The center defended its hiring of Aguilar.

The annual al-Quds Day rally in Berlin attracts a mix of neo-Nazis, radical Islamists, BDS activists, secular Palestinians from the US- and EU-designated terrorist entity the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Hezbollah members.

BDS is an abbreviation for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel.

Herf wrote that, “Over a period of forty years during the Cold War, the Communists and then the radical left in Europe and the United States placed the entire blame for the conflict on Israel but had next to nothing to say about the terrorist campaigns waged by the PLO and PFLP, or the refusal to make peace by Iraq and Syria. That silence was in no small part because they were doing what they could to support those efforts. “

Herf cited academics and a civil society group that are focused on addressing the blind spots of the Berlin center. “The Antonio-Amadeu Stiftung in Berlin led by Anetta Kahane, notable for its civic activism against racism towards immigrants and people of color, took a lead in Germany in drawing attention to the antisemitism of the former DDR regime,” Herf wrote.

He continued that, “In Germany, scholars and writers such as Stephan Grigat, Matthias Küntzel, Bassam Tibi and Samuel Schirmbach have made valuable contributions to understanding the origins and consequences of these ideas. Israeli scholars, notably Meir Litvak, Professor of History at the University of Tel Aviv, have published important work on the antisemitism of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These authors and others merit careful attention at the Center for Antisemitism Research and in the German universities. “

Herf said that, “as readers of the journal Antisemitism Studies will quickly see, scholarship on antisemitism today focuses on all three faces of antisemitism… We examine and oppose BDS advocates who attack academic freedom; repeat falsehoods about Israel as an aggressor and racist state; and say not a word about the antisemitic hatreds of those who commit armed aggression and terror against Israel. We also describe and interpret the leaders of Hamas or of the government of Iran, who give supposed religious rationale for murderous, even genocidal goals aimed at the Jewish state. “

US expert: Berlin antisemitism center ignores Israel-related antisemitism

The Berlin Center for Antisemitism Research has faced criticism for employing a researcher who worked for an organization that promoted a rally calling for Israel's destruction.
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AUTHOR

Benjamin Weinthal

Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Read all stories by Benjamin Weinthal

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