by Max Blumenthal
I arrived in Germany formally invited by members of a political party to speak about my reporting during the Gaza war. I left the country branded an anti-Semite and an insane scofflaw. With machine-like efficiency, German media cast me and my Jewish Israeli journalist colleague, David Sheen, as violent Jew haters, never veering from the script written for them by a strange American neoconservative working for an organization subsidized by far-right-wing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, nor bothering to ask either of us for comment. Slandered as anti-Semites, we sought to meet with the left-wing politician who felt compelled to engineer the campaign to suppress our speech: Die Linke party chairman Gregor Gysi.
When Gysi refused to speak to us, we followed him as he ran from his office. The videotaped incident ended at a door outside what turned out to be a bathroom, sparking a scandal known as “Toilettengate.” We had violated the unwritten rules of a dour political culture where conflict normally takes the form of carefully composed pronouncements delivered through proper bureaucratic channels. Thus we aroused the outrage of Deutschland, from left to right nimbly manipulated through a neoconservative ploy.
According to the right-wing Die Bild tabloid, Sheen and I were “lunatic Israel haters” who had “hunted Gysi.” Various pundits on German public broadcasting declared that I was “known for [my] anti-Semitic way of thinking.” And the president of the Bundestag introduced a motion to ban us for life from the premises. As the freak-out escalated, the three Die Linke MPs who guided us to Gysi’s office— Inge Hoger, Annette Groth and Heike Hansel — delivered Gysi an abject public apology.
Our hosts’ whimpering only served to incite their enemies. More than 1,000 Die Linke members from the party’s “reformist” faction have signed a letter calling for the three MPs to be sacked. Titled “ You Don’t Speak For Us,” the manifesto opened with an excerpt from a 2008 speech to the Bundestag by former Israeli president Shimon Peres in which he compared Iran to Nazi Germany and ended with an affirmation of Germany’s special relationship with Israel, as the cleansing of the Holocaust.
A Der Spiegel columnist named Sibylle Berg joined the pile-on with a crude piece of sexist psychobabble accusing Groth and Hoger of sublimating sexual lust for Palestinian militants into anti-Zionist activity. In Taggespiel, Die Linke MP Michael Leutert referred to us as an “anti-Semitic mob.” And in Die Zeit, another mainstream outlet, Elisabeth Niejahr cast Groth and Hoger as “Holocaust down players.” She had no evidence, but in German political culture, none was necessary. Either you are all-in with Israel’s policies, or you are an all-out anti-Semite.
The storm of controversy triggered by our presence in Berlin was the culmination of the Die Linke party’s long-running internecine conflict on Israel-Palestine. Since emerging as Germany’s main left-wing opposition party, Die Linke leaders have presided over a full-scale assault on the few party members who rejected Germany’s uncritical special relationship with Israel. Behind the attack is a group of putatively left-wing intellectuals allied with heavily funded neoconservative operatives. The most effective weapon of this left-right alliance in a society consumed with Holocaust guilt is what some Germans have begun to refer to as the Antisemitismus-keule, or the anti-Semitism club.
Smears and Suppression
The story of my and David Sheen’s adventure as “anti-Semites” began even before our arrival to Berlin. I had covered the Gaza war and spoke about my reporting across Europe, often as the invited guest of members of parliaments—in London at the House of Commons, in Brussels before the European Parliament, in Oslo at the invitation of the Socialist Left Party, and in Copenhagen, where I was introduced by a member of the Danish parliament. Sheen has earned acclaim for his reporting on state-sponsored discrimination within Israel against Palestinians and African migrants and the right-wing attacks on them. Together, we produced an original documentary on racism against non-Jewish African refugees in Israel that has received over a million views on YouTube.
First published here.