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German Press Review: The Stigma of Anti-Semitism

Germany’s editorialists on Thursday focused attention on the two-day anti-Semitism conference that has brought delegates from throughout Europe to Berlin.

The Mannheimer Morgen wrote that anti-Semitism was never just a German but a pan-European phenomenon. And in contrast to earlier years, today it’s not so much right-wing radical activities that give rise to concern but rather a new form of underlying but open antipathy towards Jewry in the guise of criticism of Israel’s Middle East policy.

The Fränkischer Tag in Bamberg, Bavaria, also picked up on that point. It said criticism of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, which some people call state terrorism, is often justified and, of course, not everyone who voices it is an anti-Semite. But there are movements -- also in Germany -- the paper wrote, that exploit their rejection of Israel’s actions to cultivate or even warm up their old prejudices.

According to the Neue Presse, since the state of Israel was established, Jews are no longer merely victims. The Hanover daily pointed out that Israel is the strongest power in the Middle East, and it uses that power sometimes wisely and sometimes unwisely to protect the lives of its citizens. But, the paper concluded, all its power has so far not sufficed to find peace.

The Düsseldorf-based Westdeutsche Zeitung wrote that it is out of the question to say that anti-Semitism has again become acceptable in our society. On the contrary, it said, being accused of anti-Semitism is a serious stigma that those involved -- like the German CDU politician Martin Hohmann recently -- want to shake off as quickly as possible to avoid long-term damage. People who doubt that this mechanism still works, the paper concluded, may be pursuing interests that go straight to the heart of the Middle East conflict.

Other papers commented on the situation in Iraq. Eastern Germany’s Märkische Oderzeitung said the USA is now paying the price for not having a plan either for Iraq or the Middle East. By taking such tough action against the Iraqi rebels, the daily continued, the American military will only trigger more hatred towards the occupiers and in the process minimize the chances of an orderly handover of power. As a final trump, so to speak, some time in the second half of the year NATO forces are to be deployed in Iraq. Perhaps, the entire region will then be burning, the paper summarized, and there will be no firemen available to put out the flames in other parts of the world.

The Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten referred to the report delivered to the United Nations on Tuesday by the world body’s special envoy in Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi. He said it was possible to choose a caretaker government in May, well ahead of the U.S.-set June 30 deadline for handing over power to the Iraqis, despite what he called the "extremely worrying" security situation. The paper said when the need is greatest and the situation appears to be absolutely hopeless, visions are necessary, and that is what Brahimi has come up with. However, whether or not his dream of an early sovereign caretaker government and a peaceful future for

the country becomes reality will depend on whether the balance of power in Iraq will really change as a result of the handover of power. Many signals coming out of Washington, the daily feared, seem to indicate that the transfer of power in Iraq is just going to be a cosmetic operation.

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