• Politics
  • Election time: The politics of anti-Semitism


Election time: The politics of anti-Semitism

Allegations of anti-Semitism are flying around in a pre-election game of political one-upmanship. Konrad Werner looks at two recent examples.

Image for Election time: The politics of anti-Semitism

The right-wing mags Bild and Die Welt were up arms in over statements made by the award-winning journalist and author Carolin Emcke. Photo: IMAGO / Carsten Thesing

It’s election campaign time, which means it’s time to listen to different politicians calling each other anti-Semitic. This gets tiresome quite quickly, and some people might even say that calling the other side anti-Semit- ic just to score political points is in and of it- self a bit anti-Semitic. But whatever works, I guess. Blimey, this is a depressing world.

We had two cases within the space of a few days in Germany last month, in which the national newspapers aligned predictably. Bild and Die Welt, right-wing rags owned by Axel Springer, were up in arms after journalist and author Carolin Emcke said the following: “There will certainly be talk of elites again, and presumably then it won’t be the Jews and the cosmopolitans, it won’t be the feminists and the virologists, that we’re warned against, but the climate researchers.” She was making a speech at the Green party conference that was all about how disinformation is eroding our democracy.

A couple of days earlier, left-leaning broadsheets Die Zeit and the Frankfurter Rundschau got annoyed because the New Social Free Market Initiative (INSM) – a free-market lobby group supported by various business federations – posted a huge print and online ad that showed would-be Green chancellor Annalena Baerbock as a bad 1950s movie version of Moses holding up two stone tablets. Instead of the 10 commandments, the tablets were in- scribed with the things the Green party supposedly wants to ban: “Thou shalt not drive a car with a combustion engine,” “Thou shalt not take part in free trade,” etc… You get the idea.

Now, I’m pretty bad at reading the codes of racism, so when these issues come up I usually just assume that I’m slightly racist already and try to figure it out based on what the advocacy group in question says (though of course the members of these groups themselves don’t always read the codes the same way).

As everyone is apparently anti-Semitic, all I know is that, come September, I’ll be voting for whichever party doesn’t feed the tumour of legalised corruption.

As it happens, Jewish organisations condemned both these cases as anti-Semitic: for example, the Jewish-German WerteInitiative was angry at Emcke for “instrumentalising” the victims of centuries of persecution to make a point; the Jewish Community of Munich (IKG), on the other hand, was angry at the INSM for appropriating Jewish religious figures and stirring prejudice with negative representations of them.

None of this helps very much in deciding who you should vote for in the election in September. In fact, it makes things muddier. But you can measure the situation by a different yardstick. Here’s one way: Carolin Emcke is an award-winning journalist for Die Zeit and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which means only a modest contingent of people actually reads what she says and she has scant influence on public policy. The INSM, by comparison, is one of Germany’s most powerful media lobby groups. It has a budget of several million euros a year thanks to the financial support of companies that are really upset by the idea of a tax on fossil fuels. It also counts former politicians from the CDU, SPD and FDP among its lobbyists, maintains media partnerships with Die Welt, Wirtschaftswoche and Handelsblatt, and influences who appears on political TV talk shows.

So, seeing as everyone is apparently anti-Semitic, all I know is that, come September, I’ll be voting for whichever party doesn’t feed the tumour of legalised corruption.