The Conflict As Seen by German Media

The German term “Vergeltung” (retaliation) has a long tradition going back to anti-Jewish writings of Martin Luther in the 16th Century. When Hamas fires rockets at Israeli towns, it is not worth reporting. But as soon as the Israeli army retaliates, you get headlines like “eye for an eye”, or “as the bible prescribes to the Jews”.

In 2002, following a terror attack in Mombassa, Kenya, where 17 Israelis were killed along with a simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli plane, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned the “horrific terrorist attacks” and promised that Israel would “bring the perpetrators to justice”. This rather normal announcement after any serious crime anywhere got a very different “translation” in the German press. The German service of Reuters added the word “retaliation” to Sharon’s quote. DPA, the German Press Agency, emphasized Sharon’s quote by adding a subtitle. The influential magazine “Der Spiegel” went yet one step further. The headline read: “Sharon wants revenge against the attackers.”

“Hunting down” was translated into wishing to “finish off” the terrorists like animals. This is a subtle example of the method of how the German press turns a normal announcement into an anti-Semitic presentation of Jews as immoral Nazi-like ruthless killers.

Recently Israeli bulldozers destroyed Palestinian houses built without permits. Germany had financed solar panels to supply these Palestinians with electricity. The NGO which built the solar panels with German money did not ask for permits as it would not recognize Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestine”. Almost every respected German newspaper and public TV channel reported emotionally about the poor Palestinians and their bulldozed dwellings. Israeli officials were not even asked for their comments. The impact on German feeling towards Israel was disastrous. No reporter blamed the German government for spending $300,000 of tax payers’ money only to provoke Israel and ignore its rule of law.

Hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians killed in Syria, Yemen, Egypt or Libya on the same day made no headlines. And when Hamas destroyed “illegally built” shacks on Gaza’s beachfront, nobody cared. This leads to the uneasy conclusion that Jews make headlines when they can be described as acting “worse than the Nazis”.

Another phenomenon is the mentioning of the names of almost every single Palestinian killed by “the Jews” in the Gaza Strip. When Arabs kill dozens or hundreds of Arabs, even in the Gaza Strip, no names are mentioned. In March the agencies even reported about a Palestinian dog that was killed during an Israeli bombardment.

German media regularly add “labels” to Israeli politicians. “Right-wing” for the Prime Minister or “rightist-extremist” for the Foreign Minister. Never ever has the German reader received any help to evaluate Arab politicians like Bashar Assad, Hosni Mubarak or even Muammar Ghaddafi as “leftist” or right-wing. It is self-evident that there are only Israeli “hardliners” while no Arab or German politician is labelled a hardliner.

Even worse is the treatment of the German press regarding tensions between Israel and Iran. The most absurd headline was formulated by the influential weekly “Focus”: “Israel threatens Iran with self-defense”. The author of that article admitted that he never saw a single quote by any Israeli official threatening Iran with a military attack.

Not the entire German press is to be blamed. There are balanced and even pro-Israel articles in newspapers, magazines and the electronic media.

Yet German newspapers commonly “illustrate” their articles about Israel with pictures of ultra-Orthodox Jews or a soldier with a large gun. German tourists who visit Israel for the first time often say that they are surprised to see a rather normal country. An elderly woman who visited Israel despite the “civil war” between the “ultra-Orthodox” Jews and secular population, was totally surprised to observe the first Jews during a two week long trip through Israel in Jerusalem. The joke is that the media has taught her that typical Jews always wear a shtreimel. Therefore the people in Haifa or Tel Aviv could not have been Jews.

Image: CC BY-SA, flickr/tkksummers.

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