German magazine Spiegel accused of antisemitism against reporter

The reportedly long-festering issue of antisemitism in the ranks of the German magazine Spiegel resurfaced on Friday in a new article that allegedly stokes Jew-hatred against a reporter for Germany’s best-selling Bild paper, according to German Jews and prominent journalistic critics.In a Spiegel article about the dispute between the German virologist Christian Drosten and Bild over anti-coronavirus measures, Spiegel asked if the Bild reporter Filipp Piatov came to the mass-circulation paper from Israel’s embassy.

The Bild’s editor-in-chief, Julian Reichelt, wrote on twitter that Spiegel asked about Piatov coming from Israel’s embassy in Berlin, suggesting Spiegel is fostering an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. Piatov worked on an article about Drosten.Spiegel wrote that Piatov is Reichelt’s “bloodhound” and singled out Piatov’s Jewish background in the article, writing he”came to Germany with his Jewish family” and is “unconditionally uncritical towards Israel.”Sigmount Königsberg, the representative on combating antisemitism for the 10,000-member Jewish community of Berlin, slammed Spiegel on Twitter, writing people “cannot remain silent with TheSpiegel’s antisemitism against Piatov.”On Saturday, the prominent Politico magazine journalist Matthew Karnitschnig tweeted: “There’s been a long-running discussion about whether Der Spiegel is fundamentally antisemitic.That debate is now over. This week, the magazine randomly describes a German reporter at the rival Bild as Jewish, compares him to a dog (‘bloodhound’)…and asserts that his loyalty to Israel is ‘unconditional.’ In reporting the piece, Der Spiegel asked Bild if the reporter came to them via the Israeli embassy. Case closed.”

Karnitschnig is Politico’s chief Europe correspondent.

When The Jerusalem Post asked about the allegations of antisemitism on Twitter, Alexander Kühn, one of three Spiegel journalists who authored the article, wrote: “We reject the allegation of antisemitism. It is important to mention the Jewish family, as we will write later in the text that Mr. Piatov received antisemitic threats. He himself addressed the family [topic] in his book.”Anja zum Hingst, a spokeswoman for Spiegel, sent the same reply as Kühn to the Post on Friday.Post queries on Twitter to the two additional Spiegel reporters, Isabell Hülsen and Anton Rainer, went unanswered. Hülsen’s retweeted Kühn’s tweet denying antisemitism.Detailed Post queries to zum Hingst and the Spiegel authors about the additional allegations of modern antisemitism in the article, including the Israeli embassy question, were not answered.The Bild journalist  Björn Stritzel, who has written extensively on German antisemitism, commented on Twitter that “[Spiegel] absolutely wanted to tell an antisemitic lie about the homeless Ahasver who becomes a court Jew,” in connection with the Spiegel section on Piatov leaving “Leningrad at the age of one” to Germany and locating a “journalistic home” at Bild.Stritzel’s criticism directed at Spiegel suggests that the authors exploited the idea of the wandering Jew, or Ahasver, to create an antisemitic ideology to discredit the Bild and Piatov’s journalism.Antisemitic fear of the “wandering Jew” has a long history in Germany. The US academic Paul Lawrence Rose, who is a leading expert on radical Geman antisemitism, wrote that the Ahasver myth spreads the ideology that “ordinary Jews of the social environment were imbued with a supernatural demonic significance.”The German national security journalist, Florian Flade, also weighed in on the Spiegel row on Twitter, noting “sorry, but why is it important to mention that Piatov comes from a ‘Jewish family’? And what is this ‘emigrated from … given home’? Completely unnecessary. Journalism.”The controversy electrified Twitter, including one commentator who frequently monitors antisemitism in Germany, describing the Spiegeljournalists as a “pack of antisemites.”In March, after the Post was the first news organization to expose allegations of antisemitism against Spiegel journalist Christoph Sydow, he walked back his description of Israel’s government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the first “Corona Dictatorship.”The Spiegel declined to change the headline in response to Sydow’s statement that “if I wrote the text again today, I would not use the word ‘dictatorship’ again.”In 2019, Spiegel  alleged – with echoes of a classic antisemitic conspiracy theory – that two small pro-Israel organizations are directing German Middle East policy.

“The Spiegel must officially apologize for practicing Israel-related antisemitism,” Uwe Becker, commissioner to combat antisemitism in the state of Hesse, said at the time. “The article contains all the stereotypes that constitute antisemitism, and is an example of how deep these though patterns are in mainstream society.”

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