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German Jewish group slams Speigel article on pro-Israel lobby as anti-Semitic

Central Council of Jews in Germany says report on how lobbyists influence government decisions is full of ‘alleged Jewish influence in connection with money payments’

The German Bundestag (photo credit: Courtesy Whitehouse)
The German Bundestag (photo credit: Courtesy Whitehouse)

Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine is facing a storm of criticism over its claim that pro-Israel lobbying was behind the country’s parliament recent rejection of boycotts against the Jewish state.

A July 12 Spiegel article titled “targeted campaign” purported to uncover unethical practices by pro-Israel lobbying groups to steer German politics: The non-partisan German-Jewish “Values Initiative” and “Naffo” — Middle East Peace Forum.

Efforts by these two groups, according to the article, led, among other things, to the Bundestag passing in May a non-binding resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, or BDS, as anti-Semitic.

“The text is brimming with accusations of alleged Jewish influence in connection with money payments,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement Sunday to the German Jewish weekly, Juedische Allgemeine. “The article clearly makes use of anti-Semitic cliches and thus stirs up anti-Semitism.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaking at the Westend synagogue, in Frankfurt, Germany, September 26, 2016. (Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images via JTA)

On Monday, Spiegel editors in a statement insisted that they were merely exploring “questionable practices of lobby groups.”

Their investigation was triggered by criticism from politicians who are “far removed from the suspicion of being anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic,” they said.

Among the alleged transgressions attributed by politicians to the pro-Israel groups were the “systematic attempt to influence” lawmakers and interfering in a parliamentary process, Spiegel said.

The editors also rejected charges that they had tried to delegitimize a legal donation practice and had exaggerated the influence of the two organizations.

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