The preeminent Jewish communal representative body in Germany has accused popular news magazine Der Spiegel of propagating anti-Semitic stereotypes after it ran a cover illustration portraying local Jews as Eastern European Hasidim.
The group, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, tweeted on Friday that the image “unfortunately uses stereotypes of Jews,” raising the question “what Der Spiegel intends with this photo selection and titling.”
“To portray Jews as foreign or exotic promotes anti-Semitic prejudice,” the group said.
The story in question dealt with the history of German Jewry and painted a portrait of contemporary Jewish life in the European country, which is largely secular.
US Ambassador Richard Grenell also criticized the cover, which featured an image of two ultra-Orthodox men with long beards accompanied by the title “Jewish life in Germany,” tweeting that “anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism grows.”
“What is this title photo? So this is what we Jews look like in Germany?” tweeted prominent German-Jewish journalist Richard C. Schneider.
“Jews with kippas and sidelocks — the classic ‘genre photo’ in editorial offices when it comes to an article about Jews. If one were to show us ‘completely normal’ then the majority society would probably have a problem,” he said. “For anyone who thinks the photo on Spiegel History is fine: Jews in [Germany] did not look that way for the past 200 years, only [Jews] in the ’20s after the [First World War], who came from the East. So even ‘historically’ this is not representative.”
Was ist das denn für ein Titelfoto?? So schauen wir Juden also in Deutschland aus??? pic.twitter.com/paEumPoS14
— Richard C. Schneider (@rc_schneider) August 1, 2019
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the American Jewish Committee’s European director, also criticized the image, tweeting, “Everything is wrong with this cover” along with an emoji of a woman covering her face in embarrassment.
Everything is wrong with this cover????????♀️ https://t.co/mBCnPqZnPo
— Simone Rodan-Benzaqu (@srodan) August 1, 2019
In response, Spiegel tweeted a statement explaining that the publication had tried to “show an aspect of the rich diversity of German-Jewish history” and that the story had examined “many other facets” of the Jewish experience in Germany.
“We did not want to use an anti-Semitic cliché [and] if this impression was created, we are sorry,” the magazine said. “That was not our intention.”
Ein paar Worte zu der Debatte um das Titelbild der Ausgabe 4/2019 von SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE. pic.twitter.com/4hDz7QLtDk
— einestages (@einestages) August 1, 2019
Friday’s criticism from the Central Council of Jews in Germany came only weeks after Josef Schuster, the organization’s president, accused Der Spiegel of fueling anti-Semitism in an article about a German parliament resolution denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
„Mit dem Titelbild bedient @DerSPIEGEL leider Klischeevorstellungen von Juden. Daher stellt sich die Frage, was der Spiegel mit dieser Foto-Auswahl und der Betitelung beabsichtigt. Juden als etwas Fremdes oder Exotisches darzustellen, befördert #antisemitische Vorurteile.“ pic.twitter.com/JxMCdlfSJe
— Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (@ZentralratJuden) August 2, 2019
That Spiegel story suggested that two Jewish groups, WerteInitiative and Naffo, used “aggressive lobbying methods” to get lawmakers to vote for the resolution in May.
The non-binding resolution compared the BDS campaign’s economic boycott of Israel and Israeli products to campaigns in Germany against Jewish-owned businesses before the Holocaust. Schuster told Germany’s Bild newspaper at the time that he thought the Spiegel article “clearly uses anti-Semitic clichés” and was “irresponsible and dangerous.”
In an editor’s note defending the story, Der Spiegel asserted that its “article does not paint the image of a ‘Jewish lobby’ or a ‘Jewish world conspiracy,’ as critics suggest. The religious or other affiliation of the persons involved does not play a role in our reporting. It’s about lobbying and its methods. We strongly reject the suggestion that such reporting would support incitement or acts of violence against Jews in Germany.”