The paper’s correspondent in Berlin, known for his ties with radical right-wing groups, has done it again.
In a couple of articles published last month, the widely-read Jerusalem Post compared the European Union’s decision to label Israeli settlement products to nothing less than Nazism.
A year ago, the European Union passed a decision to label Israeli goods produced in the occupied territories, differentiating them from products of Israel proper. The Union is objecting to Israel’s settlement policy, but nevertheless has many trade agreements and joint projects with Israel. (The EU is Israel’s largest trade partner.) The decision to label products from the occupied territories was seen as a political compromise, allowing consumers to decide whether they want to purchase them or not, but remaining very far from a total ban of those products, let alone a boycott of Israeli goods.
Recently, 13 European Counties wrote EU Foreign Affairs chief Catharine Ashton, requesting that she forumlate guidelines for product labeling. Some EU countries have already taken some independent steps in this direction.
In Germany, the Green Party sent a questionnaire to the government asking what steps it plans to take on the issue of settlement labeling. The government has confirmed that it doesn’t view the settlements as part of the European-Israeli trade agreement.
In response, The Jerusalem Post published a piece in which the paper (citing various “public figures,” all expressing the same opinion) accuses the Green Party of no less than Nazi policy – naturally, the most serious accusation one could make in Europe, and most of all in Germany.
Another item in the Post targeted Bundestag deputy Kerstin Müller, who is set to be the new head of the Tel Aviv office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is affiliated with the Green Party (disclaimer: +972 Magazine has received support from the Heinrich Böll Foundation). The piece cites a rabbi from the Wiesenthal Center who says that “Ms. Müller should relocate to Riyadh, not Tel Aviv.”
There is a back story here: the reporter behind both stories – the one who called politicians and Jewish community leaders asking for their comments on the Green Party questionnaire – is Benjamin Weinthal, who is credited as the Post’s correspondent in Berlin. Weinthal, however, is a paid fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a U.S.-based neo-conservative think tank dedicated to fighting “militant Islamism” through “strategic communication” and similar means – a fact which is conveniently absent from his bio on the Jerusalem Post website. Obviously, neither of Weinthal’s items include a disclosure on his paid affiliation with the think tank.
This week, Weinthal continued his campaign against the German Green party with an op-ed in Haaretz. This time he signed his piece as a “fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies,” ommitting the fact that he is supposed to be a reporter for the competition.
Weinthal, who lives in Berlin, is also known for his ties with radical right-wing American-Israeli groups like NGO Monitor, who conduct blacklists of people and organizations that oppose the occupation. In fact, many of Weinthal’s stories are no more than NGO Monitor press releases (examples: here, here, here, here, here, here, here). He specifically targets institutions and funds that support human rights organizations in Israel – hence the attacks on the Heinrich Böll Foundation, that has a long track record of working with left-leaning and environmental organizations, as well as with groups who promote co-existence between Muslims, Christians and Jews.
The right-leaning Post’s articles serve two causes then: with the worst of accusations and slurs, intimidating European policy-makers who are ready to critically engage with Israel; and undermining the work of the human rights community in Israel through personal attacks on its supporters.
Even those who support Israeli policies should be alarmed by such tactics. By politicizing the memory of the Holocaust or comparing product labelling to the exclusion of Jews from German life, which was followed by their extermination, Weinthal and the Post are seriously undermining the fight against real anti-Semitism, which targets Jews just for being Jews.
This is of little importance to the Post, which was once a decent paper but has mobilized in recent years for the sole cause of defending the occupation and all subsequent policies. The fact that some German politicians and Jewish leaders are ready to take part in this game is much more alarming.