Monday, November 10, 2008

In Germany: You Can't Deny The Holocaust--And You Can't Call Someone An Anti-Semite

Back in August, John Rosenthal wrote What is a Jew in Germany Permitted to Say Against a Jew in Germany?, about Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, who calls herself "an independent critic of Jewish and Israeli human rights violations". When Henryk Broder, a well-known German political commentator and author of numerous books on German politics and anti-Semitism, wrote a letter to referring to Hecht-Galinksi's "anti-Semitic anti-Zionist phrases" she took action:
Indeed, Hecht-Galinski accepted the anti-Zionist label, but she obtained a temporary court order forbidding Broder from describing her statements as "anti-Semitic." The letter currently appears on Die Achsen des Guten site with the word "anti-Semitic" replaced by "xxxxxxxxxxxxx".
The case was due to come before a court in September. As Rosenthal pointed out at the time, there are very real consequences should a court find against Broder:
A ruling against Broder would mean that in Germany one could speak in general of "anti-Zionist anti-Semitism," but it would, in effect, be forbidden to point to any concrete instances.

Fast forward to November 9th and another article by John Rosenthal: Can You Call Someone ‘Anti-Semitic’ on a Blog? Not in Germany:
In a tortuous ruling that threatens to have a chilling effect on discussions of “new” German anti-Semitism, the District Court of Cologne recently upheld a restraining order that forbids author Henryk Broder from describing the discourse of a virulent critic of Israel as “anti-Semitic” in a post on a popular German blog.

...Thus the court’s own press release underscores that, “by virtue of this ruling, the statement that the plaintiff makes anti-Semitic remarks has not been prohibited outright. A similar statement that is sufficiently well grounded [mit dem erforderlichen Sachbezug] would be permissible.” It then goes on to specify, however, that whether a charge of anti-Semitism is sufficiently sachbezogen — literally, “objectively oriented” — is up to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis.
The court gives an indication of just what kind of criteria will go into its consideration of what constitutes 'abusive criticism':
From the perspective of the average reader, the application of the concept “anti-Semitic” is especially grave and like hardly any other well suited to depreciate [the person] connected to it in the eyes of the public. This has to do with the terrible consequences that anti-Semitism has brought about precisely in Germany.
Besides implying that the issue of anti-Semitism can only be addressed abstractly and not in concrete cases, the court indicates that charges of anti-Semitism by academics is less serious an issue.

More than that, there is a topsy-turvey turn to the court's decision:
But it is, above all, the court’s transformation of the well-known ravages wrought by German anti-Semitism into grounds for affording Germans, so to say, “special protection” against the charge of anti-Semitism that gives cause to pause and represents a second point of note.
The issue comes down to freedom of speech being regulated by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

Apparently the issue is far from over, since Broder came back with a new letter, claiming that Hecht-Galinski makes
anti-Semitic anti-Zionist statements … inasmuch as she compares the situation of Palestinians in the “ghetto” of Ramallah or Gaza with the situation of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, inasmuch as she speaks of a worldwide “Jewish-Israel lobby” and thereby resurrects the classical anti-Semitic cliché of the Jewish world conspiracy, and inasmuch as she defames everyone who does not share her opinions as agents of an “Israel lobby.”
Read the entire article.

Rosenthal hints at the possibility of extending the courts decision to accusations of Islamophobia--something that is not a solution, but rather an indication of the potential for this kind of law to spread. If laws against Holocaust Denial can spread outside of Germany, what are the chances for a law such as this to follow?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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