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Fathom 17 | Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism in West Germany in the 1970s: Lessons for Today

In this provocative analysis of discourse about Israel in West Germany in the 1970s, Martin Jander claims that far-Left and far-Right groups were encouraged, and in some cases even organised by the radical Arab nationalists in their midst, to spread an ideology of radical anti-Zionism that included elements of antisemitism. The Federal Republic of Germany failed to respond robustly, meeting a wave of incitement and political violence with intellectual incuriosityan appeasing spirit, and rationalist naivete. Jander argues that what made this anti-Zionist discourse possible, along with the participation of German left-wing and right-wing terrorists in the war against Israel, was the superficiality of postwar Germany’s confrontation with its National Socialist past. In contrast to the way this is often explained in current German historical writing, Jander argues that the encounter with the Nazi past had not struck roots as deep or as broad as had been hoped.

In the 1970s, a new breed of West German terrorists fabricated a parallel world out of ideology. The US was portrayed as the greatest enemy of the world with assistance from two main helpers, Germany and Israel. All three were depicted as fighting against the revolutionaries and those nations struggling for freedom. German fascism and Zionism appeared as the same thing. The terrorists that hijacked the Lufthansa airplane ‘Landshut’ on 13 October 1977, dominated by that ideology, informed the world that:

This operation aims at liberating our comrades from the jails of the imperialist-reactionary-Zionist alliance … revolutionary and freedom fighters all over the world are confronted with the monster of global imperialism – this barbaric war under the hegemony of the US against the nations of the world. In this war imperialist sub-centres like Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany fulfill the executive function of the suppression and liquidation of each and any revolutionary movement in and on their specific territories. In our occupied land the Imperialist-Zionist-reactionary enemy demonstrates the highest level of its bloody hostility and aggressiveness against our people and our revolution, against all the Arab masses and their patriotic and progressive forces. The expansionist and racist nature of Israel is – with Menachem Begin at the head of this product of imperialist interests – clearer than ever before. West Germany was set up on the same imperialistic foundation in 1945 as a US base.

The statement mixed nationalism with anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And while the terrorists rejected the idea that they were anti-Semites they aimed to destroy Israel. READ MORE