The author of a German study that examined thousands of anti-Semitic hate messages told an Israeli newspaper that she was “very surprised” to discover that only 3 percent came from those described as members of the political “far-right.”
Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a linguistics professor at the Technical University of Berlin, and her team read 14,000 letters and emails addressed to the Israeli embassy in Berlin and to Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Haaretz reported.
The results were summarized in her book, “The Language of Hostility Towards Jews in the 21st Century,” which was published in German and is due out in English next year.
“I wanted to find out how modern anti-Semites think, feel and communicate,” Schwarz-Friesel told Haaretz.
The study concluded that a majority of the messages – 60 percent – were sent by educated Germans, including university professors and priests.
That finding shattered the research team’s initial assumptions.
“At first, we thought that most of the letters would be sent by right-wing extremists,” Schwarz-Friesel said. “But I was very surprised to discover that they were actually sent by people from the social mainstream – professors, Ph.D.s, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.”
Efraim Zuroff, Israel office director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, told TheBlaze “there’s no question that there is an undercurrent [of anti-Semitism] in respectable German society and it’s very often people who would be shocked to be called anti-Semites.”
“This animus against the Jews exists, and this study clearly shows it,” said Zuroff, whom Time magazine described as “the world’s most prominent Nazi hunter.”
“The problem is not the extreme right and neo-Nazis because they are so marginal in German society … the problem is in respectable German society that normally doesn’t accept overt anti-Semitism,” Zuroff said.
Asked about the researchers’ “surprised” reaction to their findings, Zuroff said: “It’s very simple. They think that they share common values with liberal, humanistic, ostensibly sane Germans but part of problem is that some of those people have deeply embedded anti-Semitism that sometimes manifests itself in [hate] letters.”
The letters examined were sent between 2002 and 2012. The study was conducted jointly with American historian Jehuda Reinharz.
“We found that there is hardly any difference in the semantics of highly educated anti-Semites and vulgar extremists and neo-Nazis,” Schwarz-Friezel told the American Jewish news site the Forward in December. “The difference lies only in style and formal rhetoric, but the concepts are the same.”
In addition to the 14,000 letters sent in Germany, 2,000 additional messages received by Israeli embassies around Europe were also reviewed.
Here are samples of content included in some of the messages, as quoted in Haaretz and in the Forward:
• “Is it possible that the excessive violence in Israel, including the murder of innocent children, corresponds to the long tradition of your people?”
• “For the last 2,000 years, you’ve been stealing land and committing genocide.”
• “You Israelis … shoot cluster bombs over populated areas and accuse people who criticize such actions of anti-Semitism. That’s typical of the Jews!”
The researchers found that many of the letters equated the actions of the Israel Defense Forces to the Nazi genocide of the Jews.
Notably, many of the letter-writers were not ashamed of their language and often included their names, addresses and professions, which helped the research team validate their political affiliation, according to the Forward.
The study reported that 80 percent of the letters were anti-Israel, often masking anti-Semitic feelings.
“Today, it’s already impossible to distinguish between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. Modern anti-Semites have turned ‘the Jewish problem’ into ‘the Israeli problem.’ They have redirected the ‘final solution’ from the Jews to the State of Israel, which they see as the embodiment of evil,” Schwarz-Friesel told Haaretz.
The researchers counted as anti-Semitic only those messages that described German Jews as not being truly German and blamed German Jews for Israel’s actions.