Is Brian Klug Doing Justice? International Scholars cricize an event at the Jewish Museum Berlin, Nov 8/9, 2013

The following article is part of a dossier on British anti-Israel activist Brian Klug. The dossier includes statements by Prof. Elhanan Yakira, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, Prof. Efraim Karsh, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Dr. Denis MacShane, Prof. Norman Simms, Sam Westrop, Ben Cohen, Isi Leibler, Prof. Neil Kressel, Dr. Guenther Jikeli, Richard Millet, among others, and was organized by the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA). The following is my own contribution.


Brian Klug is among the worst choices for a keynote speaker at an event dedicated to the question “What do we mean when we say ‘antisemitism’?” This is the title of the keynote lecture Klug is supposed to deliver in Berlin on November 8, 2013. He denies that there is a new antisemitism and he affirms anti-Israel positions. He rejects Israel’s right to exist and collaborates with German anti-Israel agitators and activists (like participants on the Mavi Marmara). For Klug, antisemitism does not exist in our mainstream world. For him, antisemitism only exists in marginal neo-Nazi groups or among people who promote obvious antisemitic conspiracy myths. Brian Klug is particularly eager to use his “Jewishness” to fight the Jewish state of Israel. No surprise, then, that he has many allies in Germany, on ships, in the ivory tower of academia, on the streets, in journals, among activists in foundations, and even at the so-called Jewish museum in Berlin.

On November 8–9, 2013, the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) at Technical University in Berlin, the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future (EVZ) and the Jewish museum Berlin will hold an international conference in that museum, entitled “Antisemitism in Europe Today: the Phenomena, the Conflicts.” There are several troubling speakers invited to that event, known for distorting and downplaying contemporary antisemitism, including historian David Feldman from the Pears Institute in London, known for its kosher stamps for post- and anti-Zionism, and several German scholars like retired sociologist Detlef Claussen who endorsed the historian Tony Judt and his anti-Israel ideology. In the following short introduction I will focus primarily on the keynote speaker of that event: Brian Klug from London.

Klug is already known as a public speaker in Berlin (although he does not speak German), e.g. thanks to invitations by a tiny and extreme anti-Israel group called AK Nahost (working group on the Middle East). This group is a radical left-wing pro-Palestinian action group. They are running several campaigns against Israel. They invited the co-founder of BDS, Omar Barghouti to address their left-wing, pro-Palestinian Berlin audience in 2007 and in 2013. Klug spoke there in 2009 and 2010. At the event in 2009 Klug said that “Zionism prevents Jews from having a normal conception of their life”. Klug’s allies from the AK Nahost frame the security fence in Israel (which is in some regions a wall) as “Apartheid wall.” This antisemitic distortion of racist apartheid South Africa and anti-Israel attack is common among such extremist circles. Shockingly this agitation is again welcome in the Jewish museum Berlin (in 2012 this institution invited Judith Butler, who frames Israel as Apartheid) and now at the Berlin Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA).

Brian Klug is infamous for his article in The Nation, and the cover page of that journal in February, 2004, displaying a star of David and Klug’s title of his article “The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism.”[1] If someone argues that Jews have been killed in Israel by suicide bombers in recent years, and that synagogues in France have been attacked with fire bombs by Muslim youngsters and adults, Klug argues that these people did not kill and attack “Jews as Jews.” He and his followers are very serious about this ‘argument.’ They truly believe that killing Jews is not necessarily antisemitic, because Muslim extremists did not act against Jews as Jews. Instead these attacks are seen by Brian Klug and his fans as a ‘result of the conflict’ (Arab-Israeli conflict). Klug is in denial regarding the new antisemitism and the fact that Israel is seen by the new antisemites of our times as “a collective Jew.”

In October 2004, Brian Klug gave a lecture at the German-Israeli Working Group for Peace in the Middle East (DIAK) in Arnoldshain.[2] In it he equated hostility towards Jews with that toward Muslims and Arabs in Europe,[3] despite all empirical facts. In fact, neo-Nazis joined forces with Arabs and Muslims to fight Israel at rallies in Europe. Germany in particular has a history of racism too, but this has nothing to do with antisemitism. Neo-Nazis killed Muslims in Germany in recent years not because they were seen as Muslims, but because they were seen as non-Germans or immigrants.

In his talk in 2004, Klug downplayed Arab and Muslim violence against Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe and said that it was not at all antisemitic, but simply understandable due to the Middle East conflict.[4] This rationalization of the new antisemitism is widespread among scholars in Germany, too.

The title of this article refers to a book by Brian Klug from 2011: “Being Jewish and Doing Justice.”[5] In fact, Klug seems to use his Jewishness to fight Zionist Jews, the Jewish state of Israel, and those who analyze and criticize the new antisemitism in a scholarly way.

Hostility towards Israel is not antisemitic in Klug’s view:

In short, the empirical evidence overwhelmingly supports the view that hostility towards Israel, at bottom, is not a new form of antisemitism; it is a function of a deep and bitter political conflict. The depth and bitterness of this conflict is sufficient to explain, for the most part, the strength and intensity of the polemic against the state, especially on the part of those who are directly impinged on by Israel’s presence in the Middle East and by the expansion of Jewish settlements in the territories it has retained since the June 1967 war.[6]

Klug goes so far and denies any specificity of anti-Zionism and says that, if Israel were a Catholic state, a Christian state would be viewed as negatively as Israel is:

Suppose, for the sake of argument, it were Catholic, like the Crusader states that Europeans created in the Middle East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and its name were, say, Christiania. Would Christiania be accepted into the bosom of the region more readily than Israel has been? I doubt it. Would the animosity felt towards Christiania be qualitatively different from, or significantly less than, the hostility actually directed at Israel? Again, I think not. Any differences would, I submit, be a matter of nuance.[7]

Klug wants to deny any connection between antisemitism and hatred of Israel.[8] He states:

What, in that case, can Israel do? If it is true that the community of nations is, either covertly or openly, antisemitic, what steps can it take to solve its own problem? Apparently none. If Israel is basically the victim of persecution in an antisemitic world, then it bears no responsibility for the position in which it finds itself: the object of widespread condemnation. For antisemitism is a phenomenon for which Jews, neither collectively nor individually, can be held responsible. It is an a priori prejudice that revolves around a fiction, a figment of what Jews are like. It is in the nature of such a prejudice that it will always find facts that seem to corroborate its fiction. Nothing that the Jewish state does or refrains from doing could produce it or prevent it.[9]

Frequent slurs by Arab and Muslim agitators reveal the intrinsic antisemitic ideology of our times. Take S’ad al-Bawardi, writing in the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Jazirah in January 2009, as an example:

“You were merciful, oh Hitler (…)

when I see around me

The cruel acts

Of the descendants of apes.

You were wise, oh Hitler

To rid the world

Of some of these wild pigs.”[10]

This antisemitic, Arab and pro-German/pro-Hitler slur goes on:

“Oh Hitler,

The descendants of apes

None are more cruel and horrifying than they are…

Their wars of destruction

Are worse than the ‘Holocaust.’

Destruction of the world is their motto,

And they are implementing it in practice

In Gaza, in the Golan and in Lebanon.

The descendants of apes are the cruelest creatures

That mankind has ever known.”[11]

This is an example of today’s Muslim and Arab antisemitism. It is a core element of the new antisemitism.

Brian Klug denies that there is a new antisemitism. For him, “new antisemitism“ is a “myth.” Praising Hitler and fighting the collective Jew, Israel, though, is a new antisemitism, not known in the 19th century, for example.

There are other examples, like cartoons from the Arab press, which show that we are talking about antisemitism. In his classic research on Muslim antisemitism, Muslim Antisemitism. A clear and present danger, published 2002 by the American Jewish Committee, historian Robert Wistrich documented, for example, Muslim (and Arab) antisemitic cartoons. Take a cartoon from the Syrian paper Tishreen, which in April 1993 compared the list of crimes by Nazi Germany to those of Israel (Israel’s list is even longer); or take the Egyptian newspaper al-Gumhuria, May 1994, equating Nazis and Israelis (“Israel über alles”), or take the Palestinian al-Quds paper, defaming in May 2001 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a child murderer (eating children), or take the Palestinian al-Dustour from March 1994, showing an Israeli giving “a gift for Mother’s Day,” a bottle with the “blood of a Palestinian child,” or a cartoon from Egypt’s al-Gumhuria from December 2001, displaying Sharon and Hitler and equating the swastika with the Star of David, and Sharon as Hitler’s successor.[12]

We know of Holocaust affirmation by German-Muslim (mostly German-Turkish) Facebook users at the end of the Mavi Marmara incident on May 31, 2010. Those Germans with Turkish background have nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Even if they had, Holocaust affirmation is an extremely antisemitic statement and criminal under German law, by the way. Those Facebook users wrote their anti-Jewish slurs on their real accounts, including their real names and pictures (sometimes including pictures of their husband or wife, kids etc., too). They celebrated Hitler and the Shoah and urged the world to finish Hitler’s job. I documented this hardcore anti-Jewish/antisemitic agitation on my website. To ignore, obfuscate or downplay this kind of antisemitism and Holocaust affirmation, as Klug does, is remarkable.

Brian Klug knows the above-mentioned brochure by Wistrich and ignores its empirical examples and analysis intentionally because it does not fit his model of framing anti-Zionism as not antisemitic at all. Klug wants to reject the analysis that Jews are defamed and attacked today as the “collective Jew,” read: as Israeli.

Klug himself rejects Israel as a Jewish state and therefore needs to distort the ideological transformation from old-style antisemitism to the new antisemitism, with many of the same features, but including new features after the Shoah like the projection of German guilt onto the former victims, the Jews, the “collective Jew”, Israel: anti-Zionist antisemitism. Brian Klug wrote in 2011:

“It is time to end this preoccupation – if not obsession – with Israel’s ‘right to exist’. Israel should be treated like any other country. It has the rights that (all other things being equal) every existing state possesses. But no state is exempt from challenges to its constitutional arrangements, whether those challenges are made by its citizens or by others. This extends to the question of whether the state should break up or, conversely, enter into a union with another state.”[13]

This is from a chapter in Klug’s book “Being Jewish and Doing Justice,” from 2011.[14] This chapter was first published in German in an anti-Israel book co-edited by a left-wing anti-Israel activist from the party Die Linke, Hermann Dierkes, from the city of Duisburg.[15] Dierkes was listed among the Top Ten individuals making antisemitic slurs by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2011. In April 2011 (and maybe before), the homepage of Dierkes’s party in Duisburg promoted a poster (see screenshot: “Against apartheid – boycott Israel”) and an antisemitic flyer that equated a swastika and a star of David. They claimed that the party was not responsible for these propaganda materials on their own homepage.

Before, in November 2009, Dierkes was criticized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the media for a statement he made during a Marxist conference in Berlin. Dierkes said that it is “ridiculous” (in German “läppisch”) to emphasize Israel’s right to exist. This is very much the same position as Klug’s. Klug’s article was published alongside with many anti-Israel pieces by authors like Norman Paech, another politician from the Party of the Left (Die Linke) and former Member of Parliament, who was on the Mavi Marmara terror ship in May 2010.[16] In the book, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement is promoted as well, for example in an article by activist Martin Forberg.[17]

In 2007, Brian Klug, Jacqueline Rose, and others created the “Independent Jewish Voices” (IJV) in the UK. In 2008 they edited a book promoting this tiny circle of anti-Israel Jews. In the book they thank Jonathan Judaken for his support (among others).[18] Judaken, though, is also known for his endorsement of post- and anti-Zionism. He is an ally of David Feldman and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum in the so-called International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism.

Like Judaken and the other scholars involved, Klug ignores genocidal threats from Iran or does them not take seriously. He also ignores the entire history of Arab and Muslim antisemitism in recent decades. Ignoring this very specific environment Israel is facing simply endangers Jews.

Klug does not even deal accurately with the Middle East when it comes to ethnicity. Otherwise he would have found that Israel is among the very few non-homogenous states in the region (the other one is Lebanon with a mixed Christian and Muslim population, and Egypt with a substantial Christian minority). All other Arab countries, like Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are extremely homogenous states, as is the Palestinian Authority.

It is a scandal that a speaker like Brian Klug, who is an ally of internationally criticized German anti-Israel agitators and activists on the Mavi Marmara like Hermann Dierkes or Norman Paech, respectively, is invited to give the keynote lecture at an event in the Jewish museum Berlin organized by the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) and the EVZ Foundation.

Brian Klug is not doing justice. He uses his Jewishness to endanger other Jews in Israel and elsewhere who are not in denial about Islamist, left-wing, neo-Nazi and mainstream new antisemitism.

Former MP in Canada, lawyer and author Richard Marceau (a “pro-Palestinian Zionist”) puts it like this:

There are differences of opinion in the Jewish world regarding Israel’s future, its relationship with its Palestinian neighbors, and what kind of society Israel should strive to be. But there is immense consensus regarding the right of the Jewish people to have an independent state in our ancestral land in the Middle East.

Anybody who identifies as anti-Zionist, even if one professes to be Jewish, cannot be considered anything other than a representative of a very marginal group in the Jewish world. That these people could also lay any claim to courage – an eminently Jewish trait exemplified by those who defended our people in history’s darkest hours – speaks only to their capacity for self-delusion.[19]

I think I am not alone in stating that Brian Klug is out of touch with reality and that he ignores today’s antisemitism and frames it as a simple result of a “conflict.” This approach is unscholarly in nature and unworthy of a keynote speaker at a major event dedicated to the analysis – not trivialization or affirmation – of the new antisemitism.

Non-Jewish anti-Zionists, though, depend on Jewish anti-Zionists to do the ‘dirty job’ of defaming the Jewish state. Ignoring the Iranian threat in particular and Islamist antisemitism in general, while inviting anti-Israel Jews and endorsing cosmopolitan anti-Zionism, speaks volumes for the current trend in research on antisemitism in Germany at the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA).

[1] Brian Klug (2004): “The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism,” The Nation, February 2, 2004, online at (accessed October 27, 2013).

[2] Brian Klug (2005): “Is Europe a lost cause? The European debate on antisemitism and the Middle East conflict,” Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2005, 46–59.

[3] Klug 2005, 59.

[4] Klug 2005, 58: “Such attacks, whatever the reason, cannot be tolerated in a civilized Europe. But when Moroccan or Algerian youths from the banlieues of Paris attack Jewish targets, this is not the return of an age-old hatred, a ‘mutation’ of the ‘virus’ of antisemitism.”

[5] Brian Klug (2011): Being Jewish and Doing Justice. Bringing Argument to Life, London/Portland (OR): Vallentine Mitchell.

[6] Brian Klug (2003): “The collective Jew: Israel and the new antisemitism,” Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2003, 117–138, 133. Deputy Director of the Fritz-Bauer-Institute in Frankfurt, Werner Konitzer, follows Klug and promoted Klug’s article, Werner Konitzer (2005): “Einige Überlegungen: Antisemitismus und Moral,“ Mittelweg 36, No. 2/2005, online at (accessed October 27, 2013). Leading German Cultural Studies (and Gender Studies) professor at Humboldt University, Christina von Braun (currently touring in the US like at Yale), known for comparing the bikini to the Hijab and for downplaying of the Islamist threat and ideology and her cultural relativist portrayal of anti-female Islamist policies like the veiling of women, republished Klug’s article in a German/English book: Christina von Braun/Eva-Maria Ziege (eds.) (2004): Das ‘bewegliche’ Vorurteil. Aspekte des Internationalen Antisemitismus, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

[7] Klug 2003, 133.

[8] Brian Klug (2003a): “No, anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism. As an idea, a Jewish homeland was always controversial. As a reality, Israel still is – and it is not anti-Jewish to say so,” December 3, 2003, (accessed October 26, 2013).

[9] Klug 2003, 135.

[10] Quoted by Neil Kressel (2012): “The Sons of Pigs and Apes”. Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence, Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 22.

[11] Quoted by Kressel 2012, 24.

[12] Robert S. Wistrich (2002): Muslim Anti-Semitism. A Clear and Present Danger, New York: The American Jewish Committee, 25–29.

[13] Klug 2011, 145.

[14] The chapter is entitled “On Saying that Israel has a Right to Exist,” in: Klug 2011, 136–146.

[15] Brian Klug (2010): „Was es bedeutet zu sagen, Israel habe ein Existenzrecht,“ in: Sophia Deeg/Hermann Dierkes (eds.): Bedingungslos für Israel? Positionen und Aktionen jenseits deutscher Befindlichkeiten, Cologne/Karlsruhe: Neuer ISP Verlag, 63–74.

[16] Norman Paech und Kerstin Seifer (2010): „Israel und Palästina – die aktuelle Lage aus völkerrechtlicher Perspektive,“ in: Deeg/Dierkes (eds.), 129–144; Norman Paech (2010a): „Bericht von einer Reise nach Palästina und Israel vom 3. bis 10. Oktober 2009,“ in: Deeg/Dierkes (eds.), 152–162.

[17] Martin Forberg (2010): „Überlegungen zu BDS in Deutschland,” in: Deeg/Dierkes (eds.), 181–183.

[18] Anne Karpf/Brian Klug/Jacqueline Rose/Barbara Rosenbaum (eds.) (2008): A Time to Speak out. Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity, London/New York: Verso, no pagination (Acknowledgements).

[19] Richard Marceau (2012): „The Real Nature of Jewish anti-Zionists,“ Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2012, (accessed October 26, 2013).


About the Author
Dr Clemens Heni is director of The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA)