A Great Debate Are Germans Allowed to Criticize Israel?

Germany's relationship with Israel has never been easy. How much criticism from Germany is allowed? And at what point does it become anti-Semitic? SPIEGEL reporters Erich Follath and Henryk M. Broder conducted a heated debate on this thorny German issue in the following exchange of e-mails.

Confrontation: An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian demonstrator near Ramallah.
AP

Confrontation: An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian demonstrator near Ramallah.


It all began with a SPIEGEL ONLINE editorial that SPIEGEL correspondent Erich Follath wrote about "racist" Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman -- using criticism he attributed to the German foreign minister. The article triggered a strong reaction, not least from fellow SPIEGEL journalist Henryk M. Broder. Follath next wrote an essay about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which -- albeit not equating them in moral terms -- he called the two leaders "spiritual twins" who were "trapped by the absoluteness of their demands, both of them obsessed with a messianic mission." Broder again reacted very critically on his Web site, 'Achse des Guten' (Axis of Good). This prompted Follath to send his colleague an e-mail that opened the door to a series of letters to and fro that may not initially have been intended for public scrutiny, but which the two men have since permitted SPIEGEL and SPIEGEL ONLINE to publish in part.

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