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One of the research pair’s other main findings was that hatred for Israel has become the main vehicle for German anti-Semitism. More than 80% of the 14,000 emails focused on Israel as their central theme.
Schwarz-Friesel and Reinharz say they strove hard to distinguish emails that were critical of Israel — even those that expressed anger toward it — from those that were anti-Semitic.
“Only those letters were classified as anti-Semitic that clearly [saw] German Jews as non-Germans and collectively abused German Jews to be responsible for crimes in Israel!” she explained.
In the paper’s abstract, the researchers clarify further that “Verbal anti-Semitism is based on 1. Collective discrimination; 2. Fixation (by stereotypes) and 3. Devaluation of Jews.”
Schwarz-Friesel said she also considered as anti-Semitic letters that analogized Jewish or Israeli behavior to that of the Nazis.
As a linguist, Schwarz-Friesel sought to decode the classical anti-Semitism that was often hidden in the language of the emails. Schwarz-Friesel says her skills enable her to identify anti-Semitic intent that’s often deliberately obscured. She cites a letter from a professor that opens this way: “You people have a history of 2,000 years…” The letter then goes on to criticize Israel. In this way, according to Schwarz-Friesel, the writer brands Jews as historically evil.
Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at Hebrew University and academic advisor to Yad Vashem, praised the study’s methodology as unique. “Such an in-depth research based on language analyzing has not existed yet,” he said.
Professor Andreas Zick, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Conflict Research at Bielefeld University, supported Schwarz-Friesel’s findings. “Studies over the last three years show that anti-Semitic attitudes toward Israel [in Germany] are much higher among the well-educated and the middle class,” he said in a telephone interview.
Zick was not surprised by the hate mail Schwarz-Friesel examined. “I get plenty too, because of my lectures against anti-Semitism and the studies of prejudice done by my institute.” He worries about deeply rooted anti-Semitism in the country that staged the Holocaust.