German Jewish leader barred from labeling Jewish critic of Israel as ‘notorious’

Toby Axelrod

BERLIN (JTA) – A German Jewish leader was reprimanded by a German court for describing a Jewish critic of Israel as “notorious” for anti-Semitic remarks.

Charlotte Knobloch, head of Munich’s Jewish community and of the Bavarian Jewish umbrella group, made the assertion about Jewish blogger Abraham Melzer of Frankfurt in a private e-mail last September. Melzer sued in response.

Knobloch, 84, is now is barred from making such statements after the First Munich District Court found on Wednesday that she could not sufficiently back them up.

The lead judge said that “particularly given the background of the crimes by the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust, as well as the fact that the lives of both parties in this case have been marked by this history, the characterization of the plaintiff as a person of Jewish background who is notorious for his anti-Semitic statements, is particularly grievous and injurious to his reputation.”

Knobloch survived the Holocaust as a child in hiding.

Melzer, 71, is a blogger whose self-described mandate is to “deal exclusively with the Mideast conflict, with the oppression of the Palestinians, but above all with the self-serving, arrogant and nationalist Israelis and their promoters in Germany.”

In September, Knobloch wrote a private e-mail to Catholic organizations that had made rooms available for an event featuring Melzer as a speaker on anti-Semitism in Germany. Melzer has claimed that charges of anti-Semitism are often exaggerated.

Several events with Melzer as speaker were reportedly cancelled.

Melzer then sued Knobloch, and the Munich court announced its interim injunction against her on Wednesday. Knobloch has the option to appeal.

The court found that Knobloch had violated Melzer’s “personality rights” both by failing to prove adequately that his statements were anti-Semitic and that he is “notorious” for them.

The fact that Melzer has a blog does not mean that he is “notorious,” the court said. Knobloch presented three statements by Melzer that she deemed anti-Semitic. Using Nazi jargon for Jews forced to work in concentration camps, he called an employee of the Israeli Foreign Ministry a “Blockwarte.” Melzer also suggested that Knobloch was working for the Israeli secret service and that she got her working orders “possibly from the boss himself,” meaning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since two of the cited statements were made after Knobloch sent her e-mail, she could not use them to justify her statement, the court found.

Responding to the verdict, Melzer wrote to the blogger Gerd Buurmann that for all he cared, Knobloch should appeal all the way to the German Supreme Court or even the European Court. “That’s exactly what we want: for the highest European court to once and for all plug the mouths of people like you and Knobloch and all the others,” he wrote.