Christoph Schult, a friend and colleague of mine, served for many years as head of the Israel bureau of Der Spiegel, a position that was a natural stage in his prolonged relationship with the country that became his home away from home. Christoph, who speaks fluent Hebrew, first came to Israel as part of a youth exchange, was “adopted” by an Israeli family, and lost his adopted brother in a horrific terror attack in 2004. I’m not sure if I know anyone (who is not Jewish or an Israeli) who is so familiar with the country’s mores, speaks its language, and who is so sympathetic toward it and its citizens.
For many Israelis, however, someone who wants to be their friend must of necessity also support the country’s actions and refrain from criticizing them, especially beyond its borders. Someone who dares to express differences with the policy of the Israeli government to non-Israelis is perceived as nothing less than an informer, a traitor, and is ousted from the family and the community.
This is what happened to Schult, when on behalf of Der Spiegel he attempted to find out what was happening with the European Union’s decision to mark Israeli products originating in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Much of the Israeli media attacked him and the magazine, with distorted quotes from the article and mendacious allegations to the effect that Der Spiegel, which over the years has covered Israel devotedly and accurately (and which I have the honor of writing for), had pressured the KaDeWe chain to start a boycott of Israel. It was not long before comparisons were made with the Nazi race laws and the Holocaust.
In the wake of the attacks, Schult wrote an article in which he describes how he defines friendship with Israel, friendship in which there is also room for variety and criticism. I am happy to share the link to the op-ed with you: