The Economist and its "Auschwitz Complex"

Does the Economist really think the sun never sets on the Israeli "empire"?

Daniel Schwammenthal
On 14 March 2012 16:43

The perpetrators and victims can be both named. Whenever Israel made concessions toward peace, Palestinian terrorists, with more than an approving wink from Yasser Arafat at the time, chose to murder Israeli men, women and children in buses, pizza parlors and Passover gatherings. The Economist does eventually mention Palestinian terrorism, however not to condemn it, but rather Israel. The Jewish state apparently did not show enough “restraint,” i.e. willingness to have its people butchered. According to the Economist’s logic, Israeli self-defense is evidence that Israel is not “truly interested in progress towards a two-state solution.”

The article then turns to its other main theme, Iran. Without feeling the need to cite even a shred of evidence, M.S. declares that the Iranian threat to Israel is both “overstated” and militarily impregnable. Instead of real news analysis, the Economist offers pseudo psychoanalysis:

“Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran… Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite.”

In other words, Israel’s concerns are part pathological (psychological displacement), part cabal, as in “ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook.”

It takes a twisted mind to accuse Israel of paranoia and devious scheming with respect to Iran in light of the abundance of evidence that the regime in Tehran is indeed a serious danger to Israel.

Just a brief recap for our friends at St James's Street: The Islamic Republic has made violent anti-Semitism part of its state policy; is led by religious fanatics who believe that the return of a Shia messianic figure could be triggered by an apocalyptic event; arms, funds and trains Israel’s enemies; killed Israeli diplomats and Jews abroad; repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel; and openly muses about how many nuclear bombs would be needed to make good on these threats while developing such weapons.

Betraying their profound ignorance, the author and his/her editors can’t even insult Israelis “correctly.” The article concludes by accusing Mr. Netanyahu of a “Ghetto mentality” for what the Economist considers reckless saber rattling over Iran’s nuclear program. But “Ghetto mentality” has the exact opposite meaning, used to denigrate Jews who supposedly try to appease their enemies by laying low.

If this were just your run-of-the-mill radical right- or left-wing rag, where you normally would expect to read such anti-Israel rants, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But the Economist “is read by more of the world's political and business leaders than any other magazine,” the newspaper boasts. And a week after its publication, the column is still the magazine’s most recommended and commented piece online.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Economist changed the headline “Auschwitz complex” to “Masters of their fate?” with an editor’s note stating that “[T]he original headline of this blog post was inappropriate and has been changed at the instruction of the editor in chief. No offence was intended and we apologise unreservedly.” That’s a start, but unfortunately the entire article is inappropriate and offensive, requiring an unreserved apology.

In some ways, this half-hearted retreat makes matters even worse. The editor in chief himself takes a second, careful look and still finds nothing objectionable with the body of the text. The Economist now truly owns this gem.

Daniel Schwammenthal, formerly a comment page writer and editor at the Wall Street Journal Europe, is the Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. You can follow his work on

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