The philosemitic Delusions of Sascha Lobo

German star columnist and blogger is mindlessly repeating Israeli propaganda about antisemitism and Palestine


Nuremberg, 2015: 400 audience members await the star speaker for the Forum Wellpappe at the Fachpack 2015, the annual conference of the German packaging industry. The guest speaker of the Corrugated Cardboard Association is Sascha Lobo, Germany’s digital expert, internet explainer, and “alpha blogger” about to enlighten manufacturers of corrugated cardboard why they need to be ready for the digital economy. The then 40-year old is still a sought after speaker for anything digital. He is the most prominent voice in Germany making a living of explaining to virtually anyone who will hire him the pitfalls and opportunities of the digital age. 

His appearance is rather unassuming. He could easily be mistaken for the president of the local community garden association if it weren’t for his trademark haircut, a pink-red mohawk. Extravagant personal branding seems to have always been the modus operandi of Lobo. Contemporaries of his younger years recount that he used to show up to parties with sunglasses on his face, fox pelt around his neck and cucumber in hand. The fox pelt to stand out, the cucumber as a prop to strike up conversations; whether it worked is not clear. After a brief stint as an unsuccessful digital advertising and PR-agency owner in the early 2000s, Lobo became a freelance marketing and strategy consultant, public speaker and book author. Since 2011 he is also a columnist for Der Spiegel, Germany’s biggest weekly news magazine, explaining the digital world to its readers.

In his role as columnist, Lobo slowly transitioned from a master of the digital to a jack of all trades as he began to write about anything that crossed his mind, often with a lot less or no expertise at all. No topic makes this more evident than the ten columns he has so far penned on Israel and Gaza since the 7th of October attack by Hamas. In short, his utterances and arguments are a string of copy and paste jobs of press releases from Israeli military or government spokespeople, decades old ahistorical and long disproven talking points gathered together from pamphlets of the Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft or the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, and an imagined Israel that only exists in a German happy-end-fantasy-world. In fact, there is no evidence that Lobo has ever engaged meaningfully with any scholarship or literature other than those sanctioned by the German state. 

In his first piece after the 7th October, he appeals to his readers that the attack on Israel does not need to be contextualised, and if they are in favour of BLM and against the AfD they also ought to support Israel unconditionally. Yet, the same piece argues that the growing extremism in Israeli society is caused by the permanent threat of Palestinian rocket attacks and not, for example, by the militarism required to maintain a 57-year occupation. The obvious question his own claim raises is one that is never asked, and much less answered: If the radicalisation of Israeli society is supposed to be the result of Palestinian attacks, then what forms of radicalisation would a decades long occupation and the creation of a ghetto cause among its victims? 

For Lobo it is clear: the hatred and violence displayed by Israelis and the state of Israel is a result of historical, geographical, and material conditions. The hate Palestinians have for Israel is inherent to who they are, it is part of their innateness and therefore unjustified bigotry. This becomes most apparent as every act of Palestinian resistance to occupation, peaceful or otherwise, is framed as being first and foremost motivated by a hatred of Jews, and therefore irrational, instead of a rational hatred for the occupation and those who enforce it.

The column titled “Hamas-Propaganda of Omission” devotes itself to the Palestinian victims of Israel’s attack on Gaza not in an empathetic way, but in one that questions the validity of the number of victims reported by the Gazan Health Ministry. While Lobo avoids openly calling the numbers false or fabricated, he instead frames the numbers of Palestinian casualties as Hamas propaganda which should not be trusted. However, in an unsurprising twist, the piece omits that the Gazan Health Ministry has been judged a reliable source not only by the UN and all major human rights groups for a long time, but by Israeli intelligence itself.

The same piece argues that the cutting off of water and electricity to Gaza by Israel is not a form of collective punishment or war crime, but merely a withdrawal of goodwill and voluntary help on the side of Israel to supply Gaza with water prior to the 7th of October. Because, according to Lobo’s expertise on the matter, Israel is not liable for the supply of water to Gaza despite the fact that Israel is the internationally recognised occupying force in control of the water supply. In fact, Israel is the internationally recognised occupying force in control of every aspect of life in Gaza and the West Bank. Ironically, through omission of well established facts, Lobo manages to convince himself that others are guilty of the propaganda of omission. It appears that every accusation he makes inadvertently turns into an unintended admission on his part. 

His most misanthropic column appeared in mid-February 2024, when in the midst of the Israel-made humanitarian catastrophe and emerging famine in Gaza, Lobo demanded the disbanding of UNRWA under the exasperated headline “Disband the Palestinian Relief Agency Already”. In it, he attests UNRWA to have overlapping interests with Hamas, although which interests exactly seems to be unclear. Neither does he provide evidence, except that of the notorious pro-Israel lobby group UN-Watch. He seems to care little that UNRWA is the only organisation in Gaza capable of stemming the tide of famine and further mass deaths if equipped appropriately and not targeted by the Israeli military. Lobo’s main grudge against UNRWA is that it is an institution which keeps the legal claims to the land by Palestinian refugees alive. 

If it were up to him, UNRWA would help Palestinian refugees assimilate into the societies of the surrounding states. Since Palestine is not an officially recognised state, Palestinians do not have an official passport which could prove their national identity. Admittedly, the Palestinian Authority does issue passports but they are essentially glorified travel permits which are only given to residents of Gaza and the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), granted they also have an Israeli issued ID. Without UNRWA, there is no internationally recognised body attesting that Palestinians as a whole exist. While the motivation behind Lobo’s demand to disband UNRWA might be superficially different from that of Netanyahu, the result will be what Netanyahu intends, the cultural destruction of the Palestinian diaspora as a recognised national group with legal rights and claims. To make matters worse, Lobo decided to publish this piece two weeks after the International Court of Justice ruled that there is a plausible case for genocide occuring in Gaza and therefore ordered Israel to implement measure for its prevention.

According to Lobo, anyone who points this out is motivated by antisemitism. Antisemitism is the driving force of Palestinian resistance to their occupation and victimisation. It is also the driving force of anyone who dares to demand the humanity and universal rights of Palestinians. Hence, Lobo has become over the last six months not only an expert on Palestine and Israel, but also on antisemitism. If someone sees antisemitism as the key motivator of every social phenomenon relating to Palestine, then antisemitism is everywhere, as Lobo assures his readers is the case:

“Hatred of Jews manages the incredible feat of hiding everywhere and appearing quite openly at the same time. New variants are constantly being added and ancient Jew-hatred practices are being reinterpreted: Nazi anti-Semitism, Islamist anti-Semitism, right-wing anti-Semitism, left-wing anti-Semitism, Christian anti-Semitism, Muslim anti-Semitism, ethnic anti-Semitism, post-colonial anti-Semitism, bourgeois anti-Semitism, woke anti-Semitism, conspiracy theory anti-Semitism, vulgar anti-capitalist antisemitism, pseudo-anti-racist anti-Semitism, intellectual anti-Semitism, accepting anti-Semitism, self-exoneration anti-Semitism and, among many others, the currently largest movement: Israel-related anti-Semitism. Often enriched with a new, well-known annihilative anti-Semitism.”

This proclamation does not only fearmonger an already anxious Jewish community, it also downplays right-wing antisemitism as merely one of a myriad of forms of antisemitism, despite it being by far the most common and violent form of antisemitism in Germany. Ultimately, this list is nothing but an admission that Lobo is willing to use Jewish fears and suffering to weaponize antisemitism for any issue that irks him, justified or not. 

Engaging with Lobo’s post 7th October oeuvre, it becomes clear that his primary objective is not the care for Jewish life, but protecting Israel from criticism. Lobo shows throughout his writing and podcast appearances that he seems to be incapable of distinguishing between Jews as individuals or communities and the state of Israel. It isn’t even clear if he acknowledges the existence of anti-zionist Jews. He betrays a worldview in which he projects the real, catastrophic victimisation of Europe’s Jews onto Israel, a nuclear armed state and regional military goliath. With this, he proclaims it as the victim no matter the circumstance, using his favourite phrase Täter-Opfer-Umkehr (perpetrator-victim-reversal). 

Two years before his death in 1969, Theodor Adorno attested that in German post-war society (he called it “post-hitlerian Germany”, although he was not entirely convinced by the truthfulness of his phrase) the philosemitism it developed in the wake of the Holocaust was nothing but the continuation of antisemitism, as it kept alive the dehumanisation of Jews. It is this philosemitism, the dehumanisation of Jews by elevating them to one dimensional, higher status objects who deserve protection because they are Jews and not because they are human beings, which is the metanarrative of Lobo’s writing. In fact this philosemitism is the metanarrative of most of the discourse on Palestine and Israel emanating from the German mainstream, and has replaced universalist values with particularist ones under the guise of fighting antisemitism. 

As a result, it not only positions Israel as the equivalent and sum of all Jews, but as a state under constant threat from annihilation, (i.e. another Holocaust) and in doing so justifies not only Israel’s existance as an ethnostate, but the inherent violence of such a state. The assumption that Jews can only be safe in an ethnostate that metes out violence onto others is an implicit and, from Lobo’s worldview where Israel is the eternal victim, paradoxical admission that Jews can only be safe if they become perpetrators of mass violence themselves. Yet, this mass violence has to be denied or whitewashed so as not to jeopardise the safety of Jews everywhere else and to uphold the victim status of a nuclear military power. A vicious, deadly cycle that leaves no soul unscathed. 

The acceptance of this cycle is slowly crumbling among western publics. In the global south it was never really accepted in the first place. Even in Germany, only two groups oppose putting pressure on Israel to end its war against Gaza, the proto-fascist AfD including its supporters, and liberal politics and media Meinungsmacher (thoughtleaders). Sascha Lobo is the archetype of those so-called liberals who pride themselves on their supposed anti-fascist, anti-racist and pro-LGBTQ+ credentials at home, yet increasingly turn fanatical in their support of Israel abroad. They deny the crimes of the Israeli regime while paradoxically demanding more in the name of fighting antisemitism. This is the obvious endpoint of a misguided and ultimately reactionary memory culture, which chooses particularism when it should have chosen universalism, and instead ends up cheering on genocide as the latest ritual of liberal Holocaust atonement.