German Model Aircraft Manufacturer Herpa Apologizes for Negative Reference to ‘Zionism’ in Magazine Article
The German company Herpa, the world’s leading manufacturer of quality model airplanes, has apologized for an article in its monthly magazine, WingsWorld, which included hostile references to Zionism.
As The Algemeiner reported on Tuesday, the article, which focused on Israel’s national airline El Al, contained a section which discussed the hijacking of El Al planes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1960s, and which was introduced with the following sentence: “The conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, who have been experiencing the Jewish settlement of Palestine backed by US patronage of Zionism to this day as a violent, illegal occupation and eviction, increased significantly.”
The piece then went on to examine the hijackings carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, including the following observation: “The terror of the PFLP and many other organizations didn’t remain restricted to El Al, and has its bitter climax with the events of ‘9-11″².”
WingsWorld is marketed to model airplane collectors and includes large numbers of children among its readers.
Following a complaint to Herpa by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations for the Jewish advocacy organization, spoke directly with Walter Wehr, Herpa’s General Manager for Sales and Production. Samuels told The Algemeiner that Wehr had assured him that a full apology would be published on the company’s website, that the offending sentences would be removed from the online version of the article, and that the company would now start visibly listing the El Al replica models it sells from its online shop. Samuels had expressed concern that the absence of El Al from a menu listing the different airline models available from Herpa gave the impression of a boycott of Israel.
“I welcome Herpa’s willingness to acknowledge the problem and apologize,” said Samuels. “What this episode demonstrates, however, is the ease with which antisemitic perceptions of Israel can be circulated, and the consequent need to educate against such manifestations. It’s almost as if the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ provoke a viscerally hostile reaction, even in the most innocent of contexts, like model airplanes.”
Samuels added that he warned Wehr that failure to publish the apology by Tuesday October 28, the deadline agreed during their conversation, would result in a “wave of protest” from Jewish organizations. Samuels also pledged to raise the issue at a forthcoming conference in Berlin marking the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Declaration on antisemitism issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in April 2004.
In a separate letter sent to The Algemeiner signed by Wehr and his colleagues Werner Kuhn and WingsWorld editor Thomas Borgmann, the company stated: “We were not aware that the quoted sentences would lead to any misconceptions or could be placed into a wrong context. For this we deeply apologize.”
The letter added that the “sole goal” of the article was to “recognize the achievements of the airline El Al without any defamatory or anti-Semitic intentions whatsoever.”