Main building of the University of Hamburg..
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/MERLIN SENGER)
The University of Hamburg’s appointment of a guest professor who teaches Islamic theology sparked a row on Monday. The professor in question reportedly supports BDS and helped raise funds for the PFLP terrorist organization.
The South African academic Farid Esack, who is a leading board member of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement in his country, welcomed his “comrade” plane hijacker Leila Khaled, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at a fund-raiser in 2015.
Israel’s embassy in Berlin told The Jerusalem Post
on Monday: “This is a man who expressed antisemitic statements, and who is sympathetic to Holocaust denial. A person with such views has no place as an educator in a university, in particular not in Germany; due to both professional as well as moral and probably also legal reasons.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, added similar comments. “A person who is sponsoring an unrepentant terrorist is hardly a person who should be educating German students,” he told Post
on Wednesday. Zuroff, who oversees the center’s Jerusalem office, added that “BDS is a form of antisemitism.”
The PFLP has been designated by the US and the EU as a terrorist organization.
Khaled was part of a terrorist cell that hijacked American TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv, diverting the aircraft to Damascus on August 29, 1969. A year later, she participated in the hijacking of EL AL Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York City, forcing the aircraft to London’s Heathrow.
Carsten Ovens, the scientific spokesman of the Christian Democratic Union party in Hamburg, told the Die Welt newspaper on Monday: “Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called on not to buy from Jews.”
The first stage of the Holocaust was the boycott movement against Jewish businesses.
Ovens said Esack is not academically fit to teach at the University of Hamburg. Esack has compared Israel’s government to that of Nazi Germany on his Facebook page. He also called former president Shimon Peres a “terrorist.”
Daniel Killy, the spokesman for Hamburg’s Jewish community, told the Post
on Wednesday: “It should be clear to everyone of good will that Israel-hatred is antisemitism. The fact that an official from a German university is defending Esack’s views and that he is appointed guest professor at the University of Hamburg is a shame and a blatant whitewashing of a terrible demagogue.”
Hamburg’s Blue Mosque, which is supported by the Iranian regime, is currently hosting Esack as a speaker. The Iran-sponsored Islamic Center in Hamburg, which is part of the Blue Mosque compound, often hosts BDS events in Germany, and calls for the destruction of Israel at Tehran’s annual Al-Quds day at the end of Ramadan.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party classified the BDS movement as antisemitic at its 2016 party congress.
Esack has argued that “the idea of an Islamic State in Germany must be allowed to be represented.” He is also on a tour in Germany, and spoke at the University of Freiburg in January.
Khaled spoke last year at the Austrian-Arab Cultural Center, which has since had its bank account closed. The center’s support of Khaled and the group’s advocacy for the boycott movement played a role in the termination of its bank account.
Merel Neuheuser, a spokeswoman for the University of Hamburg, told the Post
: “Universities are places of free expression and free opinion-forming. However, the University of Hamburg does not tolerate the issuing of racist or antisemitic remarks in teaching. There is, at the present, no indication that Professor Esack has made any antisemitic remarks in the courses he taught at the university. According to the Hamburg Higher Education Act, guest professors serve at the will of the university’s individual faculties; the choice of Professor Esack for the guest professorship at hand is subject to the [university’s] Academy of World Religions. The university’s administration will thus not comment on the academy’s choice of Professor Esack as a guest professor.”
The university did not immediately reply to a Post query on Esack’s fund-raising for the PFLP and whether the group is a terrorist organization.
The Academy of World Religions has defended Esack’s appointment. He has taught at the university since October and is slated to return to South Africa in February. Hamburg’s city hall canceled an event with Esack because of “administrative reasons.”