German Jews say Jewish Museum “out of control” due to BDS support

Calls for possible dropping of ‘Jewish’ in museum’s name.

By
June 11, 2019 20:12
4 minute read.
THE JEWISH MUSEUM BERLIN, once known as the City of Berlin Museum.

THE JEWISH MUSEUM BERLIN, once known as the City of Berlin Museum. (photo credit: BECKY FRANK)

 
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The Central Council of Jews in Germany launched stinging criticism on Tuesday against the Jewish Museum in Berlin for its alleged endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

“Enough is enough. The Jewish Museum Berlin seems to be completely out of control. Under these circumstances, one has to think about whether the term ‘Jewish’ is still appropriate,” tweeted the nearly 100,000 member group. The council added that the museum’s management “has lost the trust of the Jewish community in Germany.”

The heated tweet appears to be the first openly sharp attack on an embattled management at the museum from the normally reserved Central Council.

The council added that the museum’s direction raises the question of whether executive director Peter Schäfer is fit for his role. It also questioned “who actually sets the guidelines of the Jewish Museum.” That appears to be an indirect reference to Monika Grütters, the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media, who retains final supervision of the museum, and has not been able to rope in the anti-Israel and pro-Iranian regime activity conducted by Schäfer, who is not Jewish, and his staff.

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, tweeted: "I stand with my friends at the Central Council. Their leadership is crucial in Germany."

The intense criticism directed at Schäfer’s alleged anti-Israel and anti-Jewish direction of the museum comes in response to a pro-BDS tweet from the publicly-funded Jewish Museum on Thursday. The museum appeared to endorse an article in favor of reversing an anti-BDS resolution passed by the German parliament last month.

The museum tweeted to its 7,510 followers: “Must read. The [anti-BDS resolution recently passed by Bundestag] decision of the parliamentarians does not continue to help in the fight against antisemitism: @tazgezwitscher on the accusation of 240 Jewish and Israeli academics to the Bundestag.”

The museum’s tweet linked to an article sympathetic to the BDS movement that appeared in the left-wing paper taz, which has been engulfed in antisemitism scandals over the years. The 240 Israeli and Jewish researchers opposed the anti-BDS measure. The museum is publicly funded.

On Sunday, Uwe Becker, commissioner of the Hessian federal state government for Jewish life and the fight against antisemitism, blasted Berlin’s Jewish Museum for stoking an antisemitic boycott of the Jewish state.

In a written statement to The Jerusalem Post, Becker said that “The Jewish Museum in Berlin obviously sees as its task to take a stand against Jewish life in our country and especially against Israel. The recent support for BDS is a disgrace! After a total single-sided exhibition about Jerusalem, now another scandal. This is not a Jewish but an anti-Jewish Museum.”


Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin, a spokeswoman for the museum, did not immediately respond to a Post query regarding the new wave of criticism facing the museum. She has defended the ostensible pro-BDS tweet, refusing to say who authored it.

Professor Gerald Steinberg, the president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, first coined the phrase the “anti-Jewish Museum” in 2012 in connection with the museum hosting the pro-BDS academic Judith Butler. She promoted BDS at the museum in 2012, earlier having expressed support for the terrorist entities Hezbollah and Hamas in 2006: “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important,” said Butler.

The Jewish Museum has been viewed by critics over the years as a hot bed of anti-Israel activity.

The Post obtained a letter from Charles O. Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, to Peter Schäfer.

“It appears that the German propaganda machine of the 1930s lives,” Kaufman wrote on Sunday in the letter. “I became aware of your anti-Israel mission with your recent ‘Welcome to Jerusalem’ exhibit, an utter distortion of the capital of the Jewish State. Now with its pro-BDS message to Twitter followers, the Jewish Berlin Museum becomes the leading contender to be renamed the Insult to Injury Museum.

“This latest action from the ‘Jewish Berlin Museum’ is ridiculous, if not shameful. BDS is an antisemitic movement that demonizes Israel [and] Jews, and seeks to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Economic data shows that the BDS movement actually harms, not helps, the plight of the Palestinian people. It’s sad that this museum so miserably misses the mark time and again in telling the story of the Jewish people. Its work not only serves as an insult to Jews; it’s an insult to the intelligence of the German people.”

In March, Schäfer hosted a diplomat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, sparking widespread criticism for mainstreaming the Iranian regime’s genocidal antisemitism.

“With the invitation, the Jewish Museum gives the Iranian Embassy the opportunity to make its antisemitic anti-Zionism part of the public debate,” said Stop The Bomb spokeswoman Ulrike Becker at the time.

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