The Jewish museum in Berlin.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/NATHANIEL SAMSON)
The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum, Peter Schäfer, announced his resignation on Friday “to avoid further damage,” a week after The Jerusalem Post first reported that the institution endorsed the BDS campaign on the museum’s Twitter feed.
“All those responsible must help ensure that the Jewish Museum Berlin can again concentrate on its important work in terms of content,” German Culture Minister Monika Grütters, who oversees the board of the museum foundation, said on Friday. Schäfer’s deputy, Martin Michaelis, will assume responsibility for running the museum until a successor can be hired.
Pressure to remove Schäfer grew over the past week, and experts in the field of antisemitism told the Post
that they implored Grütters to take action against Schäfer and the antisemitism scandals at the museum.
“What’s crucial now is for the museum to identify leadership that commits to professionalism and the truth of sharing the long and rich Jewish life of Germany,” B’nai B’rith International president Charles O. Kaufman, who sent a letter last week to Schäfer about the museum’s anti-Israel direction, told the Post on Friday. “This museum must earn the name Jewish Museum, and in doing so, earn the trust of the country, Europe and all visitors from around the world. It must not immerse itself in politicizing history, stooping to propaganda, and worse, revisionism.”
British journalist Tom Gross was invited to tour the museum by Schäfer’s office last year and expressed his dismay afterward at some of the anti-Israel political aspects he saw.
“The important thing now, since the museum is currently replacing its permanent exhibit, due to reopen next year, is to make sure Schäfer’s replacement is someone who is more interested in remembering the enormous contributions of Berlin’s Jews to German and world history, and in accurately explaining the sheer sadistic horrors of the Holocaust, rather than engage in anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, extreme left-wing posturing,” Gross told the Post.
Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin, spokeswoman for the museum, was summarily dismissed, according to a Munich-based media outlet. The paper reported that she had written the anti-Israel tweet.
The Post asked Schmidt-Narischkin numerous times last week for a comment, but she declined to respond. The museum is widely considered a hot-bed of anti-Israel resentments.
“Enough is enough,” said Dr. Josef Schuster, president of the nearly 100,000-member Central Council of Jews in Germany. “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.”
His comments came after the museum tweeted an article from a left-wing Berlin-based paper calling on the Bundestag to reverse its anti-BDS resolution, which classified BDS as antisemitism.
The council added that the museum’s management “has lost the trust of the Jewish community in Germany.”
Schuster said on Friday that Schäfer’s decision to toss in the towel was “an important step.”
Schäfer has been facing criticism over the years for promoting a one-sided exhibit on Jerusalem that plays down the role of Jews in the city, according to critics. In March, Schäfer invited the antisemitic Iranian regime diplomat Seyed Ali Moujani to the museum. Ali Moujani used the meeting to promote the view that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Schäfer regretted the interaction last week, but in March he welcomed the anti-Israel tirade against the Jewish state.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, first coined the phrase the “anti-Jewish Museum” in 2012 in connection with the institution hosting the pro-BDS academic Judith Butler, who promoted BDS at the museum in 2012, after 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 at the time.
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