German minister ignores antisemitism at ‘anti-Israel' Jewish museum

There were also calls for new museum leadership.

The Jewish museum in Berlin (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/NATHANIEL SAMSON)
The Jewish museum in Berlin
Experts in the field of antisemitism in America, Israel and Germany have accused Monika Grütters, the German federal minister for culture and media, of ignoring a series of alleged antisemitic scandals at Berlin’s Jewish museum.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post by telephone on Thursday that “the cultural minister is not doing her job,” and needs to “demand the removal of the leadership at the museum.”
The journalist and author Henryk M. Broder, Germany’s leading authority on contemporary antisemitism, termed the publicly funded museum an “anti-Israel propaganda institution.”
Writing on The Axis of Good journalist website, Broder said “Even the patron of the museum, Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, is not amused, but maintains the fiction that ‘the Jewish Museum Berlin neither actively supports the BDS movement nor does it provide the declared enemies of Israel with a stage.’”
On the museum’s anti-Israel activities, Broder noted that “Many have known it for a while, and others slowly came to realize it.”
The museum and its embattled director, Peter Schäfer, have been under fire over the last week for a Tweet that appeared to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel.
The museum tweeted to its 7,510 followers last Thursday: “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, a paper that has been engulfed in Jew-hatred scandals over the years.
“The Berlin Jewish Museum’s involvement in BDS and demonization highlights the wider problem of mixing politics – in this case, a radical anti-Israel agenda – with Germany’s attempt to deal with its post-Holocaust Jewish issues,” Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, told the Post on Thursday. “In my view, museums and similar institutions should be entirely under the direction of the Jewish community, without governmental appointments, and far away from trendy NGO-led demonization and BDS. A complete reorganization is overdue.”
Steinberg first coined the phrase “anti-Jewish museum” to describe the Berlin museum’s anti-Israel activities dating to 2012, when the museum hosted the pro-BDS academic Judith Butler.
Besides promoting BDS at the museum in 2012, Butler 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.
Schäfer, the non-Jewish director of the Jewish Museum, hosted a diplomat from the Islamic Republic of Iran in March, sparking widespread criticism for mainstreaming the Iranian regime’s genocidal antisemitism. The Iranian regime representative launched an antisemitic tirade against the Jewish state, and Schäfer did not object at the time to the attack on Israel in the museum.
“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.
Numerous requests sent to museum spokeswoman Katharina Schmidt-Narischki went unanswered.
Schäfer answered a question from the magazine Der Spiegel on Thursday on whether the museum is, in fact, a Jewish museum. Der Spiegel cited the Jerusalem Post article quoting Uwe Becker, commissioner of the Hessian federal state government for Jewish life and the fight against antisemitism, who said: “This is not a Jewish but an anti-Jewish Museum.”
Schäfer told Spiegel that “Jewish in the title expresses that it is about Judaism. It deals with history, culture and religion of Judaism in Germany, from the beginning to the present. That’s what is Jewish about it. The Jewish is not that we claim to be a Jewish institution in the sense that we belong to the Jewish community and we are its mouthpiece.”
Writing in the German Jewish weekly Jüdische Allgemeine, Philipp Peyman Engel said that during Schäfer’s five-year term, the reputation of the museum has suffered.
“So far, however, the Foundation Council of the museum has remained strangely passive, most notably cultural minister Monika Grütters, who as the chairperson of the foundation recently welcomed an extension of Schäfer’s contract,” Engel wrote.
Under the headline: “Mrs. Grütters, take over!”, Engel urged Grütters to take action. “Grütters must finally draw consequences from the anti-Israeli direction of the museum,” he wrote. “Anything else would be a slap in the face of the Jewish community.” He called for new personnel changes at the museum and an end to the Schäfer period.
Hagen Philipp Wolf, a spokesman for Grütters, told the Post: “The supervisory committee will once again critically question the way the museum deals with the subject and demand a more sensitive approach.”
Wolf denied that Grütters was not taking seriously the allegations that the museum is stoking the antisemitic BDS campaign, saying “Grütters has publicly and repeatedly condemned boycott calls [against Israel], and clearly and unequivocally positioned herself against the BDS movement’s attempts to question Israel’s right to exist.”
B’nai B’rith International, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and the State of Israel have all blasted the museum’s management over the last week for its anti-Israel activities.
Volker Beck, a Green Party politician, sharply criticized the obscure left-wing journalist Jannis Hagmann, who wrote the pro-BDS taz article that the museum tweeted. Beck told the Post that Hagmann is “a notorious anti-Israel author at taz.” Hagmann did not immediately respond to a Post email and telephone call.