Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio slammed the German Max Planck Institute on Sunday for providing a platform to the pro-Hezbollah activist Norman Finkelstein, who is slated to give a talk sympathetic to Hamas at the organization in the city of Halle.
“It’s shameful that the Max Planck Institute will give a platform to the anti-Israel author Norman Finkelstein, a supporter of the terrorist group Hezbollah,” Rubio, a former presidential candidate, told The Jerusalem Post.
The Max Planck Institute has been engulfed in an antisemitic and pro-terror ideology scandal for a week because of its invitation to Finkelstein, an American activist who has ridiculed the Holocaust and is popular among neo-Nazis.
“I am greatly disturbed that the Max Planck Institute in Halle, Germany, would sponsor a speaker who would minimize the Holocaust and support Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations. If the Max Planck Institute in Palm Beach County, with our large Jewish population, including many Holocaust survivors, were to host someone with such beliefs, it would be considered highly offensive and totally outrageous,” Commissioner Steven L. Abrams, from the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, told the Post.
“In fact, given the good relationship the county has with the local institute, I venture to say that inviting Norman Finkelstein to speak on campus would never even be considered. So one wonders why the Max Planck Institute would enable him to appear at another of its venues,” he added.
“In 2008, Palm Beach County approved the allocation of $86.9 million to the Max Planck Florida Institute to build and operate a 100,000 sq. ft. biomedical research facility on the campus of Florida Atlantic University. The county has paid all but the last payment of $5.3m., which is due November 2017,” Abrams continued.
Audrey Goff, a spokeswoman for the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter, told the Post: “The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience focuses on neuroscience research and does not work in the field of anthropology... institute leadership is only responsible for decisions on the speakers we host locally, and is not involved with whom other Max Planck Institutes host.”
It is unclear if the Monday talk by Finkelstein titled “Gaza; an inquest into its martyrdom” will affect Max Planck’s funding streams in the US. Finkelstein is banned from entering Israel for ten years because of his advocacy for Hezbollah – a US and EU-classified terrorist organization.
His pro-Hamas talk has also raised eyebrows because the Palestinian Hamas movement has also been classified as a terrorist organization.
The institute said on its website: “The MPI invited Finkelstein because he engages with issues that are highly relevant for anthropology in today’s globalized context and are also central for the scientific work of our institute, where the vast majority of doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers investigate situations of structural injustice around the world and competition for survival in our globalized societies – situations which are often accompanied by violence.
“Today, scientists from more than 100 nations work at the Max Planck Society as well as at our institute, the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. Seventy years after the Holocaust, employees with a Jewish background are now active at Max Planck, too. It is a place where people of different religions, nations, sex and skin color work together on key issues relevant to our society and our future,” the institute added.
“Norman Finkelstein has been criticized for years for his antisemitic theses,” Petra Pau, a Bundestag deputy and vice president of the Left Party, told the Post. She added that because of his “relativization of the Holocaust, he is the chief witness for those who deny the Holocaust.”
Pau, who combats antisemitism and neo-Nazism in Germany, said the Max Planck personnel who are giving him a platform should be aware of Finkelstein’s views.
Finkelstein has written previously that “the honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah, as the United States and Israel target it for liquidation. Indeed, looking back, my chief regret is that I wasn’t even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack.”
Robert Fietzke, a spokesman for the Left Party’s youth organization Linksjugend in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where Halle’s MPI is located, said, “The MPI should immediately cancel the event with Finkelstein.”
The MPI invited “one of the most influential anti-Zionists...who has gained popularity in this country because of his deeply conspiratorial work, the Holocaust industry, in which he accuses Jews of enriching themselves because of their persecution and physical destruction by the Nazis,” he added.
Multiple phone calls and emails to Dr. Martin Stratmann, president of the Max Planck Society, were not returned. The tiny Jewish community in Halle told the Post that it hopes the institute will cancel Finkelstein’s talk. American Jewish organizations – such as the AJC and the Simon Wiesenthal Center – sharply criticized Max Planck for its invitation to Finkelstein.
Michaela Engelmeier, a politician in the Social Democratic Party, urged the MPI to pull the plug on Finkelstein’s talk.
The group “Halle against right-wing extremism” and the anti-fascist student group at the University of Halle are slated to protest Finkelstein’s talk.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) told the Post on Monday: “For a prestigious global institute that produces significant scientific advancements right here in South Florida, I’m appalled and disgusted that Max Planck would welcome someone who has expressed solidarity with a terrorist group set on Israel’s destruction.”