BDS activists in Berlin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, announced on Tuesday that he will not attend the Ruhrtriennale arts and music festival because it has not separated itself from advocacy of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting the Jewish state.
Laschet, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party, defended his decision to stay away from the festival, writing on Twitter: “The German Bundestag called for in rare unanimity to ‘decisively counter’ those who want to boycott Israel culturally and academically. The antisemitic motivation of the so-called BDS movement demands a position from everybody, also from the arts.”
The Bild daily newspaper reported that Laschet canceled his appearance at the festival that runs from August 17 to September 30 because the director of the Ruhrtriennale, Stefanie Carp, re-invited the Scottish band Young Fathers that supports BDS.
Carp’s pro-Palestinian positions have catapulted the festival in the city of Bochum into a growing antisemitism scandal over the last few months, according to critics.
In July, Carp told a cultural committee in the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia that the BDS campaign against Israel is not antisemitic but merely fights for the “right of Palestine to exist.”
German taxpayers finance the annual Ruhrtriennale.
According to the WAZ newspaper, Laschet is slated to visit Israel in September. The governor does not view artistic freedom as protecting antisemitic actions or the right to deny Israel’s existence, wrote WAZ. Carp plans to hold a podium discussion with pro-BDS speakers at the festival. Malca Goldstein-Wolf, a prominent German Jewish activist who campaigns against BDS, wrote on her Twitter feed on Wednesday that Laschet’s boycott of the Ruhrtrienalle can be viewed as a “partial victory.” Goldstein-Wolf, who lives in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, added, “That alone, however, is not enough. The Ruhrtrienalle director [Stefanie Carp] must go!”
The Jerusalem Post reported that two newly-released German intelligence reports equated boycotts of Israel to the Hitler-era’s “Don’t buy from Jews!” campaign. The neo-Nazi party The Third Way and scores of pro-Palestinian and radical Islamic organizations in Germany support BDS.
The Bank of Social Economy, which is situated in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has also faced withering criticism and loss of business because it enables numerous groups to raise funds for BDS activities. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, along with US Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have urged the bank to pull the plug on its pro-BDS business. German and American Jewish organizations have also demanded that the bank sever its ties with BDS groups.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is considering including the bank’s top management team – Harald Schmitz, Oliver Luckner and Thomas Kahleis – in its 2018 list for the worst outbreaks of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity. Schmitz has defended the bank’s enabling of BDS. The Jewish National Fund in Germany announced that it will cancel its account with the bank if the Cologne-based financial institution does end its support of BDS. The German branch of Keren Hayesod-UIA (United Israel Appeal) is winding down its business with the bank due to the bank’s anti-Israel activity. The German LGBT organization Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation terminated its account with the bank to protest its BDS positions.
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