Germany: Israeli academic expelled over settlement ties

German Mideast association expels Iran expert; Israeli Embassy, Jewish community, and German scholars slam academic for boycott.

September 7, 2011 13:06
View of Ariel

Ariel 521. (photo credit: Joanna Paraszczuk)

BERLIN - An Israeli academic was expelled from a slated October conference because his affiliation with an academic institution located in the settlement of Ariel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Over the weekend Ronen A. Cohen, an expert on modern Iran received an Email banning him from participation in the 18th International Congress of DAVO in Berlin on October 6-8, “It is not acceptable that a representative of an illegally established Israeli university in the occupied territories is participating in this conference,” wrote Dr. Günter Meyer, who chairs the German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation.

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“The settlement of Ariel represents a clear violation of international law. This cannot be tolerated by DAVO,” wrote Meyer.

According to the DAVO program Cohen was listed to speak on “The Iranian Hojjatiyeh—an Anti-Baha'i Sect—The Real Followers of the Mahdi.”

Cohen, who is presently in Israel, told the Post during a telephone interview that “I represent myself.”

He added, “I am not going there to give a talk about Ariel, about the territories or the Israel-Palestinian situation.”

It is “unfair to mix politics with the academy” and wants to “present his research,” said Cohen who is affiliated with the Ariel University Center of Samaria.

In the past, he said, when there was an attempt to exclude him from delivering a paper in Los Angeles, defenders of academic freedom resisted the boycott effort.

“In Europe it is different,” said Cohen.

News of the Email unleashed a storm of criticism from Israel's Embassy in Berlin, the city's Jewish community, the University of Mainz, and German academics.

The embassy “strongly opposes the boycott of an Israeli researcher based on his academic affiliation. Such a boycott does not contribute to academic freedom,” said Emmanuel Nahshon, the deputy chief of mission for Israel's Embassy in Germany.

Dr. Peter Waldmann, who heads the Jewish community in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate where DAVO is located compared Meyer's actions with the Nazis in the 1930s who expelled Jewish academics from universities.

He charged that Meyer was an anti-Zionist who applied a double standard by inviting professors from the Arab world to the conference even though they are from countries that violate human rights.

The local Jewish community finds Meyer's decision to be "extraordinarily problematic, a political catastrophe, and very , very bad,” said Waldmann.

Meyer told the Post via Email that “As stressed before, DAVO expelled Mr. Cohen on the basis of international law. This has nothing to do with modern anti-Semitism because scholars from Israel ­ with the exception of universities in the occupied territories ­ are welcome.”

Meyer could not cite any academics with the exception of Israelis who have been expelled over the years from DAVO events.

“As Chairman of the Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES) I excepted the decision of the organizing General Secretariat of WOCMES-2 in Amman 2007 to exclude two scholars from Ariel and informed them accordingly,” he said.

After the Post contacted the Johannes Gutenberg- University in Mainz (JGU), where Meyer works, the management of JGU deleted the DAVO website from the university server, according to a spokeswoman from university.

The JGU administration told the Post that the university “strictly rejects all forms of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. We regret that Dr. Cohen was not invited to speak.”

The JGU administration said Meyer “is as active as a private person for DAVO and not in his academic post as a professor at JGU” and the “DAVO is not an institution or institute of the JGU and we did not have any knowledge that DAVO was listed on the University's server.”

Dr. Matthias Küntzel, a political scientist in Hamburg and leading expert on German-Iranian relations, told the Post on Tuesday, “a publicly funded academic association like DAVO should,in view of the historical experience in Germany,be the first to distance itself from all boycott measures against Israeli academics.” He continued that “it is totally unacceptable that the DAVO will therefore not allow an academic to speak at its planned congress because he teaches as an Israeli citizen at Ariel university.”

Küntzel added that “Israel cannot be made responsible for the fact that the international legal status of the West Bank remains disputable.” He said that “the educational opportunities are offered to not only Israeli Jews but hundreds of Israeli Arabs, which is one of the few rays of hope in the Middle East.”

He called on the DAVO to rescind its “unspeakable” decision and allow the Iran-expert Dr. Cohen to speak at the congress.

Dr. Clemens Heni, a German academic and expert on modern anti-Semitism and Islam in the Federal Republic, told the Post that uninviting "an Israeli scholar from Ariel University is outrageous and unacceptable, though a typical action taken by German scholars in the field of Islam and Middle Eastern Studies. The city of Ariel is in the disputed territories. Obviously DAVO does not like Jews living in the so called West Bank, which in fact is the land of Samaria (like the city of Ariel), a land Jews lived for thousands of years.”

Heni said his new book Schadenfreude. Islamic Studies and Antisemitism in Germany after 9/11 addresses the controversial association DAVO. He noted that the upcoming DAVO congress does not offer “a single lecture or workshop on Muslim or Arab antisemitism.”

He sees the the boycott of Ariel University by DAVO and Meyer as “part of the worldwide anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign."

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