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.
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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.
“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
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
The local Jewish community finds Meyer's decision to
be "extraordinarily problematic, a political catastrophe, and very , very bad,”
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
Meyer could not cite any academics with the exception of
Israelis who have been expelled over the years from DAVO events.
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
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
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.”
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
He called on the DAVO to rescind its “unspeakable” decision and
allow the Iran-expert Dr. Cohen to speak at the congress.
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
addresses the controversial association DAVO. He noted that the upcoming
DAVO congress does not offer “a single lecture or workshop on Muslim or Arab
He sees the the boycott of Ariel University by DAVO and
Meyer as “part of the worldwide anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions)