Israel rips Jewish Museum for pro-boycott speaker

Embassy criticizes museum for hosting Judith Butler, who expressed support for BDS movement.

September 20, 2012 23:21
3 minute read.
Palestinians call for a boycott

Palestinians call for a boycott 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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BERLIN – Israel’s Embassy sharply criticized on Thursday Berlin’s Jewish Museum for hosting a US academic who urged an audience of roughly 700 people to boycott Israel and consider the abolition of political Zionism as the basis for the creation of Israel.

Stressing the importance of the embassy’s protest, the diplomatic statement was posted as the top notice on the Israeli Embassy’s electronic newsletter, stating, “We regret that the Berlin Jewish Museum decided to hold a discussion event, which posed the question about the identity of the Jewish state. Similar discussions are not conducted about any other state on the planet.”

The Israeli Embassy continued that it was “astonished that exactly this museum would provide a stage to a person who called for an academic and cultural boycott against Israel… In the name of freedom of opinion the Jewish Museum offered a forum to a person who supports a boycott against Israel and therefore calls for Israelis to be boycotted because they are Israelis.”

The embassy added that it hoped that the museum, with a view toward the future, would invite speakers who show different views other than calls to boycott Israel.

According to the Israeli statement, the speaker, Dr. Judith Butler, uses “anti-democratic methods against the Israeli government” to make her points.

The museum’s decision to host a pro-boycott Israel event with Butler on Saturday prompted Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, to term the cultural institution the “Berlin anti-Jewish museum.”

Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, told a sold-out audience in the courtyard of the museum that she advocates a “version of a boycott” against Israel, and repeatedly cited her support for the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement targeting the Jewish state. She expressed ideas about creating a bi-national state and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, which would lead, according to critics, to the dismantling of the Jewish state. The mainly non-Jewish German audience applauded her speech.

The embassy wrote that the “Berlin Jewish museum decided at the end of the Jewish year 5772 to hold a podium discussion to the topic of ‘Does Zionism belong to Judaism?’ “The Shoah, which led to the murder of six million Jews across the world, is the clear proof that there must be a Jewish state whose most important goal is the security of the existence of the Jewish people,” noted the embassy statement.

“Zionism as an expression of the Jewish striving is the guarantee of the continuation of the Jewish people. Without Zionism and its realization in the form of the State of Israel, Jews worldwide as Jews and communities could not continue. The question, whether Zionism belongs to Judaism is answered by history on a day-to-day basis.”

Writing on his micro-blog Twitter feed, Jeremy Newmark, the CEO of the Jewish leadership council in the UK, wrote, “Judith Butler calls for destruction of #Israel at Berlin Jewish Museum in Germany.”

Museum spokeswoman Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin told The Jerusalem Post last Saturday that the museum would post a video on Sunday of the Butler event on YouTube, but has not yet. She did not respond to multiple queries regarding the video.

In an e-mail to the Post on Friday, Werner Cohn, a Jew who was born in Berlin in 1926 and fled with his parents in 1938, said he was hurt by the museum’s giving a platform to someone who agitates against Israel. He last visited the Jewish Museum in October, he said.

“I remember the Nazi-organized boycott of Jewish businesses in April of 1933. I was only seven at the time, but I can never forget the Nazis, in uniform, standing in front of Jewish shops and terrorizing the Jewish population. We did not know it at the time, but it was a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.”

Cohn added that, “Obviously, Ms. Butler has a right to voice her opinions as she sees fit, but I can see no moral right of an ostensible Jewish institution to give her this platform. As I wrote to the museum, they will not see me again on their premises.”

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