BERLIN - Germany’s foreign ministry has been plunged into a new anti-Israel row after a top diplomat posted a series of tweets in defense of an academic who supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel, and has been accused of trivializing the Holocaust.
Andreas Görgen,the director of the foreign ministry’s department for culture and communication, tweeted an article titled “Antisemitism Accusations against Achille Mbembe : Comparing is not equating.”
Görgen tweeted at least seven posts in favor of Mbembe over the last week without links to critical texts of Mbembe alleged antisemitism and belittling of the Shoah.
The Deutschlandfunk Kultur article claims that Mbembe did not compare the former apartheid system in South Africa with the Holocaust. Antisemitism experts, however, claim Mbembe trivialized the Holocaust via his comparison.
The German government’s antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein told the news outlet WAZ that Mbembe had “questioned Israel’s right to exist and also compared South Africa’s apartheid system to the Holocaust — something that is out of the question in view of the unprecedented crimes during the Nazi era, and especially given Germany’s historical responsibility for it.”
German Jews and other experts agree with Klein’s assessment. Critics say Görgen has used his official foreign ministry Twitter feed to push articles that support Mbembe. His Twitter biography makes no reference retweeting or Tweets signifying a lack of endorsement of the content. The Jerusalem Post first identified Görgen’s stream of allegedly pro-Mbembe tweets on Tuesday.
The prominent Austrian-based foreign policy think tank mena-watch tweeted: "Why has this foreign ministry of foreign affairs been busy for days protecting Achille Mbenbe against any criticism? One cannot call it balanced if only the defenders have their say and not even a text of the critics is posted.”
Mena-watch responsed to a tweet from Görgen in which he posted an article claiming the antisemitism accusations against Mbembe are a “Sign of a witch hunt.”
Profesor Richard Landes, an internationally distinguished historian and expert on antisemitism, told the Post that "The real witch-hunt is this kind of criminally sloppy use of elisions to smear Israel and paint her as a pariah, and then an equally sloppy but opposite use of terms to clear Mbenbe of any responsibility for his own 'word crimes."'
Mbembe urges the complete “global isolation” of the Jewish state and signed a BDS boycott petition against Ben Gurion University academics.
Görgen says his twitter feed address “educational policies.”
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal’s chief Nazi-hunter who oversees the organization’s Jerusalem office, told the Post that “It is incomprehensible why a high-ranking official of the foreign ministry is devoting such efforts to support a BDS advocate who compared apartheid to the Holocaust.”
The German cultural festival Ruhrtriennale invited Mbembe to deliver the opening remarks for its summer festival. However, the supervisory board cancelled the festival yesterday due to the coronavirus crisis. Critics urged the festival to disinvite Mbembe.
Zuroff said Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas should “take the steps to send [Görgen] him home, “adding Maas needs to “draw the proper implications” and have Görgen "pack his bags."
The antisemitism expert Zuroff said Maas “apparently showed great sensitivity toward the Shoah” on Twitter and questioned how Görgen’s playing down of the Shoah meshed with Maas’s recent tweets remembering the Holocaust. Zuroff said that surely Görgen has “more important issues to deal with during the pandemic.”
The Post has sent twitter and email queries to Görgen and the German foreign ministry.
Last year, the director of the German Foreign Ministry’s representation for the Palestinian territories, Christian Clages, was revealed to have liked scores of antisemitic tweets while using his government Twitter feed. Clages retained his job.