Berlin Jewish rep against antisemitism rebukes diplomat for BDS support

Im Tirzu slams Israeli and Jewish academics for urging the discharge of the German government’s antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein.

Police officers stand guard in front of the entrance to the Neue Synagoge in Berlin (photo credit: CHRISTIAN MANG / REUTERS)
Police officers stand guard in front of the entrance to the Neue Synagoge in Berlin
(photo credit: CHRISTIAN MANG / REUTERS)
BERLIN – Sigmount Königsberg, the representative on combating antisemitism for the Jewish Community of Berlin, took a senior German diplomat to task on Monday for his defense of an alleged antisemitic academic who supports BDS and has minimized the Holocaust.
“And in addition to the apologists, the head of the cultural and communication department of the Federal Foreign Office, @AA_Kultur, must be counted,” tweeted Königsberg.
The Twitter handle @AA_Kultur is for Andreas Görgen, who issued a series of tweets in favor of the South African-based academic Achille Mbembe in April. Mbembe has called for the “global isolation” of Israel; he enabled the boycott of Israeli academics from academic conferences in South Africa.
Mmembe has endorsed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) actions against Israeli Jews.
The Jerusalem Post first broke the story about Görgen’s pro-Mbembe tweets.
With over 10,000 members, Berlin’s Jewish community is the largest local Jewish community in Germany. There are 105,000 registered members of Germany’s Central Council of Jews – the umbrella organization for local communities.
Critics accused Mbembe of trivializing the Holocaust and arguing that the Jewish state is worse than the now-defunct racist apartheid system in South Africa.
Felix Klein, the German government’s antisemitism commissioner, said that Mbembe “has been criticized in the past for the revitalization of the Holocaust.”
He added 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.”
Post press queries to Görgen, German foreign minister Heiko Maas and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Stefan Seibert were not immediately returned on Monday. The Simon Wiesenthal Center human rights organization may include Görgen in its top ten list of worst outbreaks of antisemitism for 2020.
A group of 37 Israeli and Jewish scholars, a number of whom support BDS, urged that Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer fire Klein due to his opposition to the participation of  Mmembe at a publicly-funded German cultural event. The cultural and music festival was cancelled in April.
The 37 Jewish scholars, including 29 Israelis, called for Klein to be fired, "following his shameful attack on Prof. Achille Mbembe."
"Our views on BDS differ, but it is entirely clear: BDS as such is not antisemitic and is essentially protected by freedom of speech and freedom of assembly," asserted the academics.
German Jewish organizations, including the Central Council of Jews in Germany, issued robust support for Klein in a letter.
Signatories of the anti-Israel letter included nine academics from Tel Aviv University, eight from Hebrew University and three from Ben-Gurion University.
Matan Peleg, CEO of the Zionist watchdog group Im Tirtzu, said: "This is yet another unfortunate example of how damaging the 'BDS from within' phenomenon is to Israel."
"While tremendous amounts of resources are invested in Israel and throughout the world to combat the international BDS movement, these radical Israeli professors are undermining these efforts by promoting BDS from within Israel."
Peleg added that "Israeli academia must immediately work to root out this severe phenomenon. The writing is on the wall."