German antisemitism commissioner rejects BDS academic at festival

Felix Klein says he will not accept the antisemitic language used by the professor.

A protester holds a placard reading ‘I boycott Israel, but not the Jews,’ during a demonstration marking al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day), in Berlin on June 1 (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
A protester holds a placard reading ‘I boycott Israel, but not the Jews,’ during a demonstration marking al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day), in Berlin on June 1
BERLIN - The German federal commissioner assigned to combat antisemitism opposes the appearance of an alleged antisemitic and pro-BDS academic at a German cultural and music festival in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Jerusalem Post exclusively obtained a note in April by the commissioner Felix Klein, who says he will not accept the appearance of the South African-based professor Achille Mbembe because the academic denies Israel’s right to exist.
Klein also said that he will not accept Mbembe’s alleged antisemitic language and the support of the academic via Stefanie Carp, the controversial anti-Israel director of the music and cultural festival Ruhrtriennale.
The federal antisemitism commissioner now joins the Free Democratic Party (FDP) politician in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lorenz Deutsch, who urged Carp in late March to pull the plug on an appearance from Mbembe because the academic supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.
Writing in a public letter, Deutsch told the director of the festival, “The BDS movement is not characterized by factual criticism of Israeli government acts, but aims at demolishing its existence through demonization, delegitimization, and disinformation. Achille Mbembe, who you invited, is unfortunately an example of this way of dealing with Israel.”
In 2018, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia banned public funds for institutions that provide BDS activists a platform. The Ruhrtriennale festival, which runs from  August 14 to September 20, is a recipient of tax-payer money. The state resolution rejecting BDS also classified BDS as antisemitic.
Deutsch cited Achille Mbembe's essay titled, "The Society of Enmity" in the publication Radical Philosophy from 2016 to show that he equates Israel with South Africa's former apartheid system. Mbembe wrote: "However, the metaphor of apartheid does not fully account for the specific character of the Israeli separation project. In the first place, this is because this project rests on quite a unique metaphysical and existential basis."
Mbembe teaches at the Institute For Social & Economic Research located at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The FDP politician also slammed Mbembe for allegedly belittling the Holocaust in his writings. Mbembe wrote: "The apartheid system in South Africa and the destruction of Jews in Europe – the latter, though, in an extreme fashion and within a quite different setting – constituted two emblematic manifestations of this fantasy of separation."
Mbembe also wrote a forward for the anti-Israel book: Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy."
In an email to the Post, Mbembe wrote that "for African scholars like myself, the Holocaust was an unspeakable crime. It is not the subject of my work, of my writings or of my public commentary. Not ever having written about it or publicly commented on it, it therefore defies both reason and common sense to now be accused of ‘trivializing’ it."
In response to the Post's query about this support for BDS, Mbembe said that "I am neither a member nor an associate of BDS or of any other organization dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict or involved in one form of activism or another for the benefit of one party or the other.
From a philosophical point of view, I contest the morality of blind or indiscriminate sanctions or boycotts. This is a philosophical position and I am not engaged in any form of activism around this issue. It is my own position and it fully derived from no other source than my own human conscience and moral self."
Mbembe, who signed a petition calling for a boycott of Israeli academics, is slated to deliver the opening speech at the summer festival.
Critics have accused Carp of turning the music and cultural festival into a hot bed of pro-BDS sentiments. She invited the pro-BDS band “Young Fathers" to play in 2018.
Carp declined to answer numerous Post press queries.