German Jews urge festival to disinvite ‘antisemitic’ pro-BDS academic

The open letter by the NGO Values Initiative takes the South African-based academic Achille Mbembe to task for allegedly inflammatory rhetoric.

An anti-Israeli protest inspired by BDS (photo credit: REUTERS)
An anti-Israeli protest inspired by BDS
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – The German Jewish organization Values Initiative on Monday urged leading politicians in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to disinvite a pro-BDS academic from a cultural festival and fire the anti-Israel director of the event.
The open letter by the NGO Values Initiative takes the South African-based academic Achille Mbembe to task for allegedly inflammatory rhetoric that delegitimizes Israel’s existence and belittles the Holocaust.
“Mbembe accuses Israel of apartheid and compares the former South African apartheid system to the Holocaust,” Values Initiative said in the letter. “This leads to the legitimate assumption that he equates the position of the democratic state of Israel towards the Palestinian Arabs with that of the Nazis during the Holocaust.”
Mbembe represents “an antisemitic picture in its purest form,” Values Initiative said. “Calls for boycotts against the Jewish state have a long tradition. From the Nazis’ ‘Don’t buy from Jews’ campaign to Israel boycott campaigns by German neo-Nazi groups, such as ‘The III. Way.’ No country in the world is exposed to such calls with this permanence. Coincidence? No. The problem is called antisemitism and… is trivialized by keywords such as ‘freedom of art.”’
Mbembe signed a petition sponsored by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement calling for an academic boycott of Israeli professors from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The German Bundestag and state of North Rhine-Westphalia declared BDS an antisemitic movement.
The Jerusalem Post exposed the online payment accounts for the pro-BDS neo-Nazi party in 2019, causing French and US online payment services to close the accounts.
The public letter signed by Values Initiative chairman Dr. Elio Adler added: “The state of North Rhine-Westphalia must seriously ask itself whether it would like to promote an art festival whose artistic director does not decisively oppose calls for a boycott of the Jewish state, but rather promotes it as part of the freedom of art and invites a speaker, who relativizes the Holocaust. We are firmly convinced that something like this must not have a public space in Germany.”
Stefanie Carp, director of the Ruhrtriennale music and cultural festival, has shown sympathy for the BDS campaign over the years. When asked about the Values Initiative letter, Carp told the Post: “Linking Achille Mbembe to antisemitism is grotesque and a disgraceful allegation.”
According to the anti-BDS resolution of North Rhine-Westphalia, public funds are banned for taxpayer-funded cultural festivals such as Ruhrtriennale.
Mbembe declined to respond to a new Post query about the Values Initiative letter. “The time has come for global isolation” of Israel, he has written.
Jochen Mohr, a spokesman for North Rhine-Westphalia Culture Minister Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, told the Post: “In coordination with the state chancellery, the state government’s answer to your question [is that] the supervisory board of Kultur Ruhr will meet this week for its deliberations as announced.”
In the public letter, Adler said Carp’s decision “harms not only the Jewish community by encouraging antisemitic images and argumentation patterns through its invitation policy, but also its own sponsors and thus the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.”
The chorus of voices taking aim at Carp’s pro-BDS activities and Mbembe’s alleged antisemitism is growing. Prominent journalist Jürgen Kaube wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a detailed  analysis of Mbembe’s attacks on Jews and Israel.
“Mbembe defines nanoracism by stating: ‘Yet, in the end, what is nanoracism if not that narcotic brand of prejudice based on skin color and expressing itself in seemingly anodyne everyday gestures, often apropos of nothing, apparently unconscious remarks, a little banter, some allusion or insinuation, a slip of the tongue, a joke, an innuendo, but also, it must be added, consciously spiteful remarks.’
“If one applies this standard to Mbembe’s own statements, one can at least speak of nano-antisemitism,” Kaube wrote.
The Post previously reported on Mbembe’s allegedly antisemitic writings.