Goethe Institut to hold panel discussing Holocaust alongside 'the Nakba' on Kristallnacht

The Foreign Ministry expressed "shock and disgust" after the event was announced.

 Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold boards during a rally marking Nakba Day, outside Tel Aviv University (photo credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold boards during a rally marking Nakba Day, outside Tel Aviv University
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)

The Foreign Ministry and Zionist and Holocaust remembrance organizations expressed outrage after the Goethe Institut in Tel Aviv announced that it was planning to hold a panel discussion comparing the remembrance of the Holocaust to the remembrance of the "Nakba" on Wednesday, as Jews around the world commemorate Kristallnacht.

"Almost 75 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, remembrance remains a politically controversial area," said the institute in a description of the event on its website. "The Jews focus on the Holocaust, while the Palestinians focus on the fateful year 1948, when hundreds of thousands of them were victims of flight and deportation by Jewish fighters, a year known in Arabic as the 'Nakba' (disaster)." 

At the event, journalist Charlotte Wiedemann, Bashir Bashir, associate professor of Political Theory at the Open University of Israel, Amos Goldberg, associate professor of Holocaust History and Director of the Research Institute for Contemporary Judaism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Inge Gunther, a journalist covering Israeli and Palestinian affairs, are set to discuss Wiedemann's book "Grasping the Pain of the Others."

Wiedemann's book asks readers for a "new empathetic remembrance that does justice to different sides and promotes solidarity instead of victim competition. With regard to commemoration practices in Germany, she is convinced that an awareness of the colonial crimes of the imperial era must be developed, and that this does not call into question the uniqueness of the Holocaust."

Frankfurt am Main Synagogue burning during Kristallnacht (credit: CENTER FOR JEWISH HISTORY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Frankfurt am Main Synagogue burning during Kristallnacht (credit: CENTER FOR JEWISH HISTORY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Foreign Ministry expresses 'shock and disgust' at event

The Foreign Ministry expressed "shock and disgust" after the event was announced, calling it "blatant contempt of the Holocaust" and a "cynical and manipulative intent to create a connection whose entire purpose is to defame Israel." The ministry called on all parties involved to cancel the event.

The Im Tirzu movement announced that it would be holding a protest against the event outside the offices of the Goethe Institute on Wednesday.

Matan Peleg, chairman of Im Tirzu, stated "Instead of bowing their heads before the Jewish people and humanity as a whole for what their ancestors did, German government foundations are promoting propaganda that seeks to whitewash the German atrocities while cultivating invented anti-Israeli myths that seek to deny the State of Israel its right to exist. The State of Israel must limit the involvement of the German parties in Israel. There is a limit to insolence."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed outrage at the event, with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of global social action at the Center, stating that "It is despicable that any German would utter Shoah and Nakba in the same breath."

"There is nothing wrong with exploring the feelings of Palestinians, but to link the Palestinian-Israel conflict in any way to Nazi Germany’s ‘Final Solution’ that murdered 6 million innocent Jews, among them 1.5 million Jewish children, is a monstrous insult to the victims of the Shoah, to the Jewish State of Israel, to survivors of the Shoah and to historic truth," said Cooper. "Convening such a discussion in Israel -- on the anniversary of Kristallnacht -- by the foundation of a left wing German political party, at the respected Goethe Institute, is an odious provocation."

The center called on the institute to cancel the event, adding "Both Germany and Israel have worked for decades to forge a new relationship out of the ashes of the Nazi Holocaust and have developed strong ties. But no German, whatever their political affiliation has the right to be involved in belittling the Shoah or to further facilitate the big lie that Israel treats Palestinians the same way the Nazis treated Jews."

The Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel stated that it was "surprising and outrageous that specifically an institute aimed at spreading German culture in Israel chooses to hold such an event, while drawing a comparison between the Holocaust and the Nakba, on the day that we mark 84 years since Kristallnacht."

"Is this close-mindedness, insensitivity or a lack of knowledge of history?" questioned the center.

Goethe Institute postpones event, but does not cancel

Amid the uproar, the institute decided to postpone the event to Sunday, November 13, stating that it regretted that "hard feelings" arose due to the initial date.

"The Goethe Institut represents values ​​of reconciliation and dialogue. In the planned discussion we will deal with these values. The two lecturers from Israel are well-known experts in the field of the culture of memory and the politics of reconciliation. Together with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation we invited them to shed light on the subject in depth following the latest book by the journalist Charlotte Weidman," said the institute on its website.