German event comparing Holocaust to 'Nakba' canceled after Yad Vashem intervenes

The planned panel faced stark criticism from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Jewish organizations.

 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 German state-funded Goethe Institute pulled the plug on a slated Sunday event in Tel Aviv that draws a line of connection between the Holocaust and the Palestinian “Nakba,” Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan announced on Friday.

Nakba (catastrophe) is the term Palestinians use for their defeat and exile at the hands of Israeli forces during the 1948 War of Independence.

Dayan wrote on Twitter: “At the end of our in-depth conversation, [Goethe Institute Board chairman Mr. Johannes] Ebert assured me that the event will not take place. Wise decision.”

When The Jerusalem Post queried the institute on Monday, Jessica Kraatz Magri, a spokeswoman for Goethe, told the Post that the organization “postponed the event” until Sunday and provided an updated link to the discussion. The event was sponsored by left-wing German political party Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS).

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, Jewish and Zionist organizations express outrage at planned panel

Following a hailstorm of criticism on Wednesday about the event just as Jews around the world were commemorating Kristallnacht, Goethe stuck with its postponement.

The Foreign Ministry called for the cancellation of the event and expressed “shock and disgust” after the original announcement, calling it “blatant contempt of the Holocaust” and a “cynical and manipulative intent to create a connection whose entire purpose is to defame Israel.”

Dayan tweeted prior to the event that it “constitutes intolerable distortion of the Holocaust. Holding it on the anniversary of the November Pogrom (‘Kristallnacht’) is unforgivable.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor told 103FM Radio that the event is “an attempt to make an inappropriate comparison at the expense of Holocaust survivors.” He added that “if it wasn’t ironic it would be tragic. This must not become an accepted discourse under the pretense of ‘holding a civilized discussion.’ It’s not.”

Alrun Kaune-Nüßlein, the director of political communication for RLS, told the Post that “we try to enable a debate between different democratic and emancipatory positions, as it corresponds to the tasks of an institution for social analysis and political education. As a left-wing institution in and from Germany, dealing with the numerous Nazi mass crimes – and in particular the murder of six million Jews – is central to us. Relativizing the Shoah is unacceptable for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation,” she said.

“We regret that the date of the event caused irritation. We are therefore postponing the event to November 13, 2022.”

Journalist at center of panel has faced criticism for anti-Israel views

At the now-canceled event, journalist Charlotte Wiedemann was set to discuss her book Grasping the Pain of the Others with 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.

Wiedemann has faced criticism for her attacks on Israel’s existence. She wrote in the left-wing German daily newspaper taz: “There is no need to agree on the extent to which the founding of the State of Israel was also an act of settler colonialism.”

The left-wing and pro-Israel weekly paper Jungle World criticized the author for her pro-Iran regime views. Danyal Casar wrote that “Charlotte Wiedemann can nowhere see such an opposition in the taz.” Wiedemann wrote that ‘there is no opposition’ which could take responsibility in Tehran if the current system implodes.”

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.