Israel rips Jewish Museum for pro-boycott speaker

This is a cross post of an article of interest from the Jerusalem Post by Benjamin Weinthal

Embassy criticizes museum for hosting Judith Butler, who expressed support for BDS movement.

BERLIN – Israel’s Embassy sharply criticized on Thursday Berlin’s Jewish Museum  for hosting a US academic who urged an audience of roughly 700 people to boycott  Israel and consider the abolition of political Zionism as the basis for the  creation of Israel.

Stressing the importance of the embassy’s protest,  the diplomatic statement was posted as the top notice on the Israeli Embassy’s  electronic newsletter, stating, “We regret that the Berlin Jewish Museum decided  to hold a discussion event, which posed the question about the identity of the  Jewish state. Similar discussions are not conducted about any other state on the  planet.”

The Israeli Embassy continued that it was “astonished that  exactly this museum would provide a stage to a person who called for an academic  and cultural boycott against Israel… In the name of freedom of opinion the  Jewish Museum offered a forum to a person who supports a boycott against Israel  and therefore calls for Israelis to be boycotted because they are  Israelis.”

The embassy added that it hoped that the museum, with a view  toward the future, would invite speakers who show different views other than  calls to boycott Israel.

According to the Israeli statement, the speaker,  Dr. Judith Butler, uses “anti-democratic methods against the Israeli government” to make her points.

The museum’s decision to host a pro-boycott Israel  event with Butler on Saturday prompted Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the  Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, to term the cultural institution the “Berlin  anti-Jewish museum.”

Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative  literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, told a  sold-out audience in the courtyard of the museum that she advocates a “version  of a boycott” against Israel, and repeatedly cited her support for the Boycott,  Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement targeting the Jewish state. She  expressed ideas about creating a bi-national state and the right of Palestinian  refugees to return to Israel, which would lead, according to critics, to the  dismantling of the Jewish state. The mainly non-Jewish German audience applauded  her speech.

The embassy wrote that the “Berlin Jewish museum decided at  the end of the Jewish year 5772 to hold a podium discussion to the topic of ‘Does Zionism belong to Judaism?’ “The Shoah, which led to the murder of six  million Jews across the world, is the clear proof that there must be a Jewish  state whose most important goal is the security of the existence of the Jewish  people,” noted the embassy statement.

“Zionism as an expression of the  Jewish striving is the guarantee of the continuation of the Jewish people.  Without Zionism and its realization in the form of the State of Israel, Jews  worldwide as Jews and communities could not continue. The question,  whether Zionism belongs to Judaism is answered by history on a day-to-day  basis.”

Writing on his micro-blog Twitter feed, Jeremy Newmark, the CEO  of the Jewish leadership council in the UK, wrote, “Judith Butler calls for  destruction of #Israel at Berlin Jewish Museum in Germany.”

Museum  spokeswoman Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin told The Jerusalem Post last Saturday  that the museum would post a video on Sunday of the Butler event on YouTube, but  has not yet. She did not respond to multiple queries regarding the  video.

In an e-mail to the Post on Friday, Werner Cohn, a Jew who was  born in Berlin in 1926 and fled with his parents in 1938, said he was hurt by  the museum’s giving a platform to someone who agitates against Israel. He last  visited the Jewish Museum in October, he said.

“I remember the  Nazi-organized boycott of Jewish businesses in April of 1933. I was only seven  at the time, but I can never forget the Nazis, in uniform, standing in front of  Jewish shops and terrorizing the Jewish population. We did not know it at the  time, but it was a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.”

Cohn added that, “Obviously, Ms. Butler has a right to voice her opinions as she sees fit, but I  can see no moral right of an ostensible Jewish institution to give her this  platform. As I wrote to the museum, they will not see me again on their  premises.”


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