Against Repression of Free Speech in Georg-August University, Göttingen

Our statement against the cancellation of a planned exhibition about the Nakba in the Göttingen University was first published in German on November 16th, 2016.

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisiegel, president of the Georg-August University in Göttingen, has repeatedly demanded the postponement of the Nakba exhibition, which was planned for November in the university complex and promoted by the university itself. Following pressure by groups advancing the agenda of the Israeli government, the president has decided to postpone the exhibition however, in order to facilitate an “academic debate.” After repeated postponements she determined that the exhibition should not be permitted to open during the winter semester of 2016-17. Organisers have therefore elected to present the exhibition in another space.

 

Göttingen University, proud of its heritage as defender of free speech was built in the “Platz der Göttinger Sieben” (Goettingen Seven Place), in memory of those professors, who in 1837, were not afraid to insist on their right to express facts and opinions, even if those were not accepted by the regime, at the time. It is deeply disappointing to observe how the university today has become a symbol of repression of academic speech and of historical revisionism.

 

The Nakba exhibition is a valuable introduction to the complex and tragic history of the ethnic cleansing in Palestine, in which over 700,000 Palestinians, the majority of the country’s population were forced to become refugees and to this day have not been allowed to return to their homeland, despite the UN resolution 194 that substantiates their return. Ingrid Rumpf has won the Palestine Solidarity Prize of 2014, for her dedication to promote knowledge of the Nakba in Germany, with this exhibition. The historical facts concerning the Nakba are no longer a secret. Since the opening of the Israeli military archives in the 1980s, many historians (most of them Israeli) have uncovered ample evidence regarding the premeditated and systematic expulsion of Palestinians from their homes.

 

As Jews living in Germany, we know that Holocaust denial is not merely a matter of historical interpretation, but part of an anti-Semitic world-view with direct repercussions on the lives of Jews today. We insist that the historical facts pertaining to the tragedy in our own history, of our own families, will not be silenced. But we cannot make that insistence unless we are consistent and coherent in our demand that no other history will be silenced. The historical facts pertaining to the tragedy of Palestinian history should also not be silenced, based on the very same universal moral values.

 

We call on Georg-August University to reverse its decision immediately, and allow this very important Nakba exhibition to be presented at the university, so that the chronicled events will not be forgotten, and will not be repeated.