Open Letter: Supporting Human Rights is not Antisemitic

More than 90 renowned Jewish scholars and intellectuals – including Noam Chomsky, Eva Illouz, Alfred Grosser, Moshe Zimmermann, Judith Butler and Micha Brumlik – have signed an open letter condemning the attacks against our association, Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East, and calling on German civil society to guarantee freedom of expression for those who oppose the oppression of the Palestinian people.

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Supporting Human Rights is not Antisemitic

In recent years the Israeli government and its supporters have tried to stifle debate both abroad and domestically about its systematic oppression of the Palestinian people and the catastrophic impacts of the 51-year-old military occupation. Civil society organizations in Israel and around the world supporting Palestinian human rights are cynically labeled by Israeli government officials as enemies of the state, traitors, and, increasingly, as antisemitic. Spaces for critical engagement are shrinking.

These worrisome developments have not bypassed Germany. We fully support the efforts of German politicians and civil society organizations to combat all contemporary forms of antisemitism – a much-needed endeavour in view of the rise of nationalist parties and movements just 73 years after the defeat of the Nazi state. Yet, under the pretense of protecting Jewish life, attacks against organizations and individuals who show solidarity with the Palestinian fight for equality and liberation have become commonplace. Free speech on Palestinian human rights is infringed through demands to prevent discussions in public spaces, public smear campaigns, and most recently, legislation.

The attacks against the Germany-based group „Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East“ (Jewish Voice) are emblematic of this global process and have drawn us together out of concern. The group, that counts among its members also recent Israeli migrants to Germany, has unequivocally raised its voice in support of peace and justice in Israel and Palestine and has consistently condemned manifestations of racism and antisemitism, including cases where they are disguised as critique of Israel. Nonetheless, as a result of a smear campaign by right-wing journalists and organizations, the Bank für Sozialwirtschaft closed the account of the group in 2016, a decision the bank overturned shortly after.

The pressure on a German bank to force the closure of an account of a Jewish organization — for the first time since the Federal Republic replaced the National Socialist regime — has continued unabated ever since. The management of the bank has recently decided, in compliance with the government commissioner for anti-Semitism, Dr. Felix Klein, to seek an advisory opinion in order to decide whether Jewish Voice should be “classified as antisemitic“. The German historian, Dr. Juliane Wetzel, took on the task to produce such a report, in accordance with the highly-politicized and flawed IHRA Definition of Antisemitism. This document can be dangerously instrumentalized to afford the Israeli State immunity against criticism for grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law, criticism which is considered legitimate and needed when directed at other countries.

This move is alarming: representatives from the German state, finance sector and academia have come together to make a judgement about whether or not a group of Jews and Israelis, many of them descendants of Holocaust survivors, are antisemitic. For good reasons, members of Jewish Voice refuse to collaborate with such a ridiculous and offensive undertaking.

As Jewish and Israeli scholars and intellectuals, dedicated to the fight against Antisemitism and all forms of racism, we condemn the ongoing campaign to silence the Jewish Voice and its members, regardless of whether we agree with all of their positions or not.

We call upon the members of German civil society to fight antisemitism relentlessly while maintaining a clear distinction between criticism of the state of Israel, harsh as it may be, and antisemitism, and to preserve free speech for those who reject Israeli repression against the Palestinian people and insist that it comes to an end.

We stand for human rights .

We stand in solidarity with the Jewish Voice.

 

Prof. Gadi Algazy, Historian, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Meir Amor, Associate Professor, Department of sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

Prof. Gil Anidjar, Department of Religion, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University, New York

Avigail Arnheim, Director of The Felicia Blumenthal Music Center Association and International Music Festival Tell Aviv

Dr. Yuval Ayalon, Department of History, Philosophy and Judaic Studies, The Open University of Israel

Dr. Tamar Amar-Dahl, Historian, Berlin

Prof. Outi Bat-El, Department of Linguistics, Tel-Aviv University

Dr. Shaul Bar-Haim, Sociology Department, University of Essex

Dr. Moshe Behar, Arabic & Middle Eastern Studies, School of Arts, Languages & Cultures
The University of Manchester

Prof. Zvi Ben-Dor, Department of History, NYU

Smadar Ben-Natan, adv., PhD Candidate Tel-Aviv University, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley

Dr. Ayelet Ben-Yishai, Chair, Department of English, University of Haifa

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Bergers, Department of Oncology, University of Leuven

Prof. Jerome Bourdon, Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley

Prof. Judith Butler, Comperative Literature and Program for Clinical theory, UC Berkeley

Assistant Prof. Samuel Hayim Brody, Religious Studies, University of Kansas

Prof. emeritus José Brunner, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, The Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University

Prof. emeritus Dr. Micha Brumlik, Fritz Bauer Institut, FfM

Prof. Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, American Jewish University

Prof. emeritus Noam Chomsky, MIT, Laureate Professor, University of Arizona

Prof. Yossi Dahan,  Law Prof. and head of the human rights program, College of Law & Business, Ramat Gan, Israel

Prof. emerita Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Comparative Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. David Enoch, Department of Philosophy and Law, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. emeritus. Emmanuel Farjoun, Hebrew Universitiy, Jerusaelm

Prof. emeritus Gideon Freudenthal, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Alon Friedman, MD, PhD, Denis Chair in Epilepsy Research, Department of Neuroscience and Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

Dr. Yoav Galai, Lecturer in Global Political Communication, Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London

Prof. Katharina Galor, Jewish Studies, Brown University, USA

Dr. Amira Gelblum, Historian, Open University, Israel

Prof. Rachel Giora, Department of Linguistics, Tel-Aviv University

Prof. Amos Goldberg, Former Chair of the Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry Department, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. Dr. Alfred Grosser, Paris

Associate Prof. Ran Greenstein, Sociology Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Prof. Heidi Grunebaum, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape,

South Africa

Dr. Ilana Hammerman, Writer and Editor, Jerusalem

Prof. Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College Hanover, USA

Prof. Hanan Hever, Department of Comparative Literature and Jewish Studies, Yale University

Prof. Eva Illouz, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Dr. Anne Karpf, Reader at London Metropolitan University

Prof. Hannah Kasher, Department of Jewish Thought, Bar-Ilan University

Prof. emeritus Michael Keren, Department of Economics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. Brian Klug, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

Prof. Francesca Klug, Visiting Professor at LSE Human Rights

Dr. Hagar Kotef, SOAS, University of London

Prof. Chana Kronfeld, Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Kuper Richard, European Politics, University of Hertfordshire (retired)

Nitzan Lebovic, Associate Professor of History, Apter Chair of Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values, Lehigh University, PA, USA

Prof. Gerardo Leibner, Historian, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Andre Levy, Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University

Dr. Gal Levy, Democracy Studies, Open University, Israel

Dr. Rachel Livne-Freudenthal, Leo Baeck Institut, Jerusalem

Prof. emeritus Moshé Machover, Professor of Philosophy, University of London

Ruchama Marton, MD, Founder and Honorary President of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

Dr. Anat Matar, The Dept. of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University

Rela Mazali, Author, Independent Scholar, Activist.

Dr. Gilad Melzer, Culture Studies, Beit Berl College

Prof. emeritus Everett Mendelsohn, History of Science, Harvard University

Prof. emeritus Paul Mendes-Flohr, Jewish Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. Isaac (Yanni) Nevo, Department of Philosophy, Ben Gurion University

Dr. Amos Noy, Culture Studies, Jerusalem

Orly Noy, Writer, Journalist and Translator, Jerusalem

Atalia Omer, Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Prof. Adi Ophir, Tel Aviv University

Maayan Padan, Gender Program, Ben-Gurion University

Prof. emerita Benita Parry, English and comparative literature University of Warwick, UK

Prof. Steven Robins, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Prof. Jacqueline Rose, Humanities and Co-Director, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck University of London

Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, Department of Management, London School of Economics

Prof. Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Department of Jewish Philosophie and Talmud, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Michael Rothberg, English, Comparative Literature, and Holocaust Studies, UCLA

Dr. Sara Roy, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

Prof. emeritus Donald Sassoon, Comparative European History, School of History

Queen Mary, University of London

Dr. Kobi Snitz, Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institut, Rehovot

Professor Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, The University of London

Dr. Itamar Shachar, Marie Curie Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Professor Avi Shlaim, St. Anthony College, The University of Oxford

Dr. Marcos Silber, Chairman Department of Jewish History, University of Haifa

Prof. Michael Steinberg, Department of History, Brown University

Lior Sternfeld, Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Penn State University

Prof. Adam Sutcliffe, European History, Department of History, King’s College London

Ilana Sumka, Founder, The Center for Jewish Nonviolence

Associate Professor Moshik Temkin, History and Public Policy, Harvard

Dr. Anya Topolski, Associate Professor Ethics and Political Philosophy, Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen

Dr. Nadia Valman, English Department, Queen Mary, University of London

Prof. Dr. Dr. Roy Wagner, Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences, ETH Zürich

Dr. Elian Weizman, lecturer in Middle East politics, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace, USA

Dr. Yair Wallach, Israeli Studies, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Noga Wolff, Political Sciences, College for Academic Studies, Or Yehuda, Israel

Prof. Haim Yacobi, Development Planing Unit, University College London

Prof. emeritus Moshe Zimmermann, Koebner Minerva Center for German History, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. emeritus Moshe Zuckermann, Tel Aviv University