The growing attacks on the BDS movement in Germany, which led to the resignation of the director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum last week, are a dangerous sign that critics of Israeli policy should be afraid for their futures.
It has been a month since the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, passed a symbolic, non-binding resolution designating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) anti-Semitic. The decision is already having a detrimental impact on people’s careers and lives.
Last Friday, director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin Peter Schäfer, a highly-respected scholar of Jewish studies who took the position in 2014, announced his resignation after coming under severe pressure by Jewish community leaders in Germany and the Israeli government, who have accused the museum of engaging in what they deem to be anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities.
Schäfer’s forced resignation came following a tweet by the museum on June 6 endorsing an article in the progressive German daily Die Tageszeitung, which reported on a letter signed by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust who reject the notion that BDS is equivalent to anti-Semitism. The letter was submitted to the government after the resolution, urging it not to formally implement it; the scholars argued that drawing that equivalence is not effective and even undermines the fight against anti-Semitism:
Neither the museum nor Schäfer have ever endorsed BDS; doing so in Germany is akin to committing career suicide. But staunch anti-BDS advocates in Germany, Israel and the U.S. have managed to portray it as such, creating a feedback loop that presents misinformation as fact. Following the museum’s tweet, The Werte Initiative, a Jewish lobby in Germany that staunchly championed the anti-BDS motion, tweeted its condemnation of the “anti-Jewish” museum — a term first coined by NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg — after the Jewish Museum hosted a talk by philosopher and BDS supporter Judith Butler in 2012 (before Schäfer was director).Read More