August 22, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post
German University students declare BDS anti-Semitic
Students at one of the world’s oldest universities – Leipzig University in the German state of Saxony – passed a resolution this month opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement because it is anti-Semitic.
According to the resolution, the student council voted “to condemn the anti-Semitic BDS campaign,” and is “against anti-Semitic measures such as disinviting Israeli academics.”
The student council initiated the resolution after a University of London professor appeared at a June event at Leipzig University. Anthropologist Lori Allen held an event regarding her book titled, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine, and used the talk to promote BDS and to minimize terrorism, according to the resolution.
The pro-boycott event was sponsored by the European Network in Universal and Global History, and the university’s Center for Area Studies and Center for Global and European Studies. The event was also supported by Stanford University Press and the German federal Ministry for Education and Research.
It is unclear how much German taxpayer’s money was used to fund the pro-BDS event. State-sponsored BDS remains a problem in Germany, according to opponents of Israel-boycotts. The cities of Bremen and Munich provide space in public offices and city institutions to hold events advocating boycotting and demonizing the Jewish state.
Allen, a senior lecturer in the department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of London, wrote The Jerusalem Post by email on Sunday. She said,” Of course I do not support anti-Semitism. People who defame BDS supporters in this way, by equating a nonviolent political movement with racism, are indulging in cheap propaganda tactics.” She added,” They are attempting to draw attention away from the human rights abuses that are inherent to Israel's occupation and its treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
German student groups such as the Young Socialists, which is the youth organization of the Social Democratic party, played a key role in the passage of the resolution. The Liberal student group at Leipzig also supported the resolution.
The resolution states: “Israel’s right to exist and to self-defense is for us nonnegotiable.”
The civil society group “Alliance against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism Leipzig” protested against Allen’s talk with a position paper on its website.
The Leipzig student resolution appears to be the first detailed academic document rejecting BDS in Germany. Leipzig University is the second largest university in Saxony, with more than 28,000 students, and was founded in 1409. It counts Chancellor Angela Merkel, philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe among its alumni. The anti-Jewish composer Richard Wagner also attended Leipzig.
Last month, the Post reported on a seminar at the HAWK University of Applied Sciences and Arts, in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, which taught that Israel harvests Palestinian organs and depicts Israel as a “dehumanized” society in its reading material. HAWK taught the anti-Israel seminar for 10 years.
Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, told the Post in July that the HAWK seminar is “an ugly and outrageous demonstration of Jew-hatred.” He said, “This is not a university – it is a hatred factory. One would think that in Germany of all places people would understand the pernicious nature of hatred and racism under a pseudo academic guise.”
According to an August article in the daily Die Welt, the president of HAWK, Christiane Dienel, defended the course against allegations of anti-Semitism by saying she gave her children “Jewish names.” She has repeatedly said that the allegations against the university and the academic seminar were “completely baseless accusations of anti-Semitism.”
On August 5, the university announced the seminar would be replaced with a more general module on Middle East conflicts.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.