March 20, 2017 | The Jerusalem Post
Germany MPS Investigate Pro-Hezbollah Academic Finkelstein
In a dramatic widening of an academic antisemitism scandal at the Max Planck Institute for the promotion of lectures delivered by a pro-Hezbollah instructor, German Green Party lawmakers began a parliamentary inquiry on Friday into Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s talks.
The Jerusalem Post obtained a copy of the Green Party questionnaire sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration, which includes her Education Ministry’s criticism of allegedly shoddy scholarship practiced at the Max Planck Institute in Halle.
Stefan Müller, an undersecretary of the Education Ministry, wrote that the ministry “sees with concern that in the context of a controversial academic discussion possible antisemitic theses were given a platform.”
Müller, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said the government called on the president of the Max Planck Institute, Martin Stratmann, to clear up the alleged misconduct. Stratmann, according to Müller, has not provided answers to the Merkel administration.
Pro-Hezbollah activist and US academic Finkelstein delivered two lectures, including one titled “Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom.”
The talks were held in January at the Max Planck Institute branch in the city of Halle, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt.
The institute under Stratmann’s leadership has been mired in turmoil since the Halle branch of the institute allegedly lied to the public about the content of Finkelstein’s pro-Hamas talk. The US and the EU classify Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.
Finkelstein has defended Hamas violence against the Jewish state, saying: “Now, under international law, Hamas, the Palestinians – nothing in international law debars them from using armed force to end the occupation…. For me that’s not an important question. Legally, they have the right. Morally, in my opinion, they have the right.”
In a statement to the Post, Green Party deputy Volker Beck, who along with fellow lawmakers jump-started the parliamentary investigation into Max Planck Institute’s management, said, “The invitation [to Finkelstein] was certainly not academically kosher. And the public was lied to multiple times.”
Beck said the institute must explain why academic Marie-Claire Foblets, who vigorously defended Finkelstein, “did not tell the public the truth about the topic and the form of the event, and how the entire incident was justified for a scientific institution.” Marie-Claire Foblets is the managing director at the institute’s Department of Law & Anthropology.
Beck said the Max Planck Institute deceived the public by saying Finkelstein’s lecture was open to the public admission.
After rising criticism of the event in the media, largely in the Post, the institute changed the event to an internal workshop and barred the public from attending, according to critics.
The Green Party inquiry seeks answers from the MPI about its flyer with the institute’s logo promoting Finkelstein’s event.
The Max Planck Institute flyer said Finkelstein “will argue that dominant depictions of [Operation] Protective Edge were replete with misinformation and disinformation: on the one hand, Israel did not launch the deadly attack in ‘self-defense,’ it did not engage in a ‘war’ with Hamas and its Iron Dome anti-missile defense system did not save many Israeli lives; on the other hand, Hamas did not fire ‘rockets’ at Israel and it did not construct ‘terrorist tunnels’ targeting Israel’s civilian population.”
In the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, Israel sought to stop Hamas rocket attacks and the kidnapping of citizens. The IDF also uncovered a vast Hamas tunnel system used to launch attacks within Israel’s borders.
In a January email to Beck, Stratmann said, “There are perhaps things that are factually false” in the flyer. He energetically defended Finkelstein’s academic credentials in a letter to the Education Ministry.
Numerous Post press queries to Stratmann were not returned In response to accusations that the institute spreads academic antisemitism, the institute wrote on its website: “Seventy years after the Holocaust, employees with a Jewish background are now active at Max Planck.”
The German government provides public funds for the Max Planck Institute.
The Green Party’s six-page inquiry form said there “is a series of inconsistencies, contradictions…
that raise doubts about the scientific quality, truthfulness and transparency” of the institute’s communication about the Finkelstein talks.
In early March, the Student Council of the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg hammered the MPI-Halle’s invitation to Finkelstein for “legitimizing antisemitic and anti-Israel positions” and failing to work with scientific methods and a basis of facts.
The student group called on the Max Planck Institute to investigate the incident at Halle and ensure that MPI-Halle will not provide a platform to Jew-hatred events in the future.
Foblets, the Belgium-born professor from MPI-Halle, doubled down on her defense of Finkelstein in an interview with a Munich paper on Friday.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.