From an historical perspective, we are dismayed by the choice of venue - the University of Vienna - which has doggedly persisted in standing on the wrong side of history. A hundred years ago this institution measured the skulls of non-Europeans for "scientific purposes". Today, it supports the whitewashing and legitimization of Israel’s occupation and expulsion policies by making its facilities available to Israeli institutions and other supporters of Israeli Apartheid, while denying such privileges to the former Black Panther Dhoruba bin Wahad based on his criticism of Israeli policies and support for human rights. (3)
Thus, while critical academics are boycotted and vilified, speakers who are known for their unconditional support of Israeli Apartheid are given the stage at the "Confronting Antisemitism" event. In addition, some of these speakers have in the past called for denying Israeli BDS activist Ofer Neiman and Holocaust survivor Hedi Epstein the possibility of speaking in publicly supported facilities. (4) Moreover, Alexander Feuerherdt, who writes for the radical, racist, right-wing website "Liza's World," gets the stage for his conspiracy theories. He claims, for example, that the repeated criticisms of the Israeli Apartheid state by the United Nations are "an expression of institutionalized anti-Semitism that is characteristic of the United Nations as a whole.” (5) Feuerherdt also accused the Jewish-Israeli activist Jeff Halper, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 together with the Palestinian activist Ghassan Andoni, (6) of "acting anti-Semitically," (7) and of serving as the “principal witness” for the accusations Palestinian solidarity groups level against Israel. This choice of conference speakers could be interpreted as an embarrassing mistake, or as an attempt to promote the broadest possible academic discussion, but the co-sponsorship of the event by the Israeli Embassy, and the choice of an embassy official for the opening address are simply unacceptable.
As an anti-racist movement, we advocate that genuine past and present anti-Semitic phenomena be critically evaluated and dealt with. However, the labelling of people as ‘anti-Semitic’ because of their criticism of human rights abuses by Israel, is calculated to support the normalizing and legitimizing of Israeli occupation, Apartheid and human rights abuses.
More than 40 Jewish groups from across the world recently released a statement that opposes equating anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel’s policies and its system of occupation and Apartheid. (8)
Inviting a racist state to cooperate in an anti-racist event is not only bizarre and macabre, but also contravenes the ethics of science. After all, amongst other things, the Israel’s policies ensure that:
• Palestinian students and academics - inside and outside Israel – have their academic freedom restricted(9), are imprisoned(10) or even killed(11).
• new weapons and surveillance systems are developed in the context of an occupation that violates international law and are then exported throughout the world. Israeli universities participate in the development of these weapons, which are "tested" on Palestinian civil society, and then sold as "battle-proven." (12)
• as this is written, the Palestinian population of Khan al Ahmar is under threat of being expelled from their homes; their village is inundated with sewage, and bulldozers stand ready to demolish their schools and kindergartens. (13)
• at the Apartheid fence in Gaza, F16 fighter jets blow demonstrators to pieces(14), snipers shoot hundreds of people and maim thousands (15).
• the European phenomenon of anti-Semitism, which had claimed millions of victims, is decontextualized and instrumentalized to construct a new and false anti-Semitism definition that is then used to stigmatize Palestinians and human rights activists, as well as to justify the inhumane and anti-democratic policies of the Israeli state.
Paraphrasing Bertolt Brecht, we would like to point out that there are various ways to kill people. To list only a few, flood their village with sewage, have fighter jets blow them up, or lock them up in an open-air prison and cut the supply of vital necessities. Unfortunately, this hardly outrages anyone today.
That is why we call on academics and concerned people throughout the world to question the prevailing narrative, to manifest their outrage about the immoral and inhumane situation in Israel and Palestine, and to join the Palestinian call to boycott events with Israeli government sponsorship and/or official participation.
______________________________________________________________________1 https://facingantisemitism.oeh.ac.at/ 2 Although the Israeli Embassy is not explicitly listed on the Website, the Facebook page of the event list it as a co-sponsor. See: https://www.facebook.com/events/713614398997118/ 3 https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20180620_OTS0184/universitaet-wien-untersagt-de-facto-oeffentliche-veranstaltung-mit-ehemaligem-black-panther-dhoruba-bin-wahad4 https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20160307_OTS0090/offener-brief-an-buergermeister-dr-michael-haeupl-die-stadt-wien-sowie-die-verantwortlichen-im-amerlinghaus ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=14&v=QjN6xr9dxck ; https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20160308_OTS0256/internationale-persoenlichkeiten-protestieren-gegen-die-absage-der-frauentagsveranstaltung-im-parlament-anhang5 https://www.mena-watch.com/mena-analysen-beitraege/un-menschenrechtsrat-blanker-antisemitismus-im-alten-stil/ 6 https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/u-s-quaker-group-that-won-nobel-on-israels-bds-blacklist-1.5729790 7 https://lizaswelt.net/2017/12/25/die-israelkritik-des-jeff-halper/ 8 https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/30jewishgroupsbds/ 9 http://bdsberlin.org/2016/04/18/akademische-zusammenarbeit-zwischen-israel-und-deutschland-aus-sicht-der-universitaeten/ 10 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171214-israel-raids-birzeit-university-at-dawn/11 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180421-palestinian-lecturer-shot-dead-in-malaysia/12 https://electronicintifada.net/content/cruel-experiments-israels-arms-industry/1901113 https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-can-now-legally-demolish-contested-west-bank-village-1.651593414 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/israeli-air-strike-kills-palestinian-boys-gaza-181028211536125.html15 https://www.democracynow.org/2018/5/14/gaza_israeli_soldiers_kill_30_palestinians
Signatures (in chronological order):
Dr. Graeme MacQueen, CanadaLucy Edwards, PhD, UKNahla Abdo, Carleton University, CanadaPeter FittingRonnie Barkan, BDS in Hebrew, Israel-PalestineSunaina Maira, UC Davis, USACBI, United StatesMarwan Rashed, Sorbonne University, FranceDoris Ghannam, GermanySamidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, InternationalSam Durrant, University of Leeds, United KingdomHaim Bresheeth, Free Speech on Israel, UKCynthia Franklin, Professor, University of Hawaii , USAStavit Sinai, GermanyUniversity of Brighton, Professor of Moral Philosophy, UKCheristoph Glanz, BDS Initiative Oldenburg, GermanyDr. Anthony Leaker, University of Brighton, UKOfer Neiman , Israeli citizen , Israel Dr. Jeff Noonan, Professor of Philosophy, University of Windsor, CanadaDavid Comedi, National University of Tucumán and INFINOA (CONICET-UNT), ArgentinaMona Baker, UKProf. Stephen Pender, University of Windsor, CanadaAssociation des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)Sophia Deeg, GermanyDror WARSCHAWSKI, CNRS, FranceOmar Ramahi, CanadaDeborah Cook, CanadaSamidoun Göteborg, SwedenEm.Prof. Herman De Ley, Ghent University, BelgiumBACBI (Belgian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, BelgiumHadas Leonov, IsraelDr. Angela Waldegg, AustriaJules Townshend, Manchester Metropolitan University, UKJonathan Ofir, Israeli citizen, resident in Denmark - conductor and writer on Israel-Palestine, DenmarkBoycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS) , Israeli citizens , Israel Judith Bernstein, GermanyTali Shapiro, IsraelJohn Chalcraft, LSE, UKWilhelm LangthalerAmitai Ben-Abba, Israel/PalestineDavid Klein, California State University Northridge, USAProf. Richard Seaford, University of Exeter, UKJuana Celia Djelal, Retired faculty, United StatesBDS BerlinMichal Sapir, IsraelDr. Med. Hiba Odeh, Palestine Greilsamer Jean-Guy, UJFP and BDS (France), FranceDr. Les Levidow, Open University, UKAdi Shosberger, Palestine Michael Letwin, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return; Labor for Palestine, United StatesUS Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), United StatesAhmed Abbes, Directeur de recherche au CNRS, Paris, FranceTikun Olam, United StatesKen Baker, The Human Race, UKWaltraud Schauer, Frauen in SchwarzDanielle Ravitzki Christl Meyer, Frauen in Schwarz / Wien, AustriaAnnette Groth, former MP, GermanyIreland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, IrelandAnja Matar BDS Berlin, No Apartheid in universities Ahmad MatarTrade Union Friends of Palestine, IrelandPhilippe de Henau, BelgiumDhoruba Bin-Wahad, AfricaAdanya Qaddafi , United StatesJan Van Herzele, BelgiumShelly Steinberg, IsraelCuba Si, United StatesDr. Nozomi Takahashi, Ghent University, BelgiumJosef Pampalk, PhDPalestina Solidariteit vzw, BelgiumDr. Raymond Deane , National University of Ireland, IrelandFLOWERS FROM THE HOOD, Campaign to End the Death Penalty , USAJasmine SchmidTheresa El-Amin , Southern Anti-Racism Network , USARobin Dunford, United KingdomUniversity of Leeds, United KingdomEm.Prof. Marc De Meyere,University Gent, member of BDS, BelgiumAssociation belgo-palestinienne , Belgium Angela Flynn, AfP , Ireland The Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine, NorwayGibanje za pravice Palestincev, SloveniaGruppo Ibriq per la causa e la cultura Palestinese, ItalyNada Pretnar, SloveniaSalaam ragazzi dell'olivo Comitato di Trieste, ItalyDee Reynolds, United KingdomUK-Palestine Mental Health Network, United KingdomKristine Martinsen , NorwayJüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden im Nahost, e.V. Deutschland, Iris Hefets (Vorsitzende), DeutschlandPaul Reynolds, Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy, UKDiensten en Onderzoek Centrum Palestina, NetherlandsUSA Palestine Mental Health Network, USAPalestina Solidariteit vzw , Belgium Dr. Suzanne Ross, Clinical Psychologist, Educator, and Human Rights Activist, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, USSamuel Welber Monika VykoukalSouth African Jews for Free PalestineDr. Susan Blackwell, NetherlandsBritish Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), United KingdomRobert Boyce, London School of Economics and Political Science, United KingdomProf. Jonathan Rosenhead, London School of Economics, United KingdomRuth Moshkovitz, Universität Wien, alumna, AustriaThe Iceland-Palestine Association (Félagið Ísland-Palestína), IcelandPeter Unterweger, International Metalworkers Secretariat, ret.Ariana Macon, AustriaCamillo Friedrich, Germany Oskar Lechleitner, Austria