SPME Germany: Prof. Butler´s reply speaks for Itself

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SPME-Germany, the German chapter of „Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” on August 15, 2012 published a statement entitled „ Whoever boycotts Israel cannot be an Adorno-laureate,” criticizing the award of the “Adorno-prize” to Prof. Judith Butler. [1] On August 26, 2012 the “Jerusalem Post” cited our statement; on August 27, 2012, and Prof. Butler published a reply, in which she blamed mainly SPME for false statements about herself. The German weekly, Die Zeit, published the German translation of this reply.[2] In response, the board of directors of SPME Germany states:

1.    SPME Germany welcomes the public discussion caused by the intended award of the Adorno-Preis to Prof. Butler. In Germany, the award of such an esteemed prize to a person engaged in the boycott of Jewish institutions in Israel has to raise protest. We wish that this discussion will not be based on false accusations but on verifiable facts.

2.    Prof. Butler writes: “The accusations against me are that I support Hamas and Hezbollah (which is not true), that I support BDS [„Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”] (partially true), and that I am anti-Semitic (patently false)”. In our statement not a single line supports this Prof. Butler’s accusation of Prof. Butler, that we call her anti-Semitic. Furthermore, we did not write that Prof. Butler supports Hamas and Hezbollah, but we pointed out that she considers them as “left movements,” although she does not “support the tactics of these organizations”. Prof. Butler claims to be a victim of accusations that SPME never raised.

Our point is not to silence any voice critical of Israeli politics, as Prof. Butler implies. Our point is that a professor who calls for the boycott of universities and other public institutions in Israel should not receive the Adorno-Prize.

3.    Prof. Butler claims that our statement is “part of an intra-Jewish war” and writes: „ When one set of Jews labels another set of Jews “anti-Semitic”, they are trying to monopolize the right to speak in the name of the Jews.” It is a fact  is that the board of directors of SPME-Germany currently consists exclusively of non-Jewish scientists and academics. The other claims Prof. Butler makes regarding SPME are also not true. SPME is neither a right-wing nor an Australian or Californian organization. In addition, SPME does not declare Islam to be anti-Semitic as such. What drives Prof. Butler to publish such completely unproven statements?

4.    Much to our regret, Prof. Butler – despite frequently worded points of criticism – failed to reevaluate her positions on the Middle East conflict. Instead she confirms in her statement that she will continue to support the BDS campaign („Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”) against Israel “in a very specific way” in the future. Again, she calls Hamas and Hezbollah, although she neither supports nor accepts them, as “part of the global Left”. She declares that she “has never taken a stand on either organization” (Hamas and Hezbollah). The fact that Prof. Butler as a prominent Middle East activist kept silent on the            anti-Semitism, and the terror of these groups shows that she did not understand major aspects of the philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno.

Prof. Butler with her statement has discredited herself even further. We invite the city of Frankfurt to reconsider its decision to award this year´s Adorno-Prize to a scholar who supports the boycott of Israel.

Prof. Dr. Ralf R. Schumann, Dr. Matthias Küntzel, Dr. Nikoline Hansen

for the board of directors of SPME Germany

Berlin, August 31, 2012

SPME Germany: Prof. Butler´s reply speaks for Itself

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Ralf R. Schumann

Ralf Schumann is a physician and professor of medicine at the famous "Charité", the joint Medical Faculty of both Humboldt-University and Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany. He is specialized in Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology and is head of a research unit focusing on Immunology and Genetics. He is a founding member and current president of the German chapter of SPME and has recently organized a speakers series called "Berlin Middle East Talks" right in the center of the German capital.

He received his academic training at the Universities of Hamburg and Freiburg, Germany, and spent a 3 1/2 year postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, USA. Dr. Schumann published more than 150 research papers and received several academic awards. He currently holds a tenure full professorship at the Charité and is engaged in teaching an innovative reformed curriculum of Medicine in Berlin. He has started several scientific collaborations with Israel, and has visited the country more than 20 times. In 2005 he spent a full year as sabbatical at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, and lived there with his family including three children at that time.

The reason for founding SPME-Germany was that anti-Israel views in Europe and calls for boycotts are currently very virulent and even increasing. Joining the SPME network and working among the academic field is a highly important task in order return to a fair and unbiased view of the current situation. SPME-Germany has published many press releases and open letters i.e. protesting against current German and European politics towards Israel, but also on cultural and academic issues. A recent focus of SPME-Germany is an analysis of how the Middle East conflict is described in textbooks used officially in public schools. The sobering results of incorrect and one-sided views influencing young children early against Israel have been discussed in panel discussions and recent publications. Among the board of directors Dr. Schumann´s interest is to include the European perspective, and to expand SPME´s activity also into other European countries.

Read all stories by Ralf R. Schumann

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