Should the city of Frankfurt give a prize to someone who actively boycotts Israel? Pro-Israel activists in Germany are saying: no way.
The German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is protesting against plans by Frankfurt to honour American Jewish scholar Judith Butler with its Theodor Adorno Prize, which is worth 50,000 euros. The prize is awarded every three years, recognising “outstanding performances in the fields of philosophy, music, theatre and film”.
“Someone who boycotts Israel can’t be an Adorno prizewinner,” said the scholars’ group in a press statement last week.
Ms Butler, according to SPME, signed the “United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” and also played a prominently part in Toronto’s Israel Apartheid Week in 2011.
Ms Butler is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 2006 she has been the Hannah Arendt Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.
In 2010, Ms Butler told Haaretz that she felt obliged “as a Jew to speak out against an injustice” and was “in a bind” because “in speaking out against Israeli state and military injustice, I am accused of not being a good enough Jew or of being a self-hating Jew”.
Theodor Adorno (1903-1969), after whom the prize is named, had a Catholic mother and Jewish father. He survived the Third Reich in exile and returned to become one of Germany’s foremost sociologists, philosophers and art critics, particularly known for his criticism of fascism and writings on the Holocaust. Adorno taught for 20 years at Frankfurt’s Johann Wolfgang Goethe University and was longtime director of the Institute for Social Research.