BERLIN – The city of Frankfurt’s decision to award the Adorno Prize to an American professor who supports a comprehensive cultural and academic boycott of the Jewish state prompted Stephen J. Kramer, the general secretary of Germany’s Jewish community, on Sunday, to demand that Frankfurt not honor Dr. Judith Butler.
Kramer told The Jerusalem Post , “It is a systemic failure. Only a curatorium that lacks the moral firmness necessary for its task could separate Butler’s contribution to philosophy from her moral depravity. A person who allies herself with deadly enemies of the Jewish state, considers Hezbollah and Hamas legitimate social movements and part of the global left, and would strangle Israel with a boycott does not deserve this honor.”
Dr. Judith Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, who has embraced boycott, sanctions and divestment groups targeting Israel, is slated to receive the Adorno prize on September 11.
Butler flatly rejected, via email to the Post, that she endorsed Hamas and Hezbollah. When asked specifically by the Post about her position toward the two anti-Israel terror groups, she declined to comment.
Kramer, from the 105,000-member German Jewish council, said it was not only “shocking” but “sad” that Frankfurt is to honor Butler.
“She is a well-known hater of Israel,” and to award her a prize named after a philosopher who was forced to emigrate because of his Jewish background cannot be viewed as a mistake, said Kramer.
Frankfurt has a history of honoring anti-Israel academics. In 2010, the city honored Alfred Grosser, a French academic who equated Israel with Nazi Germany. Israel’s Embassy in Berlin slammed Grosser and the city of Frankfurt for the ceremony at the time.
Kramer said the fact that Butler “is Jewish makes her worthy of a study of the psychology of self-hatred but in no way as a laureate of the Adorno prize whose name is now stained.” Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) was a German Jewish social philosopher who taught in post-Holocaust Frankfurt. He wrote about contemporary anti-Semitism, and resisted in his writings German leftist students who attacked and sought to delegitimize Israel after the Six Day War.
In her email statement to the Post, Butler wrote that “I am a scholar who gained an introduction to philosophy through Jewish thought, and I understand myself as defending and continuing a Jewish ethical tradition that includes figures such as Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt. It is simply untrue that I am anti-Semitic or self-hating. Indeed, I have been alarmed by the number of Jews who, dismayed by Israeli politics, seek to disavow their Jewishness. I am not one of those.” In response to Post emails and telephone queries on Monday, the new mayor of Frankfurt, Peter Feldmann, declined to comment.
Felix Semmelroth, a representative from Frankfurt¹s culture and science agency wrote the Post on Monday that Judith Butler will be honored “as an outstanding philosopher and literature professor, especially her contributions to the relationship between identity and body and gender research, as well as moral philosophy.” He also noted that she has made contributions to the study of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
The Adorno prize, which comes with a 50,000 Euro award, recognizes excellence in the disciplines of philosophy, music, theater and film, and is presented every three years.
A prominent US gay activist and writer, Jayson Littman, who has written articles about gay rights for the Post and Haaretz, told the Post, “I am saddened that a respected-academic like Judith Butler is working to turn the hatred of Israel into a queer value, and certainly hope that in honor of Theodor Adorno, she turns down the award.” Butler earned global attention as a groundbreaking scholar in the field of gender studies in the 1990¹s. Though not trained as a Mideast academic, she has increasingly turned her attention to Israel.
It is not the first time that Butler has generated controversy in Germany.
After Butler termed Hamas and Hezbollah “progressive” organizations that are part of the global Left, Jan Feddersen, a gay editor at the Tageszeitung, issued a blistering commentary against Butler in a 2010 article with the subheading, “In bed with Hezbollah.”