The city-state of Berlin’s commissioner to combat antisemitism, Lorenz Korgel, on Monday criticized Humboldt University for holding an event with an alleged academic antisemite who promotes the BDS campaign targeting Israel.
“If anti-Israeli boycott and delegitimization campaigns are directly supported, the line regarding Israel-related antisemitism was crossed. The Berlin Senate has clearly taken a stand against campaigns of this kind,” Korgel told The Jerusalem Post.
The Post reported last week that the Berlin-based Humboldt University, which expelled Jewish academics and students during the Nazi-era, hosted an anti-Israel event with the pro-BDS academic Georg Meggle.
Dr. Elvira Groezinger, vice chairwoman of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post on Monday that Humboldt University “defies scientific integrity and ethics. Apparently, the old antisemitic GDR [German Democratic Republic] spirit still prevails there, which Jeffrey Herf describes so well in his latest book Undeclared Wars against Israel.”
Herf, a distinguished University of Maryland historian, outlined in his meticulously researched book Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989 the role that the former East German communist state played in supplying weapons to Israel’s enemies and promoting an ideological war against the existence of the Jewish state. Humboldt University is located in the now-defunct capital of the GDR.
Post queries to Humboldt University president Sabine Kunst and her spokesman Hans-Christoph Keller were not immediately returned. Keller defended the event last week as an expression of academic freedom. He and Kunst declined to say if antisemitism is an opinion.
The German journalist and expert on contemporary antisemitism in the federal republic, Alex Feuerherdt, told the Post that he understands that Korgel’s criticism to mean that Humboldt University event crossed the line into Jew-hatred.
Sigmount Königsberg, the representative to combat antisemitism for Germany’s largest Jewish community in Berlin, tweeted last week: “And then you wonder that at Humboldt an antisemitic event takes place under the guise of ‘freedom of science.’”
Korgel told the Post that the Berlin Universities are not bound by the anti-BDS resolution passed by the Berlin Senate.
A spokesman for Korgel told the Post that he and “Königsberg spoke about the case and share the same criticism.” He added that Korgel will initiate talks with the management of the university.
Humboldt University faced sharp criticism last year for opening an Islamic Institute with ties to Iran’s regime. The CEO of the US-based Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, told a congressional hearing last month that Iran’s regime is the leading state-sponsor of antisemitism and Holocaust denial.
Humboldt University’s Institute for Islamic Theology, where imams are trained and educated, is overseen by an advisory board that includes the Islamic Community of Shi’ites in Germany (IGS), which is controlled by Iran’s rulers.
In September, Gunnar Schupelius, a popular columnist for the Berlin paper B.Z., urged Berlin Mayor Michael Müller to end “nightmare of the Iran nightmare on the Islam Institute” at Humboldt University. The university took no action against Iranian regime influence at the university.