SPME Statement on awarding Judith Butler the “Adorno Prize”

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The German section of the international grass-roots community of scholars “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME-Germany e.V.)” protests against awarding the “Theodor-W.-Adorno-Preis” to the American philosopher and author Judith Butler intended to take place on September 11, 2012 in Frankfurt, Germany:

Who boycotts Israel cannot be an Adorno-laureate

The city of Frankfurt claims that with Judith Butler „one of the most significant thinkers of our times in the field of moral philosophy”is honored. Do the people in charge know that at the same time they honor a major protagonist of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel?

The prize was named after Theodor W. Adorno, and the city of Frankfurt explains that „with his name we associate the image of a liberal, enlightened spirit”.[1] To boycott Israeli Institutions represents just the opposite: It is not liberal, but anti-liberal, it is not enlightened, but abominable and unacceptable.

Judith Butler, who will be awarded the prize money of 50,000 € (61,400 $) by the city of Frankfurt in the historic „Paulskirche” belongs to the most prominent signatories of the „United States Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel”[2].

Furthermore, she uses her reputation publicly to support the BDS campaign (BDS stands for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel), e.g. in March 2011 she was engaged in an „Israeli Apartheid Week” event in Canada.[3] Recently, she showed her strong support for boycotting Israel in the context of the dispute over the unpublished works of Franz Kafka. The reason for her being against these works remainins in Israel was her call to boycott the National Library of Jerusalem.[4]

The BDS campaign in Germany is not known so well. In June 2012, however, there was a public rally organized by this group in order to prevent the National Habima Theater of Israel from participating in an international Theater Festival in Berlin.[5]

Other dictatorships and authoritarian regimes of the Middle East region get away with everything and are not mentioned by the BDS campaign. Instead, in a grotesquely biased fashion, only the Jewish state of Israel is proclaimed to be the root of all evil in the Middle East. This campaign aims at preventing any “normalization” between Arabs and Israelis and calls world wide for boycotting universities and cultural institutions exclusively in Israel.

At the same time, terrorism and antisemitism of Hezbollah and Hamas are ignored or even defended.

Judith Butler declared in March 2010: “I think: Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important,”.[6] Although she later pointed out that she did not to support the tactics of these organizations, she insisted that both terrorist organizations are “left movements, …they are ,left’ in the sense that they oppose colonialism and imperialism.”[7]

The philosopher Theodor W. Adorno was clearly and vehemently opposed to all types of Jew-hatred, while Judith Butler trivializes terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas clearly opposed to Israel. Her calls for boycott jeopardize Israel’s existence, while the philosopher from Frankfurt was particularly concerned for the secure existence of Israel: He was “terribly concerned because of Israel”[8] he wrote in the context of the Six-day-war in 1967 and warned against something “awful, that is imminent for Israel, the homestead of countless Jews that just escaped the horror.”[9]

That the City of Frankfurt, of all places, where the boycott against Jews of the Nazis in 1933 is still remembered, awards a prize of 50,000 € named after a scholar who was driven into exile by the Nazis, to a person that calls for the singular boycott of Jewish Institutions within the state of Israel, is a scandal.

After the Nobel laureate of literature, Günther Grass, recently accused Israel of endangering world peace, this grotesquely wrong decision of the City of Frankfurt leads to the suspicion that it agrees with this radical enmity of its laureate toward Israel.

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

for the board of directors of SPME Germany

Berlin, August 15, 2012

[8] Adorno, Theodor W./Tobisch, Lotte (2003): Der private Briefwechsel, Graz – Wien, S. 197.

[9] T. W. Adorno, Aufforderung zu einer Gedenkminute für Benno Ohnesorg in der Vorlesung über Ästhetik, 6. Juni 1967, zit. nach Wolfgang Kraushaar, (Hg.): Frankfurter Schule und Studentenbewegung. Von der Flaschenpost zum Molotowcocktail. 1946 bis 1995, Bd 2. Hamburg 1998, S. 241.

SPME Statement on awarding Judith Butler the “Adorno Prize”

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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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