Monday, 25 February 2013

Long tradition of disrupting Israeli speakers in German universities

"Beat Zionists dead, make the Near East red"

Die Bombe im Jüdischen Gemeindehaus, by Wolfgang Kraushaar, Hamburger Edition HIS Verlagsges, 300 pp., 2005. Reviewed by Manfred Gerstenfeld (October 1, 2006). Extract:

Left-Wing Anti-Semites at Universities

Contemporary commentators often think that the twenty-first-century efforts to prevent or disturb the appearances of Israeli speakers at universities are innovative.

Kraushaar devotes an entire chapter to the experiences of Asher Ben Nathan [photo], the first Israeli ambassador to Germany, at the country’s universities. He was shouted down in June 1969 at Frankfurt University by members of the leftist student group SDS, Palestinians, and leftist Israelis from the Matzpen group. Two days later, Ben Nathan was unable to finish his lecture at Hamburg University because of the many interruptions. When the ambassador wanted to speak in September that year in Berlin, he was told that the climate at both the Free and the Technical universities was such that he should not do so. He then spoke at a meeting organized by the young Christian Democrats. Before the meeting, a leftist publication attacked Ben Nathan in a way that Kraushaar interprets as an invitation to carry out an attempt on the Israeli ambassador’s life. Ben Nathan’s lecture at Munich University in December of that year was also severely disrupted. One poster in the auditorium carried the words: "Only when bombs explode in 50 supermarkets in Israel will there be peace".

There are also other examples besides those Kraushaar mentions of left-wing Germans pioneering extremist actions against Israelis. A case in point is that of Internationale Solidarität, an ad hoc group established to prevent the vice-chancellor of the Hebrew University from addressing a meeting at Kiel University. A leaflet distributed by Internationale Solidarität concluded with the slogan, "Schlagt die Zionisten tot, macht den Nahen Osten rot" (Beat Zionists dead, make the Near East red).[1]

After Ben Nathan ended his ambassadorship, he wrote a book on the letters he had received while in Germany. The German boulevard paper Bild-Zeitung thereupon asked for letters of solidarity with Israel and Ben Nathan. The latter on that occasion also received many anti-Semitic letters, both from the Left and the Right.

An important formative influence on the ideology of many left-wing students was that of the philosophers of the Frankfurt school. One of its prominent members, Theodor W. Adorno, a Jew, wrote a letter in 1969 to his former colleague, Herbert Marcuse, in whose works many of the student leaders of the Paris disturbances sought inspiration. Adorno said he was extremely depressed and afraid that the German student movement would become fascist. He added: "You only have to look into the maniacally frozen eyes of those who probably, basing themselves on us, turn their anger against us".  Kraushaar concludes that apparently Adorno at the time did not want to make this letter public.

The importance of Kraushaar’s book thus goes far beyond elucidating an early anti-Semitic and potentially murderous crime of the German extreme Left. It shows how intimidation motifs and acts of violence, which since have threatened many democratic societies, partially originated in the contacts between left-wing European intellectual circles, extreme leftists, and Palestinian terrorists.

[1] Gerd Langguth, "Anti-Israel Extremism in West Germany", in Robert S. Wistrich, ed., The Left against Zion: Communism, Israel and the Middle East (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1979), 257.

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