Thousands of intellectuals, including Jewish thinkers, in Berlin rejected a new clause introduced by the German capital’s state government, requiring a commitment against “anti-Semitism” in order to obtain funding for cultural projects. They considered, in a petition they signed, that this clause aims to suppress defenders of Palestinian rights with the aim of silencing criticism directed at Israeli policies and practices.
Media outlets reported that more than 4,000 cultural workers (artists, writers) from Berlin opposed the anti-Semitism ban, which was put in place by Joe Chialo, State Minister for Culture and Social Cohesion of the Berlin state government.
Joe Chialo, from the Christian Democratic Union Party, announced on Thursday, January 4, that beneficiaries of public funding (i.e. financing of cultural projects by the state government) will in the future have to adhere to a clause against anti-Semitism.
In their open letter, the artists accuse this clause of contributing to an “aggressive and often subjective public debate, and of deepening social divisions,” according to the “Amal, Berlin!” website.
Among the signatories are Jewish writer Deborah Feldman and Jewish artist Candice Breitz. The objectors criticized that the definition of the current anti-Semitism clause is the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Hundreds of academics, including Jewish scholars specializing in Holocaust research, anti-Semitism, Jewish history, and related fields, as well as hundreds of civil society organizations, including human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, had previously criticized the IHRA definition.
They considered that the definition largely aims to suppress Palestinian rights defenders with the aim of silencing criticism of Israeli policies and practices.
They pointed out that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance did not prepare this definition, although its name is linked to it. But the definition came as a result of concerted efforts made since the beginning of the twenty-first century by individuals and organizations allied with the Israeli government, to redefine the concept of anti-Semitism in a way that excludes and silences criticism directed at Israel over its violations of human rights and acts of violent repression against Palestinians. The reconceptualization of anti-Semitism based on criticism of Israel has become known as the “New anti-Semitism.”
It is noteworthy that decisions to cancel pro-Palestinian events on charges of “anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel” have become almost daily news in Germany since the beginning of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, after a surprise attack by Hamas on the seventh of last October, especially since Berlin considers Israel’s security and support a national “reason of state.”