Middle East conflict: Outrage over protest declaration by lecturers about the Gaza war

Middle East conflict
Outrage over protest statements by lecturers about the Gaza war

Criticizes a letter of support from around 100 teachers at Berlin universities for pro-Palestinian demonstrators: Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (archive photo). photo

© Wolfgang Kumm/dpa

Pro-Palestinian protests at universities are also causing controversy in this country. Teachers express their support in a letter. The education minister is horrified.

Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger was horrified Letter of support from around 100 teachers at Berlin universities responded to pro-Palestinian demonstrators. “This statement from teachers at Berlin universities is shocking. Instead of taking a clear stand against hatred of Israel and Jews, university occupiers are made victims and violence is trivialized,” the FDP politician told the “Bild” newspaper. “The fact that the supporters are teachers is a new quality. They in particular must stand on the basis of the Basic Law,” the minister continued.

On Tuesday, around 150 activists at the Free University of Berlin tried to occupy a courtyard and set up tents. The university quickly called in the police and had the area cleared. The police reported on Wednesday that 79 people had been temporarily arrested, 49 of whom were women and 30 men, and that there were 80 criminal investigations and 79 administrative offenses.

Statement: Right to peaceful protest

In a “Statement from lecturers at Berlin universities”, more than 100 lecturers from several Berlin universities wrote: “Regardless of whether we agree with the specific demands of the protest camp, we stand before our students and defend their right to peaceful protest also includes the occupation of university premises.” And further: “We call on the Berlin university management to refrain from police operations against their own students and from further criminal prosecution.”

Berlin’s governing mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) told “Bild”: “I have absolutely no understanding for the authors of this pamphlet.” Berlin universities are and remain places of knowledge, critical discourse and open exchange. “Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are not expressions of opinion, but criminal offenses,” emphasized the CDU politician.

Lindholz: Letter is “low point for German science”

CSU domestic politician Andrea Lindholz described the letter as a “low point for German science.” She has no understanding “when professors and lecturers defend a mob of anti-Semites and Israel-haters,” the deputy chairwoman of the Union parliamentary group told the newspaper.

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, told “Bild” that the activists were less concerned with the suffering of the people in Gaza, but rather were driven by their hatred of Israel and Jews. “I would have expected university lecturers in particular to at least clearly state this if this form of protest was already being advocated for,” emphasized Schuster.

“The right to freedom of expression should be protected by everyone”

However, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Germany, Laith Arafeh, rejected criticism of the pro-Palestinian protests. The scope for freedom of expression and academic freedom with regard to Israel and the Gaza war is continuing to decline, said the ambassador to the German Press Agency. “We condemn all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism,” he said. “We also condemn the systematic use of false accusations of anti-Semitism against all voices that call for an end to the war.”

The diplomat said he was not taking a position on the student protests because that would be interference in internal affairs. “But I support everyone’s right to freedom of expression, everyone’s freedom of expression, anywhere, at any time. This universal human right should be protected by everyone, and everyone has a duty to act when it is violated.”


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