University Revokes Philosopher’s Visiting Professorship over Signing of “Philosophy for Palestine” Letter (updated)


The University of Cologne yesterday withdrew its invitation to Nancy Fraser (New School) to take up its 2024 Albertus Magnus Professorship, a visiting position that the university considers a “special honor,” because Professor Fraser had been one of several hundred signatories of the “Philosophy for Palestine” open letter published last November.

[Albertus Magnus is disappointed (from a fresco by Tommaso da Modena]

An announcement from the university states, in part:

It is with great regret that the University of Cologne has cancelled the events of this year’s Albertus Magnus Professorship 2024.

The reason for this is the public letter ‘Philosophy for Palestine’ of November 2023, signed by the philosopher Professor Nancy Fraser, who was invited to take up the Albertus Magnus professorship. In this letter, Israel’s right to exist as an “ethno-supremacist state” since its foundation in 1948 is called into question. The terror attacks by Hamas on Israel of 7 October 2023 is elevated to an act of legitimate resistance. The signatories call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions.

The Albertus Magnus Professorship is an important matter to the Rector with great internal and external symbolism for the university. It is associated with public events and seminars as well as an entry in the University’s Golden Book. It is perceived as a special honour of the University of Cologne associated with the explicit approval of the Rectorate. However, the statements in the philosophers’ letter are not in line with the statements of the University of Cologne dated 9 October and 22 October 2023 on the situation in Israel and the Middle East, neither with our close ties to Israeli partner institutions.

Ms Fraser’s invitation to the Albertus Magnus Professorship was already made at the end of 2022. Unfortunately, it was only in March 2024 that we realized that Ms Fraser was one of the signatories of the public letter of November 2023. She was then asked to explain and define her position. Ms Fraser’s reply has not provided any new information on the situation and her opinion on Israel.

After thorough discussions and consideration, the decision has been made to withdraw the invitation.

Several academics have signed onto a letter objecting the university’s decision and urging it to change its decision. It says, in part:

The actions of the Cologne university management threaten to be perceived internationally as an attack on what a university should be: a place for intensive and controversial exchange on socially relevant issues, and a space for trusting exchange across disciplinary and national boundaries. (translated from German by Google Translate)

The decision by the university is clearly at odds with prevailing conceptions of academic freedom.

Article 5, Clause 3 of the German Basic Law states:

Arts and sciences, research and teaching shall be free. The freedom of teaching shall not release any person from allegiance to the constitution.

Others better acquainted with German law and practices in this regard are welcome to comment on how (or if) this clause applies to the case at hand.

Albertus Magnus, for whom the visiting professorship is named, was a philosopher, scientist, and Bishop. He is known for his commentary on Aristotle’s works, making them accessible to others, and doing the same for Muslim thinkers Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd). He taught for several years at the University of Cologne. Named by the Catholic Church the patron saint of natural scientists, in one of his works, De Mineralibus, Magnus says: “It is [the task] of natural science not simply to accept what we are told but to inquire into the causes of natural things.”

UPDATES (4/9/24):

1. Donna Shalala, interim president of The New School, wrote to Cologne’s rector, Joybrato Mukherjee, calling his decision to revoke Fraser’s invitation “outrageous”. You can read whole letter here.

2. The authors of the open letter objecting to the decision, quoted in the original post here with translation via Google, have provided a translated version of the letter, which is here, below the German.

3. On Twitter, Hanno Sauer (Utrecht), following up on a comment from Tobias Schlicht, suggests philosophers publicly and collectively commit to never accepting an invitation by the University of Cologne to become the Albertus Magnus Professor.


Perhaps such a commitment could be “until they reverse their decision to disinvite Professor Fraser”.

4. They had already printed the flyers for Fraser’s lectures, and reportedly they’re posted at “universities all across Germany”:

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Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
1 month ago

I highly recommend this episode of the podcast The Dig as an introduction to contemporary German (anti-Deutsche) politics around antisemitism: https://thedigradio.com/podcast/the-german-question-w-emily-dische-becker/

AVK
AVK
Reply to  Chad Kautzer
1 month ago

I would add this open letter from Jewish writers, academics, journalists, artists, and cultural workers living in Germany, written in October 2023 on the crackdown on expression and dissent, including against Jewish critics of Israel.

https://www.nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/freedom-for-the-one-who-thinks-differently/

TakingLivesSeriously
TakingLivesSeriously
1 month ago

Putting aside the obvious violation of academic freedom, just like the smearing piece by Seyla Benhabib that Dailynous shared and highlighted, the statement from the German university misrepresents the content of the letter. The letter does not represent the Hamas terrorist act as a legitimate act of resistance. Khalidi goes through these misrepresentations in detail here: https://medium.com/@khalidi/benhabib-and-the-smear-of-supporting-hamas-295a81a1a056

Umayr Hassan
Umayr Hassan
1 month ago

German, along with many other Western, universities have taken a completely Zionist position, so much so that the University of Cologne doesn’t even deign to mention Palestine by name in its attempt (“in effect if not in intent,” as Zionists universally applicable charge of anti-semitism goes) to whitewash a genocide. So academics need to toe the party line and self-censor or suffer consequences.

I wonder what the logical conclusion here will be. Perhaps a resurrection of the white supremacist and colonialist mindset, and a new orientalism.

Ian Olasov
1 month ago

In case you’re wondering, Nancy Fraser is, in fact, Jewish and irony is, in fact, dead.

https://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_TGS_027_0005–nancy-fraser-rebel-philosopher.htm

William
William
Reply to  Ian Olasov
1 month ago

Dead?

Kyle
Kyle
Reply to  William
1 month ago

They mean ‘irony is dead.’ I read it the same way you did.

susanne bobzien
1 month ago

Just sent. His email address can be found online.

Dear Professor Speer,
 
As a German philosopher who is married to a Jewish US American, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that the University of Cologne has rescinded its invitation to Prof. Nancy Fraser (who, as you know, is of Jewish descent) as the 2024 Albert Magnus Professor.
 
The reports of a recent increase in antisemitism, islamophobia and racism in general in Germany fill me with great concern, and once again I feel that, as a German citizen, I have to be ashamed of my nationality. I truly very much hope that the cancellation of Prof. Fraser’s invitation will be reversed.
 
Sincerely,
 
Susanne Bobzien (University of Oxford)

RogerG
RogerG
1 month ago

I don’t condone the actions of those on either side of the conflict. At least not the hate filled extremists who seem to control both, some segments of the Palestinian opposition, as well as the Israeli government. Both sides have reached the point where all they seem to want is the total extermination of their perceived enemies. What I want is a return to sanity and compromise. One thing I would point out in light of the letter that was signed and released. Israel is surrounded by Arab majority, Islamic ruled countries which in the past contained sizable minorities of non-Arab or non-Islamic groups who were accorded 2nd class citizenship status or were otherwise repressed. Would the letter writers characterize them as being ethno-supremacist states? Why not?

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  RogerG
1 month ago

The Arab countries surrounding Israel (Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria) all still have significant non-Muslim minorities whom were never accorded second-class citizenship, at least on paper. (The only exception I am aware of being Baathist Syria repression of Kurds before the Civil war). This is simply not the case in Israel where Palestinian citizens of Israel are legally discriminated against where the infamous nationality law states that only Jews have a right of national determination. No Arab country has ever had an analogous discriminatory law. That’s not to mention millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip who are de facto non-citizens but mere subjects of a brutal military occupation which controls all aspects of their lives either directly through the Israeli military command or indirectly through the collaborationist and corrupt client aka the Palestinian authority. In sum, Arab countries have many problems but being ethno-supremacist states is not one of them.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
1 month ago

Large parts of this post are just false. All the countries you mentioned except Syria have Islam declared the official state religion in their constitutions and significantly discriminate against religious and other minorities..

Jordan is almost 95% Muslim and like 95% Arab. It discriminates against non-Muslims – a Muslim woman cannot, for example, marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Jordan). It’s constitution declares it to be Arab.

Egypt has a significant Copt religious minority but they are denied some pretty basic rights – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copts_in_Egypt. It’s constitution defines it as an Arab and Islamic.

Lebanon and Syria are currently having civil wars fought on largely ethnic lines and both had constitutions that literally provided for positions based on religion and ethnicity.

All these countries have seen massive exoduses of minorities. It is also notable that (a) like most Muslim Countries, the Jewish populations of these countries were largely expelled since 1948 – most had nothing to do with Zionism; and (b) many Palestinians were born in these countries, and only Jordan grants citizenship.

Your list omits Saudi Arabia, where Islam is a religion that is enforced by law and is constitutionally defined as an Arab Islamic state.

So I’m not sure how you came to the conclusion that no Arab state has an analogous law.

I’d also note that there is a state religion in many countries (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion), including Scotland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, etc. Most countries names are often translated as literally being the state of a specific group of people.

That doesn’t exclude the brutality of the occupation, but let’s not make stuff up either.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Nameless
1 month ago

Lots of strawman arguments here but let’s make this conscise. I did not claim there was no discrimination in Arab countries. I did not even claim there was no instutional discrimination in some countries (especially Egypt), nor did I deny the ethnic and secterian tensions and conflicts that have erupted in the region. (The civil war in Lebanon ended in 1990 by the way). My point was that there was no law that is analogous to the nationality law in Israel. One that clearly states that one group has a unique right to national determination. The comparisons you make to Arab countries having “Arab and Muslim” in their constitution can be made with the Israeli Basic Law which states that Israel is a “Jewish and democratic state” as well other countries in the world listing an official religion. The nationality law is something over and above all that, and trying to pretend it isn’t is insincere to say the least. Afterall, there is a reason why the infamous law was fiercely opposed by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Of course, the nationality law is far from being the only law where non-Jews are discriminated against in Israel. (see for instance, Absentees’ properties law), but the reason I mentioned the nationality law was because it was one with no analogues in Arab countries. (Incidentally, since Israel has no civil marriage laws like Jordan doesn’t, a Muslim woman there also does not have a right of getting married to a non-Muslim man).

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
1 month ago

You said: “[t]he Arab countries surrounding Israel (Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria) all still have significant non-Muslim minorities whom were never accorded second-class citizenship, at least on paper.” This is patently false based on the above. Egypt and Jordan define themselves as Arab and Muslim. Copts are not Egyptian. Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria are not citizens despite being born there. All these countries have horrible histories of ethnic and religious discrimination. So your statement is false.

The Israeli Nationality Law is similar in practice to those of many countries (as per the above). Poland has such a law, and it would prevent many German families that lived in what is now Poland from returning to Poland (excluding out EU migration). 1948 saw millions of people displaced throughout the world. WWI and WWII also saw the borders of Europe redrawn and Poland now occupies areas that are traditionally part of Germany. 1948 also saw millions of people leave India and Pakistan and numerous other mass population displacements.

The unique and offensive part of Israel’s law is not so much its existence but that it doesn’t extend to Palestinian citizens of Israel. But that is like two to three generations, and a child of a Palestinian Israeli citizen born would have Israeli citizenship. That said, Israel’s situation is unfortunately not very unique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationality_law. Noting especially that India has a law that is very similar to Israel’s and also excludes persons displaced in 1948 from its application.

Your argument about national self-determination doesn’t make any sense, unless you are only talking about the West Bank and Gaza. National Self-Determination typically refers to the right of a nation to have a country. Countries do not typically afford national self-determination to multiple ethnic groups.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  RogerG
1 month ago

Another important difference is that in Israel you have the Law of return that automatically grants citizenship to any Jewish person in the world who wishes to immigrate while denying the same right to Palestinian refugees who were born there as well as their descendants. No Arab country has a similar law.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
1 month ago

Many countries have a law that allows for return, including Germany, Ireland, Greece, and Poland – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_return

Spain and Portugal literally have a law that allows Jews to return there: https://www.timesofisrael.com/spain-approves-law-of-return-for-jews/.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Nameless
1 month ago

I am not sure what your point is here. The first four countries’ law of return mentions nothing about ethnicity, so any person with provable roots technically has this right regardless of what ethniciy they identify with.
The law of return of Spain and Portugal has been-rightly- criticised for omitting the right of return of descendents of Andalusian Muslims expelled alongside Andalusian Jews. Islamophobia no doubt has played a role in this ommission. Regardless, that does not make Spain or Portugal ethno-states like Israel since the group favoured by the law of return is not a majority group.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
1 month ago

Jews in pre-’67 Israel are a majority. They comprise approximately 80% of the population (I’d note 1/2 of which is not even ashkenazi, but largely descendants of Jews kicked out of the “tolerant” nearby countries). In the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel (including the Golan Heights), Jews comprise slightly over 50% of the population. By definition that is a majority.

You should read the whole of the list. A right of return isn’t unusual. Look up Germany, which does mention ethnicity. Armenia (in the first four) also provides for an ethnic based right of return. If you want to go further down, read about Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, etc. You can also read the other link about Bulgaria, Estonia, Serbia, etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationality_law

Most of Europe is comprised of nation states. Nation typically refers to an ethnic group. “Nation” is literally defined as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.” “Ethnic group” is defined as “a community or population made up of people who share a common cultural background or descent.” There is a significant overlap, and in the case of Europe most countries are effectively nation states and many have a nationally recognized religion, dominant ethnicity, and dominant language while affording others equal rights.

Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 month ago

You shouldn’t rely on Google Translate when it comes to the important bits. This translation is too far removed from the orginal: ‘The terror attacks by Hamas on Israel of 7 October 2023 is elevated to an act of legitimate resistance.’ The original reads: ‘Der Terrorangriff der Hamas auf Israel vom 7.10.2023 wird in rechtfertigender Weise relativiert.’ Better: ‘The terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on 7th October 2023 is relativised in a justifying manner.’ Your translation makes it into a much stronger claim.

AVK
AVK
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 month ago

I think “The terror attacks by Hamas on Israel of 7 October 2023 is elevated to an act of legitimate resistance” is from the English-language text provided by the university on their website. That’s the version I read (rather than the Google Translated account of the German text, which in fact is closer to your translation). So the stronger claim in English comes from the University.

J m
J m
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 month ago

Despite the quibble in translation, whatever the strength of the claim–it had enough force to revoke the position.

AVK
AVK
Reply to  J m
1 month ago

Either version of the claim is a misrepresentation of what the original letter actually stated, so it doesn’t actually justify the revocation.

Leonard J. Waks
Leonard J. Waks
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 month ago

relativised in a justifying manner” is not English. So the phrase requires some sort of re-phrasing.

Noter
Noter
1 month ago

It is interesting that the german and english versions of the statement by University of Cologne have the same content *except* one sentence where the english claim “The terror attacks by Hamas on Israel of 7 October 2023 is elevated to an act of legitimate resistance.” differs from the german “Der Terrorangriff der Hamas auf Israel vom 7.10.2023 wird in rechtfertigender Weise relativiert.”

Note also how the above quoted english sentence is similar to Benhabib’s November 3 reply[1] to the open letter: “My objection to your letter is that it sees the conflict in Israel-Palestine through the lens of “settler-colonialism” alone, and elevates Hamas’s atrocities of October 7, 2023 to an act of legitimate resistance against an occupying force.”

[1] https://medium.com/amor-mundi/an-open-letter-to-my-friends-who-signed-philosophy-for-palestine-0440ebd665d8

Marty Oppenheimer
Marty Oppenheimer
Reply to  Noter
1 month ago

Elevated, or relativized, doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact that Nancy is Jewish. What matters is that her voice, even though we may disagree with her, has been shut down. For German (or any) university authorities to shut down voices they may disagree with on this particular hot issue is well down that slippery slope to censoring other and ultimately all voices that dissent from the “official” line.

Eve Evil
Eve Evil
1 month ago

Putting academic freedom first, Professor Fraser should not have been disinvited due to her signature on said letter. Pragmatically, the greatest political challenge for the University of Cologne is the support of (an) academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions expressed therein, which runs counter to the non-binding yet influential resolution of the German parliament from May 19, 2019 (print) condemning the BDS movement. But I wonder how many commenters here would have defended the right of, for instance, Gender critical feminists to speak? How many of you would have supported someone’s guest professorship after learning that they signed a letter entitled “Why Hamas must be defeated now”?

Ffs
Ffs
Reply to  Eve Evil
1 month ago

Did you seriously – SERIOUSLY – manage to somehow make this a TERF thing? Aren’t you embarrassed for yourself?

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Ffs
1 month ago

Lol it’s not *that* tenuous/out of left field. I mean, it’s a bit forced, but not all caps worthy.

TF Rector
TF Rector
Reply to  Eve Evil
1 month ago

The question of no-platforming vs “free speech” is a legitimate one to raise—this paper presents a sensible view imho https://academic.oup.com/book/9278/chapter-abstract/156003932?redirectedFrom=fulltext

If your suggestion is that many commentators here are hypocritical “leftists” or whatever, who will decry the use of tactics they embrace in formally equivalent cases—I mean, who can answer that? If one believes that sometimes no-platforming is justified, the question is about the criteria for when. Obviously Fraser’s signing that letter doesn’t meet any plausible version of those criteria. Would signing a letter supporting Kathleen Stock? No. What about a letter arguing Hamas should be defeated? No. What about not signing a letter or holding a view, but being a professionally prolific espouser of TERFisms? Maybe. But now the cases are sufficiently different to make the hypocrisy suggestion look pretty unserious.

(Also, the Bundestag’s resolution was an outrage that universities should anyway ignore.)

Are we just going to let this pass?
Are we just going to let this pass?
1 month ago

Shouldn’t the APA issue a statement about this? (For one thing, Nancy Fraser is a former president of the APA-Eastern division. She is also a member, I assume…)

No other collective action from philosophers about this? Are we just going to let this pass? Are we going to be fine with German universities canceling any philosopher for supporting Palestine? Are the beer gardens in summer just too fun to get in trouble with the German academia?

John E Harfouch
John E Harfouch

We want the APA to pass a BDS resolution

Are we just going to let this pass?
Are we just going to let this pass?
Reply to  John E Harfouch
1 month ago

That’s a different demand. I don’t think it’s good to conflate the two.

John Harfouch
John Harfouch

The letter in question:
“ We invite our fellow philosophers to join us in solidarity with Palestine and the struggle against apartheid and occupation.In particular, join us in supporting the academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions—distinct from individuals—as outlined by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).”

It’s THE issue.

Are we just going to let this pass?
Are we just going to let this pass?
Reply to  John Harfouch
1 month ago

I’m not sure if you’re trolling.

In case you are serious: In the original comment, I meant that the APA and other philosophers should oppose this clear violation of academic freedom. If she was disinvited for signing a petition against the BDS that would be equally problematic.

(I personally support the BDS. But I think that’s a separate issue.)

David Wallace

Agreed. This is a really clear violation of academic freedom and can and should be condemned on those terms whatever your views on Israel/Palestine.

Berel Dov Lerner
Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

I love all these people who suddenly come out as Jewish just in order to call for the destruction of Israel and a boycott of Jewish academics. How dare I call it a boycott of Jewish academics? Ask them if their boycott includes Israeli Arab academics.

TakingLivesSeriously
TakingLivesSeriously
Reply to  Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

“Call for destruction of Israel”?

Nancy Fraser has not called for that.

Ask them if their boycott includes Israeli Arab academics.

The thing above shows that you are not seriously reading these stuff. But for the benefit of others: BDS is an institutional boycott, targeting institutional cooperation and agreements. It is explicitly against boycotting individuals. (E.g., against a joint program with this or that university, but not against having a colloquium speaker from, e.g., the Hebrew university). From the BDS official guideline:

The academic boycott targets official institutional ties with Israeli universities such as joint research projects, joint courses and exchange programs. It does not target individual Israeli academics and does not seek to dissuade contact or collaboration with Israeli academics acting in a personal capacity.

And finally: no one is “coming out as Jewish” all of the sudden. There are many wonderful Jewish colleagues who are calling for a stop to the war and the apartheid system. They have come to the view that the academic boycott might be a good tactic (I have doubts if it’s a good tactic, but I think it’s a very reasonable disagreement).

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  TakingLivesSeriously
1 month ago

Yeah I love it when people tell me that my more than 20 years of advocacy within my Jewish community on behalf of a just peace in Israel and Palestine is actually just me “coming out as Jewish.” My 7 year old probably knows the shabbos prayers better than most of them, but apparently I’m the one who’s not Jewish.

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

Whether or not you support BDS – you obviously don’t – you should know what it calls for before criticizing it. There is no call for a boycott of individual academics. It is a call to boycott institutions. Here are some official guidelines: “Our academic boycott targets institutions, not individuals. The only exception is when an individual academic is an official representative of, not merely affiliated to, her/his complicit Israeli academic institution.”

For example, the BDS position is silent one whether David Enoch should, for example, give the Tanner Lectures (I think he’d be excellent!). But if David organized a conference at Hebrew University, the BDS position is that no academic should attend that conference because it is under the auspices of an Israeli university.

I imagine someone might argue that David’s public essays in support of not criticizing the Israeli war against Gaza make him professionally complicit in that war and therefore a legitimate target of the boycott. But, that he’s Israeli, much less Jewish, is not a sufficient condition (and in the latter case certainly not a necessary condition). I disagree with this criticism of David, fwiw.

BDS also has no position on whether American or UK universities should hire recent Israeli PhDs (i.e., people who have just gotten a PhD from an Israeli university). But, the BDS position is firmly against getting one’s PhD from an Israeli university (since this requires enmeshing oneself financially and practically within an Israeli institution).

Berel Dov Lerner
Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

Here’s the problem: Israel pulled out of Gaza, giving the Palestinians an opportunity of complete self-rule. The area was quickly taken over by the fanatical Islamist Hamas regime, which is devoted in word and deed to killing Jews and destroying Israel. The events of October 7 made perfectly clear the inadequacy of Israel’s policy of allowing Hamas to remain in power in Gaza while trying to limit its military capabilities via a partial blockade (in partnership with Egypt) and occasional armed clashes, as well as by offering positive incentives, such as allowing increasing numbers of Gazans to gain employment in Israel. Hamas has used its time in power to build a huge underground military infrastructure beneath the towns and neighborhoods of the Gaza strip, basically turning the entire Gazan civilian population into one massive human shield for their fighters. The existential threat posed by Hamas (whose leaders have promised to repeat the savagery of October seventh many times over in the future) meant that Israeli forces would have to meet a military challenge perhaps unmatched in the history of war: vanquishing a genocidal militia that hides beneath a dense civilian population in a system of tunnels and bunkers perhaps more extensive than any other in the annals of warfare. It would be completely impossible to capture that infrastructure without the extensive use of aerial bombing. To make matters worse, Hamas has no compunctions about using hospitals, schools, mosques etc. for its military purposes, Hamas has interfered with civilian populations trying to flee for safety, having been forewarned by Israel of impending attacks. While neighboring Arab countries have opened their borders to civilians fleeing the fighting in Syria, etc., Egypt has firmly refused to offer Gazans refuge for the duration of the war. Add to this that according to the UN, the usual ratio of combatant to civilian casualties in recent wars is about 1 to 9, https://press.un.org/en/2022/sc14904.doc.htm and you will discover that Israel, fighting against an existential foe under these unprecedented circumstances, has done a very credible job of avoiding civilian casualties https://www.newsweek.com/israel-has-created-new-standard-urban-warfare-why-will-no-one-admit-it-opinion-1883286 While it is clear that Gazan civilians are suffering terribly in war the Hamas regime has brought upon them, one should not be so quick to accept Hamas’s casualty figures https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/how-gaza-health-ministry-fakes-casualty-numbers

Umayr Hassan
Umayr Hassan
Reply to  Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

If Israel itself defines who a combatant is (reportedly, it ranges from anyone Palestinian or aiding Palestinians to any Palestinian male of a certain age [1]), it can claim whatever casualty ratio it likes. This “permissiveness” is precisely why Israel uses AI to automate its genocide of the Palestinians. In fact, IDF waits for its target “combatant” to be with their families before blowing up the entire family (thus the IDF is creating the “human shields” that it claims Hamas is using) [2]. Last I checked, at least 90% of the starving people killed by Israel are civilians [3].

As for casualty figures themselves, as people have been for the past six months – no one has come up with a single solid reason to doubt the Gaza Ministry of Health’s figure [4].

Calling every bureaucratic institution – whether health or internal security – “Hamas” is a way of justifying killing civilians or of whitewashing war crimes. In fact, Israeli officials have repeatedly asserted, plainly, that they intend to target civilians [5]. Calling everyone Israel kills – usually in cold blood – a “terrorist” is Israel’s way of deflecting from the genocide taking place.

[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2024/4/5/gaza-is-one-big-kill-zone
[2] https://www.972mag.com/lavender-ai-israeli-army-gaza/
[3] https://x.com/EuroMedHR/status/1775469740154089778
[4] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(23)02713-7/fulltext
[5] https://news.yahoo.com/israeli-president-says-no-innocent-154330724.html

Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O'Connell
1 month ago

The criminal code (Section 130) of Germany forbids Volksverhetzung (incitement to racial hatred), which would include antisemitism. It’s a fine point, but worth making, since this clause is in the criminal code precisely because of what happened during Nazi rule.

In general, freedom of speech is present in Germany, but it is not an absolute value under the German constitution (or German law) the way it is under the U.S. constitution and law.

So, for example, in the U.S., Richard Spencer (remember him?) was allowed to promote his dream of a white ethno-state, and many universities felt they were forced to allow him to air his views on campus (under the guise of free speech), whereas in Germany he could be arrested and charged.

The current problem, however, is not the criminal code, but the way it is being used (or threatened) to silence dissent from the current line.

Fraser’s dis-invitation is not happening in a vacuum. There have been numerous such incidents, including against two filmmakers (one Israeli and one Palestinian) who spoke out in their award speech against what the Israeli government was doing. (see: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/germany-politicians-berlinale-awards-show-antisemitic-consequences-1235837984/ ) Claudia Roth, of the Green Party (currently part of the government along with the Social Democrats and the FDP), said this would be ‘investigated’. Also, in another incident, Masha Gessen was given an award and then had it temporarily rescinded, because of her statements about Israel and Gaza (which she called, pointedly, a ghetto). Her award was eventually given to her, but only in a scaled-down format (see: https://apnews.com/article/germany-hannah-arendt-prize-masha-gessen-1923648579baea413c8b35cc436375fe )

It’s highly problematic that a paragraph in the criminal code designed to prevent incitement of racial hatred — as an expression of the first line of the German constitution: “The dignity of the human being is inviolable” — is being wielded against legitimate expressions of disgust with, and calls for, the end of the massive human rights violations in Gaza.

Obviously it is not being applied in Prof. Fraser’s case, but her dis-invitation is part of an ongoing war against expressions of support for the Palestinians and criticisms of Israel, as well as strong opposition to the BDS movement.

I doubt that the Rector of the University at Cologne will give in. In terms of tactics, going forward, there should be an international boycott, specifically, of this professorship.

I don’t think a general boycott of Cologne is practical or warranted. The professors in, e.g., the Thomas-Institut no more approved this dis-invitation, than professors at the University of Michigan approve of the way the administration there have handled this issue and public protest in support of the Palestinians.

Also, on a practical level, Prof. Fraser should get a hefty payment from Cologne, given that she has most likely made all kinds of arrangements for Fall of 2024 which she will now have to cancel, if this dis-invitation is not reversed.

Anna
Anna
1 month ago

The German “Netzwerk für Wissenschaftsfreiheit” has published a statement that explicitly labels the decision as a violation of Prof. Fraser’s academic freedom. Their statement contains some qualifications. They criticize Fraser’s signature of the philosophy-for-palestine-letter, specifically for the included proposal to boycott Israeli academic institutions, which they label as an “attack on academic freedom”. But they think that the cancelation of her professorship on the basis of a political statement (the signature), and in particular the cancelation of academic teaching, is clearly a violation of standards of academic freedom. The network is dominated by conservative academics and has been criticized for not distancing itself from one of their members, who has ties to right-wing extremists. Their general conservative line makes it noteworthy that they reach the conclusion in the case of Fraser. However, my personal impression is that there are few German voices that state matters in similar clarity. There have been many comments in mainstream media that more or less follow the explanation of the University’s president, deny that the issue has any effect on academic freedom. Sabine Döring, philosophy professor at Tübingen, and currently State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, tweeted “Kein Eingriff in die Wissenschaftsfreiheit!”

Miroslav Imbrisevic
Reply to  Anna
1 month ago

The ‘Netzwerk’ may have more conservative members than lefties, but it doesn’t promote conservative policies, it promotes academic freedom. So it isn’t a surprise they defend Fraser and it isn’t a surprise that they defended Marie-Luise Vollbrecht, who is politically on the left [https://4w.pub/german-uni-cancels-lecture/].

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 days ago
Awaiting approval

Late, but it’s not about academic freedom. Other events can and will continue to take place. It’s about something different entirely: defining and enforcing red lines on anti-semitic, racist, sexist and other dehumanizing views, as a contribution to the ongoing societal debate. In contrast to normal workshops, this is an integral part of the mission of such renowned invitations. The University of Cologne has done justice to this. I think that’s good.