Photo Credit: Heike Huslage-Koch / Wikimedia
Achille Mbembe, 2015

Once again, the self-hating Jewish anti-Semites are out in force, joining their international brethren in leading the fray in a new campaign against Israel – but a counterweight has been applied to stop them.

This time it’s a fight to destroy the career of Felix Klein, the Federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany & Fight Against Antisemitism, who had the temerity to speak up against an invitation extended to an academic who equated former South African apartheid with the Israeli government. It’s like equating sand with fruit – any fruit.

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A letter was written to the German government by “Jewish scholars and artists from Israel and elsewhere, many of whom specialize in anti-Semitism and in Jewish, Holocaust and Israel Studies,” addressed to Mr. Horst Seehofer, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Building and Community in Berlin, calling on him to “replace Felix Klein . . . following his shameful attack on Prof. Achille Mbembe.” The signatories insisted that Mbembe is “one of the most important intellectuals in Africa, whose humanistic voice and scholarship is heard and admired globally.”

Professor Achille Mbembe was considered for spot as opening speaker at this year’s Ruhrtriennale Festival, but as the end was rejected as a candidate, partially due to Klein’s input. At the end was the event was canceled anyway due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Needless to say, his fans were infuriated and accused Klein of “weaponizing anti-Semitism against critics of the Israeli government” and activists “exercising their freedom of speech.”

Mbembe says he is not a member of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) economic war on the State of Israel – a vicious anti-Semitic campaign cloaked in fancy language to disguise it as a simple “boycott” – but certainly seems to support the cause.

On the “plus side,” however, the 50,000-strong membership of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) this Tuesday published an open letter supporting Klein’s position. The letter pointed out that Mbembe made an anti-Semitic equation between the former South African regime and the Israeli government, while also endorsing the global BDS campaign, “and diminished the Holocaust by comparing it with the apartheid system.”

Mbembe has, in fact, a history of animosity against Israel.

In the foreword for his book, “Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy” (2015), Mbembe wrote:

“The occupation of Palestine is the greatest moral scandal of our times, one of the most dehumanizing ordeals of the century we have just entered, and the biggest act of cowardice of the last half-century.” He concluded the foreword by writing, “the time has come for global isolation.”

In his article “The society of enmity” published in the magazine Radical Philosphy issue 200, series 1, Nov/Dec 2016, Mbembe accuses Israel of carrying out nearly everything against the local population short of wholesale slaughter, in the Palestinian Authority.

“Permanent or temporary checkpoints, cement blocks and mounds of earth serving as roadblocks, the control of aerial and marine space, of the import and export of all sorts of products, regular military incursions, home demolitions, the desecration of cemeteries, whole olive groves uprooted, infrastructure turned to rubble and obliterated, high and medium-altitude bombardments, targeted assassinations, urban counter-insurgency techniques, the profiling of minds and bodies, constant harassment, the ever smaller subdivision of land, cellular and molecular violence, the generalization of forms adopted from the model of a camp – every feasible means is put to work in order to impose a regime of separation whose functioning paradoxically depends on an intimate proximity with those who have been separated.

Mbembe goes on to write “given its ‘hi-tech’ character, the effects of the Israeli project on the Palestinian body are much more formidable that the relatively primitive operations undertaken by the apartheid regime in South Africa between 1948 and the early 1980s. This is evidenced by its miniaturization of violence – its cellularization and molecularization – and its various techniques of material and symbolic erasure. [11] It is also evidenced in its procedures and techniques of demolition – of almost everything, whether of infrastructures, homes, roads or landscapes – and its fanatical policy of destruction aimed at transforming the life of Palestinians into a heap of ruins or a pile of garbage destined for cleansing. [12] In South Africa, the mounds of ruins never did reach such a scale.”

Last month, Klein bluntly told the German news outlet WAZ that Mbembe has “questioned Israel’s right to exist, and also compared South Africa’s apartheid system to the Holocaust – something that is out of the question in view of the unprecedented crimes during the Nazi era, and especially given Germany’s historical responsibility for it.”

Also in support of the challenged anti-Semitism Commissioner, Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff expressed “deep admiration and respect for my friend and colleague Felix Klein, the Federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany & Fight Against Antisemitism.” Writing in a statement posted on May 2 to Twitter, Issacharoff commented, “He has strengthened the German Jewish Community and German ties with Israel in the face of a complex and challenging reality.”

This week Israel and Germany celebrate 55 years of “cooperation and partnership” on Tuesday, May 12. The date marks the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The relationship has been one filled with complex challenges, given the nature of the two populations and the very different diplomatic roles they are often called upon to deal with. But last month, finally, Germany decided to list the Lebanon-based Iranian proxy group, Hezbollah, as a terrorist organization, joining the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom along with a number of others in doing so.

The group is now officially banned from carrying out any activity – fundraising or otherwise – on German soil. The move, long-sought by Israel and the United States, deals a major blow to Hezbollah’s ability to operate in Europe. Issacharoff said the decision “should be adopted by all members of the European Union.”

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