A month ago, more than 300 scholars and thinkers – among them Arturo Escobar, Gloria Wekker, Helen Verran, Erik Swyngedouw, Zoe Todd, Rashid Khalidi, Catherine Walsh – signed an open letter denouncing German complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians and German censorship of its critics.
Since then, each word of this letter has been brutally confirmed, as the dreadful horrors committed by the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank have only increased. On January 11, South Africa’s legal team presented detailed evidence of genocidal intent and actions by Israel, as it requested from the International Court of Justice to impose provisional measures to stop Israeli aggression.
Yet, the stance of the German state has not altered a micron. Conversely, military and diplomatic backing for the extermination of the Palestinians persists. And now, the German state has decided to attack the South African request before the court, in an eloquent example of its commitment to supporting an ongoing genocide. Meanwhile, within the country, censorship and suppression have intensified and instances of institutional harassment have piled up.
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As a group of Global South scholars and artists based in Berlin, we share the alarm of colleagues and friends regarding the persecution of critical voices and want to echo what Ilan Pappé recently posed as a question to students during one of our lectures in Berlin: “Should we, therefore, treat Germany as a dictatorship of knowledge when it comes to Palestine?”
We, the [decoco] decolonial research group, in favour of defending freedom of speech and in memory of the effort of our colleagues, asked Al Jazeera to reproduce the open letter 30 days belatedly, yet timelier than ever.
The text of the original letter:
We, as academics from various global regions, wish to voice our concerns:
The recent censorship, persecution, and threats faced by both German and non-German academics in Germany due to their critiques of Israel’s state policies towards Palestinians are entirely unacceptable.
The public statements from Israel’s state representatives and its military and political leaders unequivocally indicate their will to dispossess Palestinians of their land, colonise it, and engage in ethnic cleansing.
In essence, the State of Israel is pursuing a genocidal policy against Palestinians, aiming to strip them of their homeland.
The indiscriminate attacks on civilians, hospitals, and health centres, which amount to war crimes under international law, clearly demonstrate Israel’s willingness to operate beyond any legal or ethical boundaries.
Instead of denouncing these actions or joining calls for a ceasefire alongside other nations, the German State has chosen to provide unwavering support to the State of Israel, dismissing any criticism of these policies as absurd.
What is apparent and evident to the international community seems unrecognised by the German State.
Censorship efforts, cancellations of academic events, and threats of job loss or funding withdrawal against academics who speak out against these issues have become commonplace in German universities, cultural bodies, and governmental institutions.
German government and media platforms misuse Holocaust memories, conflating all criticism of Israel’s state with anti-Semitism. Simultaneously, they propagate the baseless notion that Germany’s immigrant population, particularly Muslims, are inherently anti-Semitic.
This represents a manipulation of German historical memory to silence dissent while fostering xenophobia and Islamophobia.
These developments coincide with the rise of new anti-immigration policies and an increase in supremacist, racist, and far-right political movements across Europe.
As international academics frequently interacting with our counterparts facing these challenges, we ponder the direction in which the German State and German universities are headed. Both seem to be forsaking pluralistic and democratic principles, opting for a singular narrative, persecuting those who challenge its policies, and censoring and stifling any discourse not aligned with the state agenda, thereby enabling the rise of xenophobia and genuine hate speech within its institutions.
We urgently call for an end to these censorship, persecution, and stigmatisation trends and advocate for the restoration of respect for free academic, cultural, and intellectual expression.
Furthermore, we urge the German State to join the global demand for a comprehensive ceasefire and an end to the occupation, to adhere to international law, and to cease all political and discursive support for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people.
Arturo Escobar, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, US
Gloria Wekker, Professor Emeritus Gender Studies, Faculty of the Humanities, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Yvonne Haddad, Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University, US
Rita Segato, Professor Emeritus, University of Brasilia, Brazil
Salima Hashmi, Professor Emeritus, Beaconhouse National University, Pakistan
Alberto Gomes, Professor Emeritus, La Trobe University in Melbourne & Director of Global DEEP Network, Australia
Catherine Walsh, International Scholar, Ecuador/US
Rosalba Icaza, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Nelson Maldonado-Torres, International Scholar, US/Puerto Rico
Breny Mendoza, California State University, Northbridge, US
Sylvia Marcos, International Scholar, Mexico
Lisa Lowe, Samuel Knight Professor of American Studies and Professor of Ethnicity, Race, & Migration, Yale University, US
Helen Verran, Charles Darwin University, Australia
Erik Swyngedouw, Professor of Human Geography, the University of Manchester, UK
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University, US
Andrea Cornwall, Professor of Global Development and Anthropology, King’s College, London, UK
Svati Shah, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay
A full list of all signatories can be found here:
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
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