The Student Council at Germany’s prestigious Heidelberg University has passed a resolution rejecting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement for being antisemitic. Last Tuesday, the student body voted in favor of severing ties with groups engaged in anti-Israel boycott campaign, barring them for getting university funding and venues for staging events.

With this resolution, Heidelberg University, Germany’s oldest academic institution, has joined Frankfurt’s Goethe University and Leipzig University in rejecting BDS campaign on campus. The action of the Heidelberg University student body “will serve as an example to other universities,” a student representative said.

In recent years, the southern German town of Heidelberg has become a focal point for anti-Israel activism. In 2017, the town authorities granted 1.5 million euros to pro-BDS Palestinian Middle East Initiative Heidelberg. The group, described in the media as an ‘adult educational center,’ advocates anti-Israel boycott through its events and activities in the city.

Youth Forum of the German-Israeli Friendship Society (DIG), the student group that initiated the move, issued a statement highlighting the details of resolution:

On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, Student Council of the Heidelberg University passed a resolution against the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).

The stand thus taken shall prevent BDS groups and groups supportive [of their campaign] from getting university space [for holding events] and funding.

The resolution was presented by the Youth Forum of the German-Israeli Friendship Society (DIG), and seconded by the Department for Political Studies and the Federation of Jewish Students of Baden region (BJSB).

“The adopted resolution is an important and necessary measure drawn from the existing position of student council against antisemitism; [The resolution] articulates this positing in relation to the BDS. The Student Council backs us in our engagement against Israel-centered antisemitism on our campus and in our the city,” said Victor Márki, the spokesman for the Youth Forum.

“It has already been demonstrated at other universities that BDS campaign marginalizes Jewish students. The decisive action of the Student Council, therefore, will serve as an example to other universities and cities,” Márki added.

“Today, the Student Council has taken a stance that fight against antisemitism should not remain restricted to lip service alone and must forcefully proceed against every form of antisemitism,” said Naomi Ellenbogen of the Federation of Jewish Students of Baden region (BJSB). [Translation by the author]

The story was first broken by Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post’s Europe correspondent and fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). “The student council said BDS is antisemitic and BDS groups and affiliated groups will not be supported with rooms or finances,” a member of the Youth Forum of the German-Israeli Friendship Society, told Jerusalem Post.

Antisemitism in Germany is not limited to college campuses alone. Growing number of antisemitic incidents have been documented in German schools as well, particularly in the capital city of Berlin.

Not just Jewish, Christian kids, too, have been targeted for merely being non-Muslim. “[R]eligious motivated mobbing is widely prevalent in Berlin schools and–as known so far–only from the Muslim side,” German newspaper Tagesspiegel reported last month.

So far, the German government has failed to address the issue head-on.

In December, hundreds of Arab and Muslim protesters chanted “Death to Jews” and other genocidal slogans near Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate. Instead of condemning their specific actions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel vaguely criticised the growing antisemitism in the country. “We oppose all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia,” she told German reporters, without mentioning the Islamist nature of the resurging antisemitism. German police, too, failed to take action against the organizers or individual protesters.

While Merkel’s government fumbles its response to the rising antisemitism in the country, it is reassuring to see grassroots student groups taking a courageous stand on the issue. As the trend in Berlin schools shows, the hatred, initially fomented against Jewish students, can easily spill over to Christians and other groups.

[Cover image via YouTube]


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