Matthias Küntzel Speaks at Anti-Butler Rally in Frankfurt

On September 11, there may have been a first in the cognitive war of the 21st century. At a rally against the awarding of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler, a number of people spoke publicly. This may be – I’m accepting correction here – the first time in Europe that people have spoken out not just in support of Israel, but of intellectual sanity. Below is the speech by Matthias Küntzel, a member of the German branch of SPME.

Matthias Küntzel

Redebeitrag anlässlich der Kundgebung gegen die Verleihung des Adorno-Preises an Judith Butler vor der Paulskirche in Frankfurt/M. am 11. September 2012

Frankfurt/Main, 11 September 2012

Judith Butler and the new anti-Jewish discourse

Speech at the rally against the award of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler in front of St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt/M. (Germany) on 11 September 2012 ·By Matthias Küntzel

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends,

St. Paul’s Church is a historic site. Here, not only Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch, but also Alexander Mitscherlich and Thomas Mann, Amos Oz and Boualem Sansal were honored with prizes – each a worthy recipient. And today: Professor Judith Butler.

But what happens? Frankfurt’s mayor takes to his heels and not only the Jewish community in Frankfurt, but also the Central Council of Jews in Germany boycott the ceremony. And even those who have supported Professor Butler with a petition, have thereby simultaneously signed a text which takes its distance from her. And with good reason!

Prof. Butler openly says what she wants. Her most recent book, Parting Ways. Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, concerns the Middle East conflict. In it, she makes it clear that she thinks the world would be a better place if there were no longer a Jewish state. Prof. Butler does not call for a Palestinian state next to Israel, but a bi-national, Muslim-dominated state instead of Israel.

This is also the unmistakable goal of the boycott campaign that she supports. Human rights are not the real issue here: Her boycott disregards all the dictatorial and authoritarian regimes in the region in order to target the sole functioning democracy, Israel.

Professor Butler’s moral philosophy is a double-standards philosophy. Her theory and her activism go hand in hand.

Today the world is concerned about Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s threats of annihilation against Israel. Against this background, is it not strange to find a woman who wants to eliminate the Jewish state’s sovereignty recognized as “one of the key thinkers of our time”?

And is it not even stranger that Frankfurt of all cities should honor her with these words – Frankfurt, a center of Judaism in Germany and a city where the Nazi boycott of Jews is still remembered?

However, for this to be happening in the name of Theodor W. Adorno – that’s just ludicrous.

All the attempts by Professor Butler and her followers to present themselves as Leftists on the one hand and post-Zionists or anti-Zionists on the other hand, rest on one key assumption: They have to ignore the fact that their vision of the end of Israel is applauded by hundreds of thousands of Islamists who also want to abolish the Jewish state, but in the name of a different vision.

This vision was explained by the Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments of Hamas, Abdallah Jarbu:

The Jews are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. May God annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings.

Why has the Adorno prize winner consistently refused to take this hatred of Jews into account?

And why has she refused to notice the celebrations with which Hamas greeted the murder of thousands of innocents in the Twin Towers eleven years ago to the day?

Lack of time? No! My guess is that it’s because Prof. Butler doesn’t want to deal with realities that might challenge her worldview. This, however, is not simple ignorance (which would be bad enough for a Middle East activist) butactive ignorance.

The Adorno prize winner explained to her students at Berkeley how “extremely important” it was to understand, “Hamas, Hezbollah as social and progressive movements that are on the Left, that are part of the global Left.”

Here, Prof. Butler made a mistake. It would have been possible to quickly iron out this mistake and take back these words. Prof. Butler, however, has stubbornly clung to her error.

Just like some of this city’s most worthy intellectuals! Because by choosing Prof. Butler, the city’s Adorno Prize committee also made a mistake. It would have been possible to quickly iron out this mistake. However, the committee has clung to it.

Prof. Felix Semmelroth, who chairs the committee, called the protest of the Central Council of Jews in Germany against the nomination of Prof. Butler “reasonable and understandable”, but defended the committee’s prize decision at the same time. Did he want to offend Jews intentionally?

I would prefer not to believe this. But it is not so easy to do so. Many in this country are aware of a new kind of hostility when it comes to Israel and the situation of Jews.

It started with a poem by Günter Grass with the headline: “What needs to be said.” Here the novelist claimed that Israel constitutes a threat to world peace. Moreover, he accused the Israelis of wanting to “extinguish the Iranian people”. The point is completely irrational, since Günter Grass ignores the threats from Tehran just as Professor Butler ignores the intentions of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Next, a judge in Cologne succumbed to another “what-needs-to-be-said” temptation and issued a verdict stating that the ritual of Jewish infant circumcision is contrary to child welfare. This triggered a mass movement of writers and bloggers aimed at “liberating” the children of the Jews from becoming Jews in the traditional form.

Charlotte Knobloch, the former chair-woman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany deplores a mood “which I have not experienced in this country since 1945 ” and adds: “For the first time my foundations are shaken. For the first time I feel resignation in myself. I seriously wonder whether this country still wants us.”

And now a prize worth 50,000 euros for an academic who advocates the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state.

St. Paul’s Church is a historic place, the right place to proclaim loudly and clearly that we are fed up: Enough is enough!

We have to face the fact that, in all three cases, this new hostility is fueled by certain academic elites and by phenomena that fundamentally contradict some central concerns of Theodor W. Adorno. There is:

a fading away of a sense of historical awareness and responsibility;

a loss of empathy when it comes to the position of the Jews in Israel and Germany; and

an increase in ignorance, especially when it comes to antisemitism in the Middle East.

That is why our protest today against the award to Prof. Butler is so important.

No one wants to restrict Prof. Butler’s intellectual independence or silence her as a critic of Israeli governmental policies. The point is that a professor who rejects the existence of the Jewish state cannot be an Adorno-laureate.

Our protest – as is already evident today – will have a lasting effect. The controversy over Judith Butler’s Adorno prize could ultimately mean, writes Sonja Vogel in the daily Taz, that Butler will suffer the same fate as French philosopher Michael Foucault “after his indiscriminate jubilation over the Iranian revolution in 1979”. In the future, Butler “will face similar difficulties in being taken seriously by humanists.” Indeed.

3 Responses to Matthias Küntzel Speaks at Anti-Butler Rally in Frankfurt

  1. N. Friedman says:

    Matthias Küntzel is always worth reading. Do you have a good translation, for those of us who are not conversant in German?

    • Alcuin says:

      If you had Chrome, it would have offered to translate for you. Here is its translation:

      Speech at the rally against the award of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler in front of St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt / M. 11 September 2012

      Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

      St. Paul’s Church is a historic site. Here, Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch were honored with prizes, Alexander Mitscherlich and Thomas Mann, Amos Oz and Boualem Sansal, honorable people so. And today: Prof. Judith Butler. But what happens? The Frankfurt mayor moves away, the Jewish community in Frankfurt and the Central Council of Jews in Germany boycott the ceremony. And even those who support Professor Butler with a petition, have signed a petition text that distances itself from it simultaneously. And for good reason!

      Prof. Butler openly says what she wants. Her most recent book, “Parting Ways. Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism “, concerns the Middle East conflict. This world would be a better world, she intends to convey it when it is no longer Israel as a Jewish state there. Prof. Butler calls a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but a bi-national, Muslim-dominated government in the place of Israel. And clearly the goal of which is supported by its boycott campaign. With human rights, this has little to do. Your boycott leaves unscathed all the dictatorial and authoritarian regimes in the region, only to inflict the only functioning democracy, Israel, damage. Professor Butler’s moral philosophy is a double moral philosophy. Their theory and practice are inseparable.

      Today the world making over Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s threats of annihilation against Israel worried. Is not it amazing that a woman who wants to eliminate the Jewish state sovereignty, is recognized as “one of the key thinkers of our time”? And it is not doubly strange that it expects Frankfurt them with these words honors – Frankfurt as a center of Judaism in Germany and as a city in which the Jews of the Nazi boycott of 1933 is still remembered? That this is happening in the name of Theodor W. Adorno – that’s ludicrous.

      For the experiments of Professor Butler and her followers and supporters to make their mark on the one hand as the left and the other as post-Zionists and anti-Zionists, requires one thing: you have to ignore the fact that their vision of the end of Israel met with the hundred thousand times the applause of Islamists to abolish the Jewish state also want it but pursue a different vision. What is the vision that was recently declared by the Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments Hamas, Abdallah Jarbu :

      “Jews are alien bacteria, microbes, they are without parallel in the world. May God destroy the dirty people of the Jews, for they have no religion or conscience. I condemn anyone who believes a normal relationship with Jews is possible, each composed of Jews, anyone who believes that Jews are human. “[1]

      Why the Adorno Prize winner has until today refused constantly to take the hatred of Jews to the attention?

      And why they have refused to take the rejoicing note that Hamas celebrated today at exactly eleven years ago, the murder of thousands of innocent people in the Twin Towers?

      Lack of time? No! I guess because Prof. Butler with realities that could undermine their worldview challenged dealing not want . This is not simple ignorance, which would be bad enough for a Middle East activist, is active ignorance.

      Nevertheless declared the Adorno Prize laureates her students at Berkeley, as “extremely important” it was, “Hamas and Hezbollah to be understood as social and progressive movements that belong to the Left, which are part of the global left.”

      Professor Butler had here – say even their best friends – made a mistake. You could iron out these errors quickly and take back their statements. But she stands by its error.

      Just as some of the most honorable minds of this city! For Adorno and the Frankfurt price of Trustees has made with his vote for Butler a mistake. There it would have ironed out quickly and can take back the decision. But it held on to his mistake.

      Although designated Cultural Affairs Felix Semmelroth the protest of the Central Council of Jews in Germany as a “reasonable and understandable”, but in the next breath to defend the price decision. Councillor wanted Semmelroth intentionally offend the Jews with his vote for Butler?

      I would like to exclude this possibility. But that is not so easy. Many here feel the new hostility when it comes to Israel or the customs of the Jews.

      It began with a poem by Günter Grass with the headline: “What needs to be said.” Here the writer declared Israel a threat to world peace. Moreover, he accused the country, “extinguish Iranian people” to want. This intervention was completely irrational, because it is the threat from Tehran ausklammerte well as Professor Butler’s intentions of Hezbollah and Hamas.

      Next, had, it seems, be a Cologne judge “what-said-will-have” experience: He came to the conclusion that the ritual of the Muslim children circumcision and the Jewish infant circumcision is contrary to the welfare of the child, prompting the writing and blogging guild mass movement from one that aims to “liberate” the children of the Jews from the traditional form, to become Jewish.

      Charlotte Knobloch speaks of a mood, as they “do not in this country since 1945 experienced” has and writes: “For the first time my foundations shaken. For the first time I feel in my resignation. I seriously wonder if this country wants us to be still. ”

      And now a prize of 50,000 euros for a scientist who advocates for Israel as a Jewish state to abolish.

      St. Paul’s Church is a historic place, the right place to proclaim loud and clear that enough is enough enough is enough!

      We are dealing in fueling this hostile atmosphere in all three cases, with a leading role of certain academic elites, as well as phenomena that contradict the central concerns of Theodor W. Adorno:

      with a dwindling historical political considerations and responsibility,

      empathy with loss, as regards the position of the Jews in Israel and Germany,

      and with an increase in ignorance, especially when it comes to anti-Semitism in the Middle East.

      That’s why it was so important that this award is not possible without protests across the stage. No one wants to restrict Prof. Butler’s intellectual independence, or make it as a critic of Israeli government policy silenced. The point is that a professor who rejects the existence of Israel, can not be a winner-Adorno.

      Our protest – you can say today – looks after. “Adorno Prize or not,” Sonja Vogel writes in the “taz”: “As a political thinker Butler will continue to have similar hard to be taken seriously by humanists, such as Michel Foucault in 1979 after his undifferentiated rejoicing over the Iranian revolution. “In fact.

  2. N. Friedman says:

    Thank you so much for posting the translation. As always, Matthias Küntzel makes important points.

    1. A question regarding the translation: Abdallah Jarbu indicates: “May God annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience.” Is the Arabic word translated as “religion” the word “din”? This is, I think, very important as it relates to the status of Jews in the Islamic tradition by which it is possible for Jews to be “tolerated” in a Muslim ruled country if the Jews in that country submit to an inferior role in society, as pointed to in Sura 9:29, etc.

    “Din” normally refers to Islam only, since, in the Muslim conception of religion, Islam is a complete way of life – a din -, not merely worship of the almighty. Judaism, notwithstanding any structural similarities it may have to Islam (e.g. both are religions of law that, in traditional formulation, regulate all aspects of life), is viewed as a corrupted faith and, thus, not a way of life, not a din.

    If Judaism is not a religion in any sense of the word according to Islamists, then Jews cannot exist within a country ruled by Muslims. Rather, if Abdallah Jarbu was expressing the current view of Islamists, he means that Jews must be extirminated and cannot submit to Islamic rule, unless Jews convert.

    Of course, his comment that Jews are not human would, on first blush, suggest that extirmination is the aim. However, the comment is based on a tradition that certain Jews became, I believe it was, apes. Some have added in pigs. It is not clear that, in the Islamic tradition, the transformation pertained to all Jews but this assertion is not uncommonly used that way – at least in Islamist circles. Even animal, though, have some expectation not to be needlessly killed in the Islamic tradition, so being called an animal is not automatically a call for extirmination.

    2. Matthias Küntzel’s most important point is: “They have to ignore the fact that their vision of the end of Israel is applauded by hundreds of thousands of Islamists who also want to abolish the Jewish state, but in the name of a different vision.” Indeed so. We have had year after year of re-defining every outrage that comes out of the Muslim world as being an “one off” event, as being misunderstood, etc. Never, is there an admission that we are dealing with societies where a sizeable portion of the population has a Medieval understanding of religion and politics, with all that means.

    In a very important book by a scholar who is not among the true believers of nonsense when it comes to what has been occuring in Arab countries over the course of the last many decades, Walid Phares’ book, The Coming Revolutions, Phares indicates that the driving force for the irenic (not ironic) interpretation of events and trends is corruption, most particularly in Middle East study departments. This became necessary to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Phares claims, after the break up of the USSR, as a matter of self-preservation to the existing regimes. Hence, the outpouring of huge donations in order to be sure that commentary from academia and from the deciples of the corrupted academians would whitewash societal imperfections.

    Another point he notes is that, of all the forces in the Middle East, two are actively opposed – and on principle – to democracy. The current regimes and the Islamists. So, neither Islamists nor the regimes were badmouthed. By contrast, those who are actually liberal were ignored or badmouthed and, of course, Israel’s sins were magnified.

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