German think tank protesting Oxford speaker on anti-Semitism

BERLIN (JTA) — A group of writers and political activists is protesting the choice of Oxford University philosophy scholar Brian Klug as keynote speaker for a conference on anti-Semitism in Europe.

Among the critics’ claims is that Klug denies Israel’s right to exist.

The accusation and others are false, Klug told JTA in a weekend email.

“My attorney has confirmed that the dossier is defamatory and …  I am weighing my options,” said Klug, who has been active in British Jewish movements that are critical of some Israeli policies on the Palestinians.

Klug, who has written frequently on anti-Semitism, is the author of the 2010 book “Being Jewish and Doing Justice.”

Launched last week, the anti-Klug campaign by the International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism — a think tank founded and run by political scientist Clemens Heni in Berlin — consists of Heni’s preface that Klug “rejects Israel‘s right to exist” and statements by 16 others released on the group’s website. The protesters condemn the conference organizers for inviting Klug.

In his text, Heni accuses Klug of “[denying] that there is a new anti-Semitism [focused on Israel] and … affirming anti-Israel positions.”

Another of the dossier contributors, New York writer Ben Cohen, wrote that he did “not object to the invitation to Brian Klug” but was concerned that his appearance “in a prestigious setting [would] doubtless give his words extra, and likely undeserved, gravitas.”

Klug said the dossier misrepresents his views “on several counts.” For one thing, he said he does not deny that anti-Zionism can be anti-Semitic.

“My work on ‘new anti-Semitism’ is intended to help us establish criteria for deciding when it is and when it is not,” he said.

Furthermore, though as a philosopher he questions the idea of nationhood in general, “I do not deny Israel’s right to exist,” he said.

Klug told JTA that he supports a two-state solution, but that he did not understand why it should be “necessary to explain one’s views about the Middle East conflict in order to speak at a conference on anti-Semitism.”

The conference is scheduled for Nov. 8-9 — the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom against German Jewry — and will take place at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Supporting institutions include the Jewish Museum Berlin; the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future; and the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, Berlin Institute of Technology.

NEXT STORY