Munich conference canceled after rejection of pro-Israel speaker sparks anti-Semitism claims


BERLIN (JTA) – Organizers of an annual conference in Munich canceled the event amid accusations of anti-Semitism stemming from the rejection over a pro-Israel speaker.

At issue was the organizers’ rejection of a guest speaker over his pro-Israel views. City Councilman Marian Offman, who is Jewish, had been appointed by the city of Munich to deliver a greeting from Mayor Dieter Reiter.

The International Munich Peace Conference describes itself as an alternative to the annual Munich Security Conference, which draws world leaders to the capital of the state of Bavaria in February.

Event organizer Thomas Rödl had rejected Offman in part because of the councilman’s opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, which the city of Munich defines as anti-Semitic.  No city funds or venues may be used for events supporting BDS.

After Offman was rejected as an event speaker, representatives of the Social Democratic Party called on the city to deny use of Munich’s city hall and to cancel any financial subsidies to the conference, the Munich-based Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Ludwig Spaenle, commissioner on anti-Semitism for the state of Bavaria, described the incident as clearly anti-Semitic, and Israel’s consul general in Munich, Sandra Simovich, called it an example of Israel-related anti-Semitism.

In an open letter to Reiter, published Thursday, board members Rödl and Gudrun Haas said they decided to cancel the February event even though their board had agreed to accept Offman as the mayor’s representative.

They cancelled the event, because they “did not have the capacity to plan the peace conference while resolving this dispute in a mutually satisfactory manner.” They rejected charges of anti-Semitism, “regretted” that their rejection of Offman was taken as an insult, and hoped to prevent further escalation of the situation.

“Given the situation we cannot take responsibility for the security of speakers and participants,” they added.


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