German institute lashed for Tel Aviv ‘Shoah, Nakba’ event on date of Kristallnacht
Goethe-Institut’s panel postponed as nonprofit expresses regret over timing, but not the event itself; Foreign Ministry calls the plan "an utter disgrace"
After withering criticism from Israeli and German officials, the Goethe-Institut Israel on Tuesday postponed an upcoming event, “Grasping the Pain of the Others – Panel Discussion on the Holocaust, Nakba and German Remembrance Culture,” which had been set to take place in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening — the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
“The remembrance of the Shoah and the commemoration of the victims is a major concern of the Goethe-Institut, to which we devote ourselves in numerous projects,” the institute said in a German-language statement. “We regret that the choice of date for a panel discussion has currently caused irritation.”
The new date for the event in Tel Aviv is Sunday, Nov. 13.
“The Goethe-Institut stands for understanding and dialogue,” the statement continued, “That is what the planned discussion is about.”
The Goethe-Institut is the cultural arm of Germany and is intended to facilitate cultural exchanges around the globe.
While delaying the event, the institute did not address criticism of the equivalency drawn between the Holocaust and the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” the name Palestinians and many Israeli Arabs use for the Arab defeat in the 1948 Israeli Independence War, which led to the establishment of the Jewish state.
The Foreign Ministry had earlier in the day blasted “the blatant cheapening of Holocaust and the cynical and manipulative attempt to create a linkage whose entire purpose is to defame Israel,” by discussing the Shoah and the Nakba in the same breath.
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan called the event itself an “intolerable distortion of the Holocaust.”
After the postponement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon was no less harsh in his reaction: “Our position is that the event is an utter disgrace, and it is not appropriate to hold it on any day of the year, not just the anniversary of Kristallnacht.”
In an interview with 103FM Radio, Israeli Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor called the postponed event “an attempt to make an inappropriate comparison at the expense of Holocaust survivors.”
“If it wasn’t ironic it would be tragic,” he said. “This must not become an accepted discourse under the pretense of ‘holding a civilized discussion.’ It’s not.”
Prosor also slammed the Goethe-Institut for postponing the event rather than canceling it. “They don’t seem to understand the issue. There isn’t a date on the calendar suitable for such a spectacle of insensitivity and hypocrisy by the institute,” he said.
Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, took place on November 9, 1938, when Nazi forces and German civilians attacked synagogues and Jewish businesses, likely killing hundreds.
“We must not allow foreign cultural and educational policies to support attempts to link commemoration of the Holocaust and the Nakba,” tweeted German lawmaker Frank Muller-Rosentritt. “That this is planned by @goetheinstitut in Israel on November 9 of all days is a scandal.”
The panel, organized in conjunction with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Israel office, features two Israeli academics and German journalist Charlotte Wiedemann.
Wiedemann has advocated that Germans “understand the Nakba in a broader sense as part of German history and give their story space in the culture of remembrance. There is no need to agree on the extent to which the founding of the state of Israel was also an act of settler colonialism.” PJC
Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.