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Stark-Watzinger calls for "the right consequences"

Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger took a clear position in the anti-Semitism debate about two members of the Ruangrupa curatorial collective at a Hamburg university.

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Stark-Watzinger calls for "the right consequences"

Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger took a clear position in the anti-Semitism debate about two members of the Ruangrupa curatorial collective at a Hamburg university. "I am very critical of the guest professorship of Ruangrupa members Reza Afisina and Iswanto Hartono at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts," said the FDP politician when asked by WELT. She further emphasizes: "We must resolutely combat anti-Semitism and must not offer it a stage."

From the point of view of the Federal Minister of Education and Research, the university must "clarify all open questions and then draw the right conclusions". At the beginning of the semester in October, the guest professorship triggered public protests outside of Hamburg. Because the Ruangrupa members Afisina and Hartono were responsible as curators for this year's Documenta and exhibited works with anti-Semitic imagery, including Jews with a pig's head. The Indonesian group is also accused of being close to the BDS movement, which calls for a cultural, scientific and economic boycott of Israel.

In the meantime, the alleged anti-Semites Afisina and Hartono have been teaching at the University of Fine Arts (HFBK) in Hamburg for seven weeks, financed by the German Academic Exchange Service. In a recent search for clues for WELT AM SONNTAG, numerous experts criticized the fact that the public outcry has almost died down since then.

The Hamburg anti-Semitism commissioner Stefan Hensel describes the case as "the phenomenon of sitting out, which the management of the Academy of Fine Arts is obviously good at." According to Hensel, the facts have not changed. Both professors are still considered BDS-related. "It's an interesting question why no one gets upset about it anymore," says Hensel. He believes: “Because it is about discrimination against Jews.” It is also socially unclear “that anti-Semitism is nothing more than hatred of Jews”. Hensel therefore calls for a discussion about "the fact that these guest professors make Jewish life in Hamburg massively more difficult". HFBK President Martin Köttering made it clear that his university was "not a safe place for Israelis".

The HFBK, however, rejects the accusation that it promotes anti-Semitic ideas under the guise of artistic freedom as "extremely bizarre" - especially given how critical the university deals with racism, diversity and identity politics. Afisina and Hartono had "convincingly demonstrated that they are not anti-Semites", which is why the HFBK is "going into a critical discussion with them about what happened at the Documenta", said President Köttering, justifying the adherence to the personnel. The two visiting professors also did not sign any BDS declarations, but they did sign the open letter "A letter against Apartheid". The goals formulated in the paper are very similar to those of the BDS movement.

At the beginning of February, the HFBK invites you to a public symposium in which the two controversial guest professors also take part. Afisina and Hartono also see the Hamburg university as "the right place to reflect on what happened and to contribute to clarification in critical discourse with the students, but also with a broader public". In an interview with WELT AM SONNTAG, they emphasize: "We took the allegations very seriously, apologized publicly and stated several times that anti-Semitic ideas have no place in our thinking." They "learned from Kassel," they say.

According to the President of the German-Israeli Society, Volker Beck, "anti-Semitism must not take place unchallenged in art, culture and science". Every freedom has its limit in the human dignity of others. Freedom of art and science is not freedom from anti-Semitism. "And where it says BDS, it usually contains anti-Semitism. Before that, politicians must no longer naively turn a blind eye, as they did at Documenta 15," Beck told WELT.

As early as next weekend (December 3rd/4th), the Tikvah Institute, together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Berlin, is organizing the public conference “Artistic Freedom as an Excuse? Socially acceptable anti-Semitism and Documenta 15”. Experts from culture, science and politics want to clarify the question of how art, culture and science will deal more appropriately with anti-Semitic positions in the future. Greetings are expected from Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth and the President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster.

According to the organizers of the conference, anti-Semitic positions are increasingly coming to the surface at cultural events and scientific conferences. “These are often linked to questioning Israel's right to exist and the singularity of the Holocaust. The content and goals of the BDS movement also appear in the guise of art, culture and science.” Warnings from alliances against anti-Semitism and from Jewish representatives are then often rejected as unfounded and false.

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