Free University of Berlin: “Germany has an anti-Semitism problem. Berlin has one – and so does the FU.” | EUROtoday

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Günter Matthias Ziegler, 60, has been President of the Free University (FU) Berlin since 2018. As a professor of arithmetic, he acquired the Leibniz Prize in 2001, a very powerful science prize in Germany. After Hamas' terrorist assaults on Israel, the FU got here underneath criticism for anti-Semitic protests by college students. Recently, Ziegler was in Israel for a visit lasting a number of days. The FU has been in a strategic partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 2011.

WELT: Mr. Ziegler, does the Free University of Berlin have an anti-Semitism downside?

Günter M. Ziegler: Germany has an anti-Semitism downside. Berlin has an anti-Semitism downside – and so does the FU. This is not only a college downside.

WELT: There have been anti-Semitic incidents at your college since Hamas' terrorist assaults in opposition to Israel on October seventh. Jewish college students now not felt protected on campus. What is the state of affairs now, six months later?

Ziegler: First of all: Anti-Semitism shouldn’t be acceptable on the FU, and we’re taking motion in opposition to it. There is a really clear line there. But it’s important to take a look at what is supposed when anti-Semitism is talked about on the FU. Are we assuming that there’s an mental anti-Semitism that’s structurally evident in educating and analysis? I don't see that right here. We have seen anti-Semitic actions and posters and we’re taking motion in opposition to them, however anti-Semitism shouldn’t be acceptable on the FU.

Jewish college students

Peter's Noah

Opinion Open letter to FU President

WELT: But it didn't appear like that within the weeks after October seventh.

Ziegler: The FU is not any extra affected by anti-Semitism than different locations, however it’s extra within the highlight than different universities – actually as a result of we have now nearer and longer ties to Israel, and particularly to Jerusalem, than anybody else. We had the lecture corridor occupation in December, sure. Pro-Palestinian teams occupied a lecture corridor; there have been scuffles with Jewish college students, who had been initially denied entry to the corridor by the occupiers.

Overall, this was an unauthorized and unacceptable motion, and when it grew to become clear that the protection of these current couldn’t be assured, we intervened and had the corridor cleared by the police that afternoon. There was additionally anti-Semitic hostility within the hallways, for instance requires demonstrations with slogans that we assessed as requires violence. We are investigating this and have filed legal prices.

Reportage from lecture corridor occupation

Kufiya girls take the banner from the pro-Israel boys

Free University of Berlin

WELT: Jewish college students must concern hostility at a German college in 2024. Doesn't that alarm you in any respect?

Ziegler: When these affected say this, it actually alarms me. But it is usually a press release that has been quoted time and again.

WELT: What do you imply?

Ziegler: There are Jewish college students who haven't been to the college since October as a result of they had been advised that they might now not really feel protected on the FU. The message which you can't really feel protected on the FU has taken on a lifetime of its personal. Students additionally really feel threatened on the best way to college, and that’s additionally a part of the image. The Jewish college students belong to the college similar to everybody else and so they can really feel protected. This additionally implies that everyone seems to be wanting, not wanting away.

WELT: But that was precisely the issue: apparently folks didn't look intently. The method you've simply described it, it sounds prefer it's simply rumors that Jewish college students now not really feel protected at your college.

Ziegler: If college students don’t really feel protected at college, then we have to ask ourselves what contributes to this sense. In some instances, each poster with a watermelon was seen as an anti-Semitic menace. Or when somebody mentions the truth that there are lots of victims in Gaza.

Comment by Ulf Poschardt

WELT editor-in-chief Ulf Poschardt

WELT: But it's not nearly posters. In an interview with the journal “Research and Teaching” in December, you stated that some media had “irresponsibly scandalized” the pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic actions on the college. Just a few weeks later, the Jewish scholar Lahav Shapira was overwhelmed till he was hospitalized by a pro-Palestinian fellow scholar. Both are finding out at your college. The media's criticism was justified, proper?

Ziegler: That was an incident in Berlin-Mitte, not on our campus, which I first heard about from the press. The court docket listening to will present how this crime happened. Of course, there isn’t a justification for such a horrific act of violence, not even because of arguments on campus. It is recommended that the FU is responsible. That's incorrect.

WELT: I didn't say that the college as such was responsible. But the query is the place she attracts boundaries and takes duty. Shapira sharply criticized the college administration in an interview with WELT. They requested him to take away anti-Semitic posters or graffiti himself. They rejected that as unfaithful. However, different college students confirmed Shapira's account and complained that the FU govt board was not doing sufficient to guard Jewish college students. Now what's true?

Interview mit Lahav Shapira

Protest gesture from the hospital: Lahav Shapira shortly after the brutal attack in early February

Ziegler: I spoke with Lahav Shapira and a gaggle of scholars in November. One time it was in regards to the posters with anti-Semitic content material. Such posters can and must be reported in order that we will then file legal prices, and that’s what we’re doing. Caretakers and safety guards are liable for taking down the posters, I defined this to the scholars. Of course, college students can even take away posters themselves, I can't prohibit that, however it doesn't match with my position to ask them to take action.

WELT: Do you could have a proof for why the scholars' portrayal differs a lot from yours?

Ziegler: Apparently the scholars learn the assertion that such posters could possibly be eliminated as a name to motion. Lahav Shapira is misrepresenting my position. He additionally complained that he solely acquired a single electronic mail from the college after the assault on him, however didn’t point out that that electronic mail got here from me personally and that he was on it didn't reply. My invitation to speak to him has been repeated a number of instances and it stays legitimate.

WELT: What is the state of affairs now? Are you in touch with Shapira?

Ziegler: I’ve no contact with him and haven’t heard from him. I acquired an electronic mail from a sufferer recommendation middle that wrote on his behalf. We answered them and repeated the supply to speak. Again, we acquired no response. But there are conversations with different Jewish college students.

WELT: What does that appear like precisely?

Ziegler: I speak to college students who contact me, each Jewish and non-Jewish, to get an thought of ​​the state of affairs and perceive what we will do – additionally to extend the sensation of safety. We are approachable! There is a contact particular person for college members affected by anti-Semitism. And there are gives from the employees workplace for range and anti-discrimination, psychological counseling, the skilled colleagues are all there, prepared to speak.

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WELT: They have banned the alleged perpetrator who attacked Shapira. Does that also apply?

Ziegler: Yes. It is initially legitimate for 3 months and I assume that we’ll lengthen it because the state of affairs continues. We should make sure that Shapira and his fellow college students on campus don’t really feel threatened by the suspect.

WELT: The Berlin Senate now needs to tighten the upper training legislation and reintroduce the potential of exmatriculation within the occasion of regulatory violations, which was solely abolished in 2021. A good suggestion?

Ziegler: First of all, sure. This instrument can be out there in each different federal state. But firstly, this isn’t an answer to the acute case that’s being mentioned. And secondly, this won’t be a sustainable answer in analogous instances both. Some name for expulsion as a way of punishment. But it isn’t the college's job to punish college students. We might solely deregister them as a way to keep orderly college operations.

WELT: According to the draft legislation, universities mustn’t solely have the ability to de-register college students due to violations of the examination and research laws. This would even be doable, for instance, if a scholar makes use of violence, has dedicated a legally convicted crime or is sexually harassed. Some college administration criticize this, saying that the college has no authorized legitimacy. Student representatives concern that there could possibly be a political choice. Can you perceive that?

Ziegler: There must be no de-registration as a consequence of political variations; the present draft doesn’t present for that. This is about exmatriculation as a consequence of acts of violence and different crimes. At the identical time, this curtails the precise to training. The query is subsequently whether or not this instrument can be utilized successfully.

WELT: The Jewish Student Union, along with scholar associations from a number of events, is asking for exmatriculation to be reintroduced as an possibility. In a public assertion they emphasize: “A robust democracy must defend itself, including at universities.” Above all, shouldn’t universities take heed to them? After all, they’re amongst these affected by anti-Semitic incidents.

Ziegler: Things get blended up right here. Anti-Semitism can’t be tolerated on the college, I’ve already stated that. The query, nonetheless, is what measures could be taken to fight it. Education is an efficient instrument. Coercive measures, then again, will finally not clear up the issues. It shouldn’t be our job to punish others, this additionally applies to the perpetrator of Lahav Shapira. The police and the general public prosecutor are liable for this.

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WELT: You as soon as stated that as FU president you had no political mandate. Does that imply you see the college as a non-political house?

Ziegler: No. Of course the FU is a political house, and that's a very good factor! Political positions are negotiated right here and are the topic of science. This is the one method training and data work. When I say that I would not have a basic political mandate, that implies that I’m not allowed to touch upon basic political points both in Germany or overseas and that I’m solely allowed to take action to a really restricted extent. For instance, there can be no election suggestion from the Presidium.

But on October 9, the Bureau issued a press release referencing our long-standing partnership with the University of Jerusalem, wherein we strongly condemn Hamas' terrorist assaults and specific our solidarity with these affected. Israel's proper to exist is a part of Germany's raison d'état. To deny that might be anti-Semitic. And Israel's proper to exist contains the precise to self-defense. This is a logical conclusion and never a political assertion.