With this statement, the AStA would like to comment on the current events at the FU
Berlin in response to the continuing escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine. We
are primarily addressing all people at the university.
We are aware that we have been waiting a long time with this statement and that many affected people feel left alone by us and the university community. Many people are making unreflected statements on the subject. We wanted to avoid this and not make a statement out of the pressure to position ourselves in the media. Instead, it was important for us to take the time to write a differentiated statement with reference to the space we know: the so-called Free University of Berlin. Nevertheless, we have taken too long with this debate and thus failed to show solidarity with the students who are currently affected by the violence in Israel/Palestine. It is an explicit concern of ours to show solidarity with and be open as a contact point for Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish and all other people affected. We do not want to participate in the current social polarization at the expense of those affected, which is leading to a sharp increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim racism - including here on campus.
The Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 affects Jewish and Israeli people worldwide and also at the FU. We condemn these cruel acts of violence in the strongest possible terms. Anti-Semitism has continuity in Germany and can be found in all areas of society. The enormous increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Germany , which we are currently observing, contribute to the fact that Jewish and Israeli students cannot feel safe at the moment. We stand in solidarity with all people affected by anti-Semitism.
The current attacks and terrible human rights violations by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip and the escalation of violence in the West Bank, which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the flight of hundreds of thousands, also affects many students at the FU. The largest Palestinian community of Europe lives in Berlin. We are currently seeing massive restrictions on the freedom to demonstrate, freedom
of expression and the extreme increase in racial profiling and police violence, for example in Neukölln. In Germany, anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim racism is on the rise. It is clear to us: the authoritarian demonstration bans, and racist deportation debates resulting from this increase make us angry and must be condemned.
On the concrete events at the FU:
On October 9, the Free University of Berlin published the statement "Solidarity with our Israeli partners" . It expresses its sympathy to the Israeli students and researchers at the university. We appreciate this initiative, and all offers of support for Jewish and Israeli people at Freie Universität.
We agree with this and at the same time are very disappointed that the university has so far denied its Palestinian students sympathy and solidarity and has not mentioned them in its statement. In its one-sided statement, the university has so far only commented on the attacks in Israel and has not made any offers of support to its Palestinian students. Instead, in one case, the university threatened to call the police when students advertised an open exchange event to talk about how they were affected by the events in Palestine.
Furthermore, in an email to university staff with the subject line "Dealing with the situation in Israel and Gaza on the FU campus", the Executive Board wrote in reference to one of their Instagram posts : "There is a considerable need for communication on the part of students with a Palestinian background. In light of this tension, it is our primary responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of Israeli and Jewish students and colleagues on our campus." The university management presents Palestinian students as a security threat on campus in an extremely racist narrative. Even though it then states: "At the same time, it is important to respond appropriately to the concerns of Palestinian students", the university leaves open what such "appropriate" support should look like.
A university with a claim to diversity should offer all its students a space to come together, to exchange ideas and to mourn. Instead, it actively denies this to its Palestinian students, generally suspects them of anti-Semitism and is indifferent to the suffering of the people in Gaza, Palestine and the affected students on our campus. For this reason, many Palestinian students do not feel safe on campus at the moment. Israeli as well as Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim and all other affected students who are afraid because of the current situation in their daily lives should be able to feel safe at the university. Support must not be selective.
At the same time, it is unacceptable that the demand for support for Palestinian students is being instrumentalized in an anti-Semitic way and for the situation of Jewish students to be ignored. This also happened at the demonstration in front of the university building last Friday. No effort was made to take a stand against anti-Semitism or to consider the anti-Semitic consequences for Jewish students of the statements made. Among other things, there were chants with the words: "From Dahlem to Gaza - Yallah Intifada!", speeches played with indirect Holocaust comparisons and the state of Israel was denied the right to exist. The suffering of Jewish and Israeli civilians due to the continuous attacks by Hamas was not mentioned at all and the real danger that exists for Jews in Berlin and at the Free University was ignored, condoned, if not intensified. Because even if something is not "meant that way", this does not remove the responsibility for the anti-Semitic consequences that arise in this case. Those who do not make an active effort to consider anti-Semitic narratives, anti-Semitic continuities and the consequences of their own choice of words or actions fail to position themselves against them, ignore anti-Semitism and practice it consciously or unconsciously.
Solidarity with Palestine, which believes that the liberation of Palestine is only possible through the destruction of Israel, also leads to openly practiced hatred of Jews and anti-Semitism - as we have also seen in Germany in recent weeks. Naming Palestinian suffering and demonstrating against it is not anti-Semitic per se and criticism of the one-sided positioning of the so-called Free University is absolutely necessary. In this context, it is important for us to emphasize that not all participants in this rally stand behind the anti-Semitic statements made there. It is about naming that there is simultaneously the importance of Palestinian concerns as well as the racist incitement against them and the need to condemn anti-Semitism in this context.
We stand in solidarity with Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish and all other victims and are open to all equally as a point of contact.
In 2022, at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the FU showed that it is quite capable of offering support to affected students, for example in the form of deadline extensions. Now, too, the university should take these measures for all students affected by the current violence. This does not only mean Israeli and Palestinian students, but also other students who are affected by the events in the region and do not feel able to simply continue their everyday studies.
We want to create a space in which it is possible to deal with this suffering without putting one person against another.
We call on everyone to send a clear signal against anti-Semitism and racism. With this in mind, we demand from the university:
• The FU's one-sided statement must be changed. The FU must express its solidarity with all its students. A good example of this is the solidarity statement of the Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient . The Instagram post with the one-sided solidarity with the Israeli members of the university must be removed. The one-sided solidarity shows Palestinian students that the FU is not a safe place for them to go.
• The FU must ensure the safety of Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian and all other students affected by the escalation of violence.
• Examination deadlines must be extended, and attendance requirements suspended. Exceptions must be made for affected students for the duration of the war.
• No selective solidarity. The FU must extend its proactive offers of support for its Israeli members to all students and researchers affected by the escalation of violence. For example, only Israeli students were contacted personally by email. This means that neither all Jewish nor Palestinian students are being supported.
• Independent psychological support services. These must be open to everyone and be sensitive to the different ways in which students are affected.
• No criminalization and no silencing of those affected. The university must ensure that all students affected by the violence have access to spaces for exchange and mourning. It is scandalous how it has tried to obstruct events in several cases simply because they deal with Palestine. It must also actively combat racist generalizations against Palestinian, Muslim and Muslim-read people.
• Against anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim racism on campus.
• Against anti-Semitism on campus. In view of the current rise in anti-Semitism, the Free University must take measures to raise awareness of the issue and provide support for its Jewish members. Jewish life should be safe and visible.
• Inform about violence and human rights violations. The university must live up to its social responsibility as a place of knowledge and learning. It must provide learning spaces and fact-based material on the current situation in Israel/Palestine and the political context in the entire region. What we are currently seeing is that the university seems to want to actively prevent spaces for exchange on the current violence in Israel/Palestine.
3. This e-mail was adressed to employees of so called Freie Universität and was sent to AStA anonymously.
4. Solidarity-Statement of Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient: https://www.zmo.de/fileadmin/Slider_Startseite/Solidarity_statement_Israel_and_Palestine.pdf