Confronting Antisemitism

29Jun07

Via Contested Terrain:

Three essays by Matthias Küntzel, published in Telos in September 2006.

Part 1:

Germany, Iran, and Israel

During my preparations for this lecture, I realized that the German Coordinating Group had already sponsored a lecture with the title “On the struggle against Anti-Semitism today” in 1962. [1] At that time they invited a more prominent speaker—a person whom I esteem and admire, Theodor W. Adorno. Adorno’s suggestions for combating anti-Semitism remain relevant today, a point to which I will return later. Anti-Semitism itself, however, which at that time Adorno attributed to an “excessive nationalism,” has changed its form of appearance. First of all, hostility against Jews today is directed less against the Jewish minority in Europe and more toward the Jews in Israel and the United States. Second, we find the most radical propagandists for eliminatory anti-Semitism today not in Europe but in the Islamic World.

read the article here

Part 2


Enlightenment and Pedagogy

I will not be concerned in the following with the societal parameters (politics, media, culture) that more strongly shape the anti-Semitic consciousness than pedagogical endeavors can ever counteract. I also do not want to speak about those who no longer allow themselves to be educated or changed, those who have become unapproachable for enlightenment. For them, Adorno’s motto remains unchanged: “[T]he instruments of power, which really are at one’s disposal, must be applied without sentimentality, certainly not out of the need for punishment or in order to avenge oneself against these persons, but rather in order to show them that the only thing that impresses them, namely real social authority, is in the meantime, actually really against them.” And Adorno repeats, “Anti-Semitic utterances should be confronted very energetically: they must see that the one who confronts them is not afraid.” Today more than ever, these must be the criteria in schools, universities, and other educational institutions—independent of the question of whether the carriers of the anti-Semitic stereotype have a Muslim or a non-Muslim background. It is therefore absolutely right (and deserves emphasis during professional education) that, based on accepted work jurisdiction, trainees are to be let go without notice in response to anti-Semitic or racist comments.

However, here I am not concerned with those stubborn characters but rather with subjects capable of being enlightened, whom I can and want to influence through pedagogical methods. Unfortunately, it is not possible to present to this clientele recipes for success. Instead I will try to show, by means of three case studies from my field of occupation, how the confrontation of anti-Semitism at any rate does not work.

read the article here

Part 3

The Böckler Foundation Case

What would have happened if the anti-Semitism of the member of the Bundestag Hohmann had been articulated through e-mails internal to the CDU, instead of in a public speech? Would the public have ever found out about it? Or would those responsible have outwardly kept quiet on the basis of party loyalty?

read the article here



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