I was brought up in a country that believed itself to be open and tolerant. Indeed after the Second World War Germany undertook to transform guilt into responsibility.
For me, it was always clear that our commitment to those “inviolable and inalienable human rights”1 as well as freedom of speech,2 were the most precious values and lessons to be drawn from our problematic past.
This is why, three months ago, I was dismayed to discover that Freiburg University, one of our oldest German universities, banned an event hosting renowned Paris University Professor Christophe Oberlin who was scheduled to talk about plastic surgery in Gaza.
Freiburg University hosts all kinds of political events, especially and regularly events organized by notorious Israeli Hasbara outlets such as the German Israeli Society and the Zionist Anti-Deutsche. And, if this is not enough, invitations to German Israeli Society events are often publicised by the university, its official bodies and its departments.
But for some reason, for Freiburg University, freedom of speech and tolerance seems to end when it comes to the plight of the Palestinian people. The same university, which provides a platform for the German Israeli Society and the Zionist Anti-Deutsche will not provide a platform for Freiburg Cafe Palestine — a humanitarian non-political organization dedicated to the suffering of the Palestinian. In fact, the same university banned Cafe Palestine’s event hosting a prestigious French academic.
The official motto of the university,”The Truth Will Set You Free” is engraved in shiny gold letters above one of the university’s entrances, yet the university itself is clearly terrified of the truth being told within its walls.
We have decided to raise the issue at the Administrative Court, in the hope that this might lead the university to reflect on, and admit to its dreadful decision. But what if Cafe Palestine loses this court case? Well, then we would have to consider it as a crucial learning experience from which we would have learned that powerful elements within our society have changed their attitude towards truth, freedom, tolerance, universal justice and intellectual exchange. If this should prove to be the case, then the sooner we all face up to this change, the better.
And for me, I surely would have to reassess my own attitude towards the education of my three German-Palestinian children. I would have to think very seriously about teaching them that they had better remain silent, not only about the suffering of their own Palestinian people, but also about injustice and human rights in general.
- Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 1, 2. [↩]
- Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 5. [↩]