University leaders voice outrage at rising anti-Semitism

University heads have voiced their outrage at the attempted terrorist attack on a synagogue in Halle in October and the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, and they have adopted a resolution condemning any form of anti-Semitism.

On 9 October 2019, the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, right-wing extremist Stephan Balliet, armed with a pistol, tried to enter a synagogue in Halle and kill a number of people assembled there. Balliet failed, but then shot and killed a passer-by and a customer at a nearby snack bar. He also injured two other people.

Balliet had previously announced his plans on the internet and filmed the events with a helmet camera. He is now on trial for murder and attempted murder. This was only one of a rising number of anti-Semitic incidents in recent years. In 2018 alone, at least 1,799 were reported.

“In the light of these frightening developments, we wish to emphasise our abhorrence of and opposition to anti-Semitism in any form,” said Peter-André Alt, president of the German Rectors’ Conference or Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK), representing the heads of universities in Germany, at the organisation’s members’ assembly in Hamburg.

The member institutions of the HRK have adopted a resolution explicitly welcoming the anti-Semitism definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and state that they would like to see it established “at all university locations”.

According to the HRK, the IHRA, which is also recognised by the federal government, “provides a clear basis to identify hatred against Jews and is thus an important tool with which to combat it. It also covers Israel-related anti-Semitism.”

The resolution states that “Jewish life on the campus must not be in any danger, and Jewish researchers, teachers and students have to feel safe at all universities. Research on anti-Semitism, its genesis and how it takes effect, corresponding study programmes and transferring insights to multipliers and decision-makers are of supreme importance in successfully combating anti-Semitism.”

The HRK members’ assembly has also announced its support of a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and anti-Semitism, which was adopted by the Jewish Student Union in Germany, the FZS student union, various university organisations of established political parties like the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Greens, as well as other organisations.

The resolution rejects any boycott of Israeli merchandise, businesses, academics, artists or athletes.

The HRK resolution stresses that Germany’s universities are “centres of democratic culture and places of dialogue and diversity”. It refers to previous campaigns of the HRK supporting cosmopolitanism and condemning xenophobia and committing universities to decisive action in these areas.

Furthermore, the resolution emphasises Germany’s “special, historic responsibility to combat all forms of anti-Semitism”.

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