A letter we sent to DIE LINKE (the German Left Party) protesting its conduct towards Dr. Anna-Esther Younes, author of the Germany section of the European Islamophobia Report


Dear members of Die Linke,

Academia for Equality is an organization of over 550 academics dedicated to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians and to social justice within Israeli society. We are writing to protest your conduct towards Dr. Anna-Esther Younes, who was dis-invited to a conference by your party. This, according to Ms. Katina Schubert, due to her “proximity to BDS”.

Dr. Anna-Esther Younes is a researcher of race and racism with a particular focus on the intersections of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in contemporary Germany. She is also the author of the 2015, 2017, and 2018 editions of the Germany section of the European Islamophobia Report (EIR) in - the only annual report covering every European country and current trends in anti-Muslim racism, including facts, political analysis of important events, as well as transnational European discursive intersections. Younes was invited to participate at a conference titled “Strategies against the Right” that took place in Berlin on Saturday, November 2, 2019. The conference, organized by Die Linke brought together politicians, legal experts, researchers and activists to discuss the challenges posed by the German right and to create networks and tools for resistance. Given that Muslim as well as Jewish communities are being increasingly targeted by the extreme right across Germany, Dr. Younes’ expertise could have made a substantial contribution to the conference. However, Dr. Younes was dis-invited from speaking at the event, ostensibly due to her “proximity” to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

As Jewish, Palestinian and other academics who are well versed in the history and reality of Israel-Palestine, including researchers of anti-Semitism, we have repeatedly expressed concern regarding the tendency, particularly in Germany, of conflating Judaism with Zionism and labeling supporters of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic, hence preventing them from speaking, writing, and researching or generally excluding them from public discussions. It is a manipulative use of the important struggle against anti-Semitism for purposes that have nothing to do with protecting Jews against racial hatred, and everything to do with shielding the Israeli government from criticism regarding its continued occupation of Palestinian territory and the consequent violation of human rights of millions of people. Academia for Equality is not part of the BDS movement, but we consider it a legitimate, non-violent means of challenging the Israeli policy and defend its supporters’ right of expression and association. We object to all kinds of persecution or threats against academics for expressing their political opinions, and we are especially shocked to see a left party which purports to share our values contributing to the marginalization of non-white scholars.

As an organization committed to combating all forms of racism and dedicated to the values of nonviolence and equality, we insist on the importance of a free debate on the concepts of race, racism, colonialism, apartheid and white supremacy, whether in relation to Israel-Palestine, Germany or any other context. The exclusion of Dr. Younes from this conference illustrates, as do too many other examples, how the delegitimization and criminalization of non-violent solidarity with the Palestinian cause works to further the systematic exclusion of Muslims and people of color from spaces of knowledge production and strategic planning, especially when it comes to issues that affect them most.

We live in times when the development of knowledge about prejudice, discrimination and hatred is crucial. Indeed, the validity and accuracy of particular analyses and arguments must be discussed critically, but any steps to stifle debate are not only an attack against academic freedom and the freedom of expression, but may constitute a careless endangerment of the lives of potential victims.

We urge you, the organizers of the “Strategies against the Right” conference to publicly reject the indirect but false accusations of anti-Semitism made against Dr. Younes, and to secure free expression and debate rather than silence voices that challenge the status quo. We demand Die Linke to act decisively against all forms of racism instead of persecuting those who expose them.

Sincerely,
Academia for Equality, Board