Anti-Jewish Talk Given At Jewish Museum…. Say What?

Posted on September 19, 2012 by

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Less than a week ago Judith Butler, a US professor of comparative literature and rhetoric at the University of California – Berkeley, gave a controversial speech at a Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany. The controversy of this talk was exacerbated by poor timing. Last Tuesday, an inflammatory film, called “Innocence of Muslims” sparked intense riots, murders, and overall terror in Middle Eastern countries. The film portrayed the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a buffoonish caricature and played out an insulting satire of his life and teachings. Showing the Prophet in any way is forbidden in the Islam religion.

During Judith Butler’s talk she reasserted her stance that Israel should be boycotted because of Israel’s continued expansion over Palestine and its apparent apartheid. When looking at this event from a political viewpoint, it is easy to see how influential a single person’s actions can be (i.e. the “Innocence of Muslims” video that caused riots and deaths). Another aspect of this political event is the location of where the talk is being held. Judith Butler’s talk took place in the courtyard of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, constructed in 2001, which exhibits the 2000 year history of Germany’s Jews. Butler’s talk is extremely anti-Jewish which clashes with the museum’s intention of displaying Jewish history.

From an economic standpoint, the German taxpayers who funded this museum could be offended by the ways that the museum is being used and the ways that the funds are being allocated. Some Germans who do not agree with Butler may be very upset that their tax dollars have been allocated to build a museum which hosts speakers that contradict the people of their history.

Why this talk is so controversial also has to do with the long, drawn out conflict between the Israelites and the Palestinians and their fight over Jerusalem, Bethlehem the territory that surrounds them. At the beginning of World War II, Palestine  and the Palestinians controlled much of the area that is east of present day Jordan, while Israel and the Israelites controlled very little in that territory. Over the years, Palestine has succumbed more and more territory to Israel, dramatically decreasing its control over the region. So, why is this land so important? Both the Jews (Israelites) and the Muslims (Palestinians) claim that this territory is their holy land and is very sacred ground. Both want control over the land so that their people can return to this holy place. The Jews claim this land to be their “Promised Land“, referred this way because of G-d’s repeated promise in the Bible (Gen. 12:7, 13:15, 15:18, 17:8) to give the land to the descendants of Abraham. While the Palestinians try to hold on to what little land they still control, the Israelites toil towards their goal of Zionism, the return of the Jews to their holy land.

If Judith Butler is just stating her opinion on the boycott of Israel, why is it so controversial? Let’s go over a few of the main points. Politically, Butler is from the United States which already garners criticism for her opinion. Many people from Arab countries do not think very highly of Americans, usually for reasons such as religious intolerance. Another political issue has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Butler boycotts Israel in its attempt to take over the rest of Palestine, which is a sensitive issue for Israel and the Jews. Socially, this talk, even though it may have been planned for months in advance, comes with very poor timing. Less than a week after the degrading, anti-Islam “Innocence of Muslims” film sparks riots, Butler gives the already sensitive Middle East another reason to become enraged with Americans and religious issues. Economically, Butler presented this talk at a German, taxpayer funded museum that exhibits Jewish heritage. This anti-Jewish talk could be considered a religious slap in the face to the Jews.

In my opinion, it was not in Judith Butler’s best interest to present this speech at the time, place, and way that she did. I hope that her actions do not create more chaos and frustration throughout the Middle East.

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