More than 350 activists and scholars from universities around the world, and a Jewish group in Germany, are calling on the University of Vienna’s law faculty to cancel a lecture by Israeli justice minister Ayelet Shaked.
Shaked, a member of parliament for the Jewish Home party, a pro-settler grouping, is scheduled to speak on 15 February as part of a “distinguished lecture series,” on the topic of “protecting human rights while countering terrorism.”
Meanwhile, on Monday night, activists in New York protested and disrupted a speech at Columbia University by Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador at the UN.
Call for genocide
Ayelet Shaked became globally notorious after The Electronic Intifada published a translation of a post she put on Facebook in July 2014 supporting a call for the genocide of Palestinians.
She shared the text of what she said was a previously unpublished article by Uri Elitzur. Written 12 years earlier, she claimed “It is as relevant today as it was at the time.”
The article declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
It demands the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”
Shaked posted this call for genocide just days before Israel went on a 51-day rampage in the besieged Gaza Strip, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians, including an average of 11 children per day.
Embarrassed by words she evidently believed would only be seen by her Hebrew-speaking extremist supporters, Shaked falsely claimed that The Electronic Intifada had mistranslated them. But she also doubled down in her endorsement of what she termed Elitzur’s “sober, legally minded discussion.”
In an open letter to the university published Tuesday, scholars, including many at Vienna, urged that the event be cancelled on ethical grounds.
“In light of the growing popularity of hate speech and racism on a global level, we believe that the University of Vienna has an ethical responsibility for eliminating the perpetuation of these divisive narratives within its grounds,” the scholars state.
“Therefore, we demand a cancellation of the event and we demand that the University of Vienna take a clear position against the Israeli extreme right politician and justice minister who stands for hate speech and racism.”
An announcement for the talk has been circulated on social media, but cannot be found at the University of Vienna’s website. Invitations to the lecture were sent by email, and potential participants have been asked for detailed information, including their nationality and from whom they received the invitation.
An assistant to University of Vienna law faculty dean Paul Oberhammer would not provide information about the event, and Oberhammer did not respond to an email from The Electronic Intifada requesting comment.
Incitement against Africans
European Jews for a Just Peace Germany also condemned the Austrian university’s invitation to Shaked in a letter to law faculty dean Oberhammer.
In addition to her stance on Palestinians, their letter cites Shaked’s support for incarceration, expulsion and other harsh measures against refugees and migrants in Israel. “In addition, she supported racist demonstrations in South Tel Aviv, which have turned into pogroms against dark-skinned people,” the letter states.
Shaked engaged in racial incitement using social media, posting a video on Facebook that she falsely claimed showed a Black migrant attacking a local resident.
As persons of Jewish origin in Germany, the letter writers state, “we know from the historical experiences of our ancestors the degradation and the pain to which humans are subjected if they are systematically excluded and deprived.”
In line with her party’s platform, Shaked advocates outright annexation of most of the occupied West Bank.
Shaked stewarded a law through the Israeli parliament targeting human rights defenders that even staunchly pro-Israel European Union officials criticized – albeit with their customary timidity.
Her invitation as a “distinguished” lecturer by the University of Vienna recalls the University of Chicago’s notorious invitation to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert to give its “King Abdullah II Annual Leadership Lecture.
His October 2009 speech was heckled and protested. This came just weeks after the release of the independent, UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, and as Olmert faced corruption charges.
Olmert is now in prison for bribery.
Israeli ambassador protested in New York
Universities have regularly provided distinguished platforms to Israeli leaders implicated in war crimes, while criticizing or suppressing their own students and faculty who call for accountability in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Israeli officials have also continued to face protests – including Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon, who spoke at New York’s Columbia University on Monday night.
Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, joined by other groups, gathered outside chanting “racists not welcome” and “from Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go,” according to a post on the Facebook page of Columbia University Apartheid Divest featuring video of the protest.
The activists say that protesters inside the lecture hall on Monday night disrupted Danon’s 45-minute speech seven times before they were removed.
Shaked had also faced protests when she spoke at Columbia last October, at an event, which like the one in Vienna, was announced only to a carefully screened audience.
Emran Feroz contributed research.