Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Palestine"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

A mutilated rendering of the Star of David (Credit: Flickr)

When one thinks of Antisemitism in Europe and particularly in Germany, the first images that are likely to come to mind are those of skinheads or Nazis, or even individuals who regard themselves as bio-Deutsch (ethnically German – whatever that means). These people represent a valid threat to those of Jewish background. What many neglect to realise is that they are not the only ones who hold Antisemitic views: Antisemitism among people with an Arabic or Muslim background is generally overlooked. It may be difficult to grasp the notion of a minority oppressing another minority as it contradicts many popular historical narratives, but this does not mean that the critique of such intolerance and hatred should be silenced. It is becoming increasingly important to voice these concerns today as Europe sees the rise of populist right-wing parties that target Jewish, Arab, and Muslim minorities.

The fear of being seen as ‘Islamophobic’ by the liberal left or having one’s stance instrumentalized by the far-right to promote an anti-migrant rhetoric is preventing a discourse on Antisemitism among Arab and Muslim communities, further marginalizing those with a Jewish background. In order to address this, one needs to understand the difference between European Antisemitism and that enacted by Arab and Muslim people. While both have brutal histories of victimizing, persecuting and marginalizing Jewish groups, the atrocities committed during WWII against the Jews in Europe generated historical guilt and shame that lead to hyperawareness, a nation-wide condemnation of Antisemitism, and Germany’s culture of remembrance. This culture of remembrance is  criticized by AfD’s senior member Björn Höcke when he references the Memorial of the Murdered Jews in Berlin, stating that “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital”[*1].  The implication of such a statement is that no remembrance or shame is necessary. This opinion, shared among party members and right-wing Germans demonstrates that, sadly, Antisemitic sentiments are still held by the supposed bio-Deutsche.

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Political idolatry in action (Credit: Ido Nahari)

I love Jerusalem. I was born to the city and, as far I know, I am an eleventh generation to the city.  My spirituality and lyricism begin and end with feeling the pulse of Jerusalem in ways that defy secular logic, in ways that I believe would make people who read this piece puzzled for they themselves are secular and see that the new God is either money or the state. Pre-Israel, a Jewish majority in Jerusalem — which has been the case since the 1860s — was never achieved through national hostility towards the Palestinian residents, but through a religious persistence of the Jews that lived in Jerusalem and viewed it as a holy place. Of course, this does not suggest that “Jerusalem is Jewish”. This phrase is not only problematic to the ears of the non-Jewish residents of Jerusalem, but also to the rest of the Christian and Muslim world. Jerusalem is holy to all three Abrahamic religions. At many times I enjoyed living in the city, feeling and perceiving that said holiness in ways that I could not  explain to others. And because I hold Jerusalem to be a holy city, any conversation about its “ownership”, its “sovereignty”, or who it “belongs to” is absurd to me.

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Radiohead Promotional Banner. (Credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Together with my family on June 16th, I attended one of the best live shows I have ever seen: Radiohead played in a park in Monza, Italy, in front of more than 50 000 people. We accidentally bought fan pit tickets and got to be only 20 meters away from the stage. Even the opening acts left me with unforgettable, and amusing memories: a 50-something white guy wearing a baseball hat danced a little too enthusiastically to Michael Kiwanuka’s “Black Man in White World” while James Blake messed up one of his songs and joked about not knowing his own music. And then, as the sun began to set, Radiohead’s two-hour long concert opened spectacularly with a light show and the song “Daydreaming”, which was  written for Thom Yorke’s late wife. I will forever remember the guy with the purple bandana next to us who seemed to be Radiohead’s biggest fan, jumping with such enthusiasm to every jumpable song — from “Idioteque” to “Myxomatosis” to “Ful Stop”. I couldn’t help but find the middle-aged couple in front of me adorable as they kissed every time Thom Yorke sang “You’re all I need” in the song “All I Need”. I even enjoyed the concert when my brother, I, two guys in the back and the guy with the bandana asked for “Let Down” to be played but didn’t get our wish; the irony is not lost on me, and somehow the other 25 songs they played more than made up for it.  

About a month and a half later, as much as I loved the concert and kept looking back at the awkwardly cute family selfie we took, I couldn’t stop thinking about the ongoing controversy over  one of the concerts in the band’s “A Moon Shaped Pool” tour: on July 19th, Radiohead performed in Tel Aviv, Israel.  

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Carlos Fraenkel

Carlos Fraenkel

Carlos Fraenkel is Associate Professor at McGill University, jointly appointed in the Departments of Philosophy and Jewish Studies. At the beginning of March, he came to ECLA of Bard to talk about his new book and project: “Teaching Plato in Palestine.” The book is based on his experimental method of teaching philosophy to five different communities across the world (Palestinian, Islamic, Hasidic, Afro-Brazilian and Mohawk).

Prof. Fraenkel started his lecture with a very inspiring anecdote from his own life. He recounted how, during his undergraduate years, he traveled to Egypt in order to study Arabic. While he was living there, he became friends with Egyptian Muslims and every evening around the dinner table they would discuss their different backgrounds and value systems. On every occasion, Fraenkel tried to defend his secular modern values, which disproved of the existence of an afterlife, while his Muslim friends believed in life after death. They all debated the existence of God and the supporting evidence. These discussions led both parties to defend and advocate their distinct value systems even stronger, which prompted a subtle conclusion in Fraenkel’s mind: this mode of debating and arguing was basically very beneficial, since it gave all the participants a chance to defend their beliefs and, in doing so, they were fortifying the underlying reasons.

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