Statement on the incidents at the FCLR event "Die Gegenwart des Antisemitismus: Zur kritischen Analyse von Judenfeindschaft heute" on June 3 2024

Statement on the violent attack during the lecture „Die Gegenwart des Antisemitismus“:

As the AStA of the University of Bonn, we have not yet published a statement on the protests and actions at the university in connection with the Middle East conflict. Last Monday, however, a red line was crossed by pro-Palestinian activists to such an extent that we feel forced to speak out.

Background information:

On Monday, June 3, our event “Die Gegenwart des Antisemitismus: Zur kritischen Analyse von Judenfeindschaft heute” (“The Presence of Anti-Semitism: A Critical Analysis of Hostility towards Jews Today”) with Prof. Dr. Lars Rensmann took place as part of the Festival contre le racisme. Based on our experience at events in a university context in recent weeks, we expected disruptions in the form of people shouting, playing music or similar. For this reason, there were two moderators who were initially supposed to approach the disruptors to talk to them and ask them to stop the disturbances. Another person was in contact with campus security so that they could be called in if necessary if disruptive individuals did not stop the disturbances despite being approached.

Portrayal of the events:

At the beginning of the event, the disruptions were, as expected, limited to shouted paroles. After the second disruption, a person from the AStA approached a group of people who had already been involved in past actions and protests in connection with the Middle East conflict and asked them either to disrupt the event now and leave or to remain quiet until the end of the lecture and follow the event. One man from the group stood up and started shouting “Freedom for Palestine”. When he noticed that a person in the row in front of him was filming the disturbance, he suddenly and brutally began punching this person in the direction of the head. It was only with the help of several visitors and people from the AStA that the man was removed from his victim and pushed against the wall. In the process, he managed to put another member of the audience in a headlock and choke him. The situation was then resolved by campus security and the person was escorted outside; the other people who belonged to the man did not intervene, but started shouting paroles while he was still lashing out and also had to be escorted outside by campus security. As the situation was resolved from our point of view, it was decided not to involve the police directly. We are in contact with the people who were attacked and are currently considering taking further steps.

Afterwards, the event continued without disruption and with a final, constructive discussion, although various participants were clearly shocked. One person suffered a panic attack and had to leave the room in the meantime.

The dynamics of escalation:

We are shocked by the level of violence that has now found its way into the self-declared “pro- Palestine movement” around the University of Bonn.

There are many legitimate forms of protest, such as demonstrations or protest camps. However, violence against your own fellow students or other third parties represents a breach of taboo that we did not previously consider possible, that is unacceptable and that we will not tolerate in any way. Those who see it differently clearly have no interest in a serious discourse.

The violent attack on our audience is part of a dynamic of escalation that is obviously enforced by the activists of the protest camp. The setting up of the protest camp was followed by the disruption of a lecture, the disruption of Mensa operations including the filming of Mensa staff and the disruption of the German-Israeli Society's lecture with a left-wing Israeli critical of the government on May 13. Accordingly, the disruptions obviously happen regardless of the content of the events, but more frequently when Israeli people are involved or anti-Semitism is discussed.

„Students for Palestine Bonn“:

In the course of last weekend's action, in which the “Students for Palestine Bonn” group projected slogans and individual words onto the façade of the main building, the call “Yallah Intifada” could also be read at times - since then, a photo of this has been the group's Instagram profile picture. Students for Palestine Bonn ignores the fact that this is a call for anti-Semitic pogroms, as it clearly refers to the first and second intifada, in which over 1,000 Jews were murdered, and refers to the original meaning of the word (= “stand up and shake off”). We find these obvious attempts to legitimize violence against Jews alarming.

The concerns and fears of Jewish students expressed to the activists at a meeting of the student parliament, as well as the report by the Jewish University Group that almost all of its members currently do not dare to enter the university, were dismissed by the activists in a contemptuous manner. We were assured that all the groups involved were peaceful and had no potential for violence.

When the occupation of the main building entrance was broken up on May 29 and the camp was subsequently evacuated, pro-Palestinian activists marked members of the AStA and fellow students suspected of being pro-Israeli as opponents by shouting “Zionazi”.

At a pro-Israeli demonstration against the camp on the same day, camp participants shouted demands to wipe out Israel. The fact that an activist with a visible red triangle, and thus a Hamas symbol, on his shirt moved among the participants during the evacuation of the camp,

is no longer surprising against this background. Any assurances of non-violence have proven to be empty and mere lip services.

Against any kind of anti-Semitism:

We strongly condemn the fact that the activists of “Students for Palestine Bonn” and the groups associated with them are unable to express legitimate criticism of Israel's actions under the Netanyahu government in the Gaza Strip without simultaneously celebrating Hamas as liberation fighters or calling for a new intifada and the eradication of the state of Israel. The actual implementation of these demands would ultimately mean the murder of Jews, which – regardless of the definition used – is clearly anti-Semitic.

We apologize to all those who were injured at our event and will consider measures to increase the safety at our events in the future. At the same time, we would like to thank all those present who intervened and prevented anything worse from happening.

Last but not least, we would like to say to the RCDS at this point: We find it highly shameless to present a false and incomplete picture of the events to the General-Anzeiger. It was by no means a “brief scuffle between a guest student and a troublemaker”, but rather a brutal attack which, in view of several sudden blows to the head, fortunately ended up being harmless for the victim. As AStA, we naturally do not participate in racist deportation fantasies and reject them in any form.