#11 / Editorial

The weather is warming, and K., in line with the season, is addressing some hot topics this week. Topics on which intellectuals and politicians often cross swords: post-colonial studies and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Controversies on post-colonial studies are becoming ubiquitous in the media environment of the different nations of Europe. The debate in Germany assumes a rather singular character. Last March, the great art historian Horst Bredekamp waded into the discussion over the Humboldt Forum – collecting art and artifacts from all over in the world in the ambition of being a universal space – in order to denounce an anti-Jewish element in calls for the museum’s “decolonization.” We re-publish his provocative op-ed here, alongside an original interview with Bredekamp himself. He expresses himself vis-a-vis a liberal tradition of collecting art and objects, today derided as colonialist by post-colonial theorists, but which he argues arose from the desires of Jewish scholars to elevate the notions of equality and dialogue among cultures.

The latest flash point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can lead us astray in terms of historical precedents. Once the anguish and pain of this episode has subsided, one continues of course to ponder the durability of a conflict which seems might never stop. Danny Trom, in his article of this week, penetrates to what could be the heart of the problem. Reviewing the long history of border revisions and demographic evolutions in historical Palestine, he unveils the structure of the confrontation between a minority that has become a majority and a majority that has become a minority, that is to say, Jews and Palestinian Arabs, respectively. He intimates that a resolution of this conflict can only proceed from a consciousness of this problem, and a will inside each camp to self-correct.

We admit that the week’s three texts are rather dense. For the attentive reader, these will – at least we believe – serve as an important contribution to the most heated political debates. But there is also a moral dimension to these discussions, which range across spaces and often assume a lacerating quality. We can ask questions of both Israelis and advocates of post-colonial theory, without undermining the legitimacy of their position. How much excess can a legitimate cause justify? What are the obligations of those who have suffered, insofar as they now are capable of exercising force?


The second part of David Haziza’s article on ritual slaughter in Europe will be published next week, on Wednesday, June 9.

A certain postcolonial thinking is diametrically opposed to what can be considered left-wing politics and would be structurally anti-Jewish argues the great art historian Horst Bredekamp, one of the founders of the Humboldt Forum, in an op-ed published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) last March. This text had a considerable impact on the German and English-speaking intellectual and media scene. We take it up in K., putting it in context: within a controversy about the ‘decolonization’ of art and museums.

The Humboldt Forum’s vocation is to host exhibitions on non-European cultures. But this ethnographic museum is now at the center of a controversy over the ownership of artworks and objects obtained during the German colonial empire in Africa and Asia. In this interview with the art historian Horst Bredekamp, we wanted to learn more about a forgotten German ethnographic tradition – and in particular about the contribution of Jewish scholars and collectors within this tradition.

How do we explain the return of pogrom imagery as Israel grapples with interethnic violence between Jews and Arabs? More than seven decades after the state’s founding and the end of the British Mandate, why does such language persist? Examining the spate of Jewish-Arab clashes, Danny Trom reflects on the political dimension of majority-minority relations in Israel.

With the support of:

Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.