Faced with the verbal inflation that has been mounting in civil society, politics and the social sciences since October 7, Jürgen Habermas and three eminent colleagues from Frankfurt University – Nicole Deitelhoff, Rainer Forst and Klaus Günther – set out to clarify what solidarity with Israel, but also with the Palestinian people, really means. This is a short, hard-hitting text, written in the best tradition of critical theory which, to paraphrase one of its founders, Th. W. Adorno, assumes that when you find yourself in a world that plays with words, you have to put your cards on the table.
The current situation created by Hamas‘ extreme atrocity and Israel’s response to it has led to a cascade of moral and political statements and protests. We believe that amidst all the conflicting views being expressed, there are some principles that should not be disputed. They are the basis of a rightly understood solidarity with Israel and Jews in Germany.
The Hamas massacre with the declared intention of eliminating Jewish life in general has prompted Israel to strike back. How this retaliation, which is justified in principle, is carried out is the subject of controversial debate; principles of proportionality, the prevention of civilian casualties and the waging of a war with the prospect of future peace must be the guiding principles. Despite all the concern for the fate of the Palestinian population, however, the standards of judgement slip completely when genocidal intentions are attributed to Israel’s actions.
In particular, Israel’s actions in no way justify anti-Semitic reactions, especially not in Germany. It is intolerable that Jews in Germany are once again exposed to threats to life and limb and have to fear physical violence on the streets. The democratic ethos of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is orientated towards the obligation to respect human dignity, is linked to a political culture for which Jewish life and Israel’s right to exist are central elements worthy of special protection in light of the mass crimes of the Nazi era. The commitment to this is fundamental to our political life. The elementary rights to freedom and physical integrity as well as to protection from racist defamation are indivisible and apply equally to all. All those in our country who have cultivated anti-Semitic sentiments and convictions behind all kinds of pretexts and now see a welcome opportunity to express them uninhibitedly must also abide by this.
Nicole Deitelhoff, Klaus Günther, Rainer Forst, Jürgen Habermas
Nicole Deitelhoff is Professor of International Relations and Theories of Global Order at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Since 2016 she has been Director of the Leibniz Institute for Peace and Conflict Research in Frankfurt am Main.
Klaus Günther is a jurist. A former research associate of J. Habermas, he is a professor at the law faculty of the Goethe University in Frankfurt.
Rainer Forst is a philosopher. He was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. A former academic collaborator of J. Habermas, he is Professor of Political Theory in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Frankfurt University.
Jürgen Habermas is a philosopher and the main representative of the second generation of the Frankfurt School. He is the author of a considerable body of work that has left its mark on modern social science theory.