Press Releases

Combat Anti-Semitism Movement Urges Georgetown University to Act Over Article Insulting Kritallnacht Memory

December 2, 2020

3 December 2020 (New York) – The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) today called for Georgetown University to take concrete action over an article in a publication of one of its programs. The article exploited and cheapened the memory of the Kristallnacht pogrom, in order to criticize the Austrian government’s actions tackling radical Islamism.

The article was authored by Austrian political scientist Farid Hafez, in the Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project on Islamophobia at Georgetown University. Hafez sharply criticized the recent questioning by Austrian authorities of dozens of people it suspects of being radical Islamist activists, which he said “reminded” him of the treatment of Uighur Muslims by China. Hafez also claimed that the actions of the Austrian government “undermines the credibility of its Kristallnacht commemorations,” noting that the arrests occurred on the anniversary of the infamous pogrom.

Beginning on November 9, 1938, and lasting two days, the Nazis burned more than 1,400 Synagogues and Jewish institutions in Germany and Austria on what became known as ‘Kristallnacht’ (The Night of Broken Glass). It is widely viewed as a critical moment in the chain of events that led to the Holocaust. Hafez’s invocation of Kristallnacht in order to make a political point is an insult to the memory of all those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Hafez’s offensive piece has rightly been met with horror by many in Austria. Two federal government ministers, Susanne Raab and Karl Nehammer have publicly condemned the article. Raab termed Hafez’s Kristallnacht reference a “monstrous comparison”, while Nehammer called it “completely tasteless.” Meanwhile, Austrian sociologist and Islamic theologian Mouhanad Khorchide also criticized the article for equating “the beginning of the murder of millions of Jews with a raid.”

The University of Salzburg, where Hafez is currently a lecturer and researcher, has publicly distanced itself from his article. The University’s Rector Hendrik Lehnert indicated that disciplinary procedures are being examined. Meanwhile, the Head of the University’s Political Science Department, Prof. Reinhard Heinisch said he has “absolutely no understanding for comparing the procedure in a democratic constitutional state like Austria with events during the Nazi era.”

Combat Anti-Semitism Movement notes that by comparison, no such public condemnation or even acknowledgement of the offense caused by Hafez’s article has been forthcoming from Georgetown University. CAM strongly urges the University to publicly distance itself from the article, censure Hafez and thoroughly review publication procedures at the Bridge Initiative.

Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement Director: “There can be no excuse for abusing the memory of the Holocaust in order to make a political point. Farid Hafez’s article demeans the unparalleled persecution of Jews by the Nazis and cheapens the memory of all those who suffered. Doing so only undermines today’s ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.

“Georgetown University is responsible for the publication of this offensive article yet has so far remained silent on the controversy. The University’s leadership must take meaningful action to make clear there is no place for manipulating the Holocaust in respectable academia.”

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a non-partisan, global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism in all its forms. Since its launch in February 2019, 295 organizations and 300,000 individuals have joined the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement by signing the campaign’s pledge. The CAM Pledge draws upon the IHRA international definition of anti-Semitism and its list of specific behaviors used to discriminate against the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.

Photo Credit: Georgetown Bridge Initiative