German cultural event scaled back after Palestine controversy

Germany’s Goethe-Institut has scaled back its next event, “Beyond The Lone Offender”, after attendees pulled out days earlier following a decision to disinvite Mohammed El-Kurd.

Mohammed El-Kurd is a famous Palestinian activist, poet and journalist [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty-archive]

The Goethe-Institut, Germany’s public cultural association, announced on Wednesday that its upcoming conference in Hamburg would be scaled back after massive cancellations following its decision to disinvite Palestinian activist and poet Mohammed El-Kurd.

The Goethe-Institut Hamburg “Beyond The Lone Offender – Dynamics of the Global Right”, scheduled for June 23-26, originally invited El-Kurd to speak at a panel to discuss strategies used by different states to hijack human rights violations, according to a curator.

However, the 24-year-old Palestinian, from Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, was later deemed “not a suitable speaker” and his invitation was rescinded. This caused a wave of withdrawals from curators and participants.

The institute issued a statement just hours before the start of the conference, saying the event “will take place [but] with a reduced schedule.

Daniel Stoevesandt, Director of the Goethe-Institut Hamburg, said: “We made organizational errors during the preparation of the event and very much regret that these cancellations have occurred.

“We will therefore continue to organize the forum with a reduced program in order to give the subject the attention it deserves.”

British-Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif tweeted on Tuesday that he was giving up speaking at the conference.

It comes after Moshtari Hilal and Sinthujan Varatharajah, the curators on the panel El-Kurd was originally scheduled to speak on, announced last week that they were withdrawing from the forum.

“Our cancellation is a response to attempts by the Goethe-Institut to interfere in our curatorial decisions and thereby impose a climate of anti-Palestinian censorship,” they said in a statement tweeted by Varatharajah on Friday.

They added: “El-Kurd’s involvement was transparent from the start.

“El-Kurd already confirmed his participation when we received a sudden notification from the headquarters of the Goethe-Institut, explicitly denying the Palestinian writer’s participation in this broadcast.

“The Goethe-Institut’s veto against El-Kurd calls into question the very purpose of this conference.”

The Conservatives said the organization had “explicitly decided [that] the violence affecting the Palestinians cannot be named and discussed in a program about the dynamics of the global right in Germany.”

They said it “effectively devalues ​​Palestinian oppression as unworthy of discussion.”

The Goethe-Institut responded to Hilal and Varatharajah’s statement on Friday, explaining that it had uninvited El-Kurd because “in previous social media posts he had made several comments about Israel in a way that the Goethe -Institute does not find acceptable”.

He added: “Unfortunately, the necessary internal coordination only took place after a premature commitment had already been made.”

The Goethe-Institut said it “did not agree with the reasoning” behind Hilal and Varatharajah’s withdrawal from the conference, but “regrets and respects their decision”.

The new Arabic contacted the Goethe-Institut to get more specific details about the social media posts that caused El-Kurd’s exclusion and the decision-making behind the reduction of the event. No response has been received at the time of publication.

Kampnagel clarified that the institute is responsible for editorial decisions, including downsizing the event.

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