The activists interrupted a discussion with Israeli constitutional judge Barak-Erez at Humboldt University. Now the university management is speaking out.

Humboldt University Berlin on Unter den Linden boulevard

The round table on the topic “Constitutional challenges – Judging in a constitutional democracy” had to be canceled Photo: Jens Kalaene/dpa

SEDAN dpa/epd | After a roundtable discussion with an Israeli judge was interrupted, representatives from Berlin's Humboldt University and the Hertie School criticized the behavior of pro-Palestinian activists.

“I find it embarrassing for the guests we invited to an important debate that it could not take place as planned,” said Julia von Blumenthal, president of Humboldt University, according to a statement Friday morning. At the university “extremely controversial positions should also be able to be discussed.” But that only works if we listen to each other. “Today there was no will on the part of activists to do this.”

On Thursday, pro-Palestinian activists so disrupted a roundtable on “Constitutional Challenges – Judging in a Constitutional Democracy” that it had to be cancelled. Current and former international judges were invited to the event, including Daphne Barak-Erez, a professor and judge at Israel's Constitutional Court.

According to the university, one person stood up during the event to read a statement. When the speakers on stage wanted to react to this, they were disturbed “by loud and continuous screams from individual people.” The organizers then decided to cancel the round table.

“Science thrives thanks to dialogue and exchange. We must also offer this space in universities to discuss opposing opinions,” explained Cornelia Woll, president of the Hertie School, according to the joint statement. If debates can only take place in closed rooms and under highly secure conditions, it would lead not only science but also democracy to a dead end.

Call for tougher laws

Following the attack on a Jewish student at the Free University of Berlin (FU), the Federal Government's Anti-Semitism Commissioner, Felix Klein, reiterated his demand for consequences. “In its higher education law, the state of Berlin has clearly obliged universities to take measures against anti-Semitism,” Klein said. Editorial network Germany.

It must now be a matter of “consistently and concretely implementing the legal framework that has long existed in the country and taking decisive action against hostility toward Israel and hatred of Jews on campus.”

Both the scientific senator from Berlin and the president of the FU are needed, Klein said. He supports the proposal of Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) to examine the rules of state higher education laws in other federal states and create more legal clarity on how universities can address anti-Semitic incidents.

A 30-year-old Jewish FU student was attacked and seriously injured on a street in Mitte, Berlin, on Friday afternoon last week by a 23-year-old classmate. The suspect is said to have been involved in, among other things, the occupation of a conference room by pro-Palestinian activists in December.