Anti-war activists disinvite Munich Jewish councillor

“Peace activists are boycotting not only Israel, but also Jews in Germany,” a Jewish member of Munich City Council told German media website Taz after he was disinvited from addressing an anti-war event.

Marian Offman was due to give the opening greeting at the annual Munich Peace Conference at the city’s Old Town Hall in his capacity as a representative of the city, but just before Christmas, the SDP council member received an email from organisers telling him that he was not welcome.

The reason? Event organiser Thomas Rödl accused Offman of having “aggressively and polarisingly dealt with political groups and events that critically assess the policies of the government of Israel” in the past, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“I was completely perplexed,” Offman told Taz. “As far as I know there has never been anything like this.”

Rödl was referring to Offman’s opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which has been labelled antisemitic by a resolution in the Bundestag that was passed by members of parties from across the political spectrum.

In a letter sent to Munich city officials, Rödl said that if Offman were allowed to speak, the topic of BDS “would dominate the event in the Old City Hall, which is not the subject of our programme.”
Finally, Rödl was unmoved, telling Taz “We feared that Offman would make this an issue, and that our event would be disturbed by heckling and confrontation.”

But given that the majority of council-members on Munich city council oppose BDS, Offman was unconvinced that his opposition to BDS was the problem. For him, the decision was clearly antisemitic, given that he had planned to limit his remarks opening the event to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Offman has received support from his colleagues on the council. Dieter Reiter, the mayor of Munich has confirmed that no other representative from the council will be sent instead of Offman, and that the council are considering whether to allow the organisers to host the event in the Old City Hall, which is owned by Munich Council.

“To put it mildly, I consider it an affront to the city if the city representative is rejected as a speaker,” Reiter told newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Christian Vorländer, deputy chairman of the SDP group on the city council has also spoken out in support, telling Taz that the decision had “shocked and deeply affected him.” Vorländer delivered the opening address at the event himself two years ago. Now in its 18th year, the event is held to counter the annual Munich Security Conference, and promotes a “complete switch from military to civil security policy.”

For Offman, the decision to disinvite him was “quite clearly Israel-related antisemitism in its purest form,” he told Taz. It was “obvious that the Jew Marian Offman was simply not wanted as a welcoming speaker,” he said, adding: “Also because of his position on Israel, of course.”

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