Berlin Jewish Museum head quits after pro-BDS tweet

The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum resigned amid controversy over a tweet linking to an article that criticised the German parliament for passing legislation against the BDS movement.

Professor Peter Schäfer proposed his resignation “to avoid further damage” to the Jewish Museum, a statement on its website said. It was accepted, the statement added, but no specific reason for his departure was given.

The German parliament last month condemned the BDS movement – which stands for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – as antisemitic.

Lawmakers said the group uses antisemitic methods to promote its political goals – a claim firmly rejected by the movement, which calls for a cultural boycott of Israel over its policies towards Palestinians.

Schäfer, director of the museum since September 2014, had recently had his contract extended to stay in post until August 2020, according to the museum. He came under pressure after a tweet was sent by the museum encouraging people to read an article by Jewish scholars that criticised the parliamentary resolution.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Schäfer defended the tweet as a “contribution to the discussion” but acknowledged the wording used was unfortunate.

Reacting to the tweet, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, criticised the museum as seeming to be “totally out of control”.

The museum has been repeatedly criticised by Israel for its “anti-Israeli stance”, according to the German media.

In March, Schäfer sparked uproar by welcoming the head of the cultural affairs department at the Iranian Embassy in Berlin, Seyed Ali, to his house to discuss a possible display of archival photos of Iranian Jews, reported Suddeutsche Zeitung.

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