Middle East Monitor / February 2, 2023
An anti-Semitism commissioner of a major German city is launching a targeted campaign against a Jewish artist and photographer over anti-Semitism allegations for criticizing the ongoing Israeli Occupation, threatening his life and career future in the process.
Stefan Hensel, Hamburg’s first anti-Semitism commissioner, has accused Adam Broomberg, a Jewish photographer raised in South Africa and now living in Berlin, of being someone who “repeatedly defames [Israel] as an apartheid state and advocates a boycott against Israel”. The commissioner also claimed that the artist “seems to hate Israel”, and “does not shy away from legitimizing terror against Jews.”
Having been appointed to the post in July 2021 for a three-year term after serving as Chair of the German-Israeli Society in Hamburg, Hensel condemned Broomberg’s involvement in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli goods from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which the commissioner also branded “anti-Semitic”.
Speaking in an interview with US-based art magazine Hyperallergic, Broomberg said that “For a commissioner of anti-Semitism, for his first and most vehement and powerful attack to be on a Jew and to put a Jew’s life and profession at risk, is totally ironic”. Hensel’s campaign and comments, the artist said, are rooted in an “extremely right-wing and Zionist, and racist perspective.”
Broomberg revealed it comes at a time when “I just buried my mother who knew the Holocaust and I come back and I’m accused of being a hateful Anti-Semite advocating for terrorism against Jews.” He insisted that “I couldn’t be more Jewish; it’s affected me profoundly.”
Following the commissioner’s targeted campaign against him, the artist has been subject to “nonstop” negative messages on social media, making him feel physically unsafe, particularly after a series of racist attacks and vandalism of sites featured by the art exhibition, Documenta 15, last year.
Due to cultural and educational organizations in Germany being largely public and the anti-Semitism commissioner’s office being an arm of the German state, Broomberg added that he is also afraid for his career and future. “I would never get a job as a teacher or be able to work as an artist with a cultural institution because, as it stands, I am an anti-Semite and a terrorist,” he lamented.
Hensel’s supposed crusade against the Jewish artist and views branded as anti-Semitic comes at a time when German authorities have increasingly cracked down on expressions of pro-Palestinian advocacy and activism in recent years, frequently banning protests against Israel’s Occupation.
Berlin also strongly supports and embodies the European Union’s (EU) stance that calling Israel an apartheid state is defined as anti-Semitism, leading German news agencies to directly align with Israel in their codes of conduct and fire journalists or employees who express their views against Tel Aviv’s Occupation.