After the tumult surrounding the speech by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the first day of the fair will also be marked by political debates. Yesterday evening, Zizek condemned Hamas's terrorist attacks on the Israeli population, but he emphasized that one must also listen to the Palestinians and consider their background if one wants to understand the conflict.
During the speech, some guests left the hall in protest. The Hessian anti-Semitism commissioner Uwe Becker contradicted Zizek first before and later on stage. He accused Zizek of relativizing Hamas' crimes and left the room several times. Book fair director Juergen Boos tried to appease Becker.
"It's important that we listen to each other"
After the end of the speech, Boos said: "It's the freedom of the word. And we have to leave that here, that's important to me." Interrupting a speech “must be possible.” But he is also happy "that we have listened to the end of the speech, even if we don't like it. Even if we even condemn it. It is important that we listen to each other."
Becker then told the German Press Agency that one could talk about anything, including the rights and suffering of the Palestinians, "but not in an equation and equal treatment of injustice and massive violence and terrorism - that is not possible." The anti-Semitism commissioner continued: "Free speech also has a limit where it relativizes, trivializes and equates things in a context where they cannot be equated."
"Response to our solidarity with Israel"
The debate and the Hamas terrorist attack will probably continue to be a topic at the trade fair. According to the organizers, Indonesia and Malaysia had canceled their participation. “This is a reaction to our solidarity with Israel,” said a spokesman for the book fair. But it is also clear that the fair is also on the side of the Palestinians who suffered under Hamas.
In view of the Hamas attack on Israel, a panel discussion with the topic "Concerned for Israel" was scheduled for today at short notice - including the journalist and sociologist Eva Illouz. Afterwards, things continue politically with the “Hope for Russia” event moderated by journalist Deniz Yücel. Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens) and the Russian exiled writer Dmitry Glukhovsky will speak there.
The book fair opens its doors to trade visitors today. It is the 75th trade fair in post-war history. More than 4,200 exhibitors from 95 countries are expected.
Frankfurt book fair