War in the Middle East: “Free speech has a limit” – Frankfurt Book Fair starts with scandal

The Frankfurt Book Fair is likely to be very political again this year, perhaps even more so than usual.

War in the Middle East: “Free speech has a limit” – Frankfurt Book Fair starts with scandal

The Frankfurt Book Fair is likely to be very political again this year, perhaps even more so than usual. Among other things, there will be arguments about the Middle East conflict. This was already clear during the opening on Tuesday: After the tumult surrounding the speech by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, the first day of the fair this Wednesday will also be characterized by political debates. Zizek condemned Hamas's terrorist attacks on the Israeli population on Tuesday evening, but 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.

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's 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."

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 Wednesday at short notice - including with 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 on Wednesday. It is the 75th trade fair in post-war history. More than 4,200 exhibitors from 95 countries are expected.

Read at Stern : The Hamas attack follows a script – that’s what US historian Timothy Snyder says. In the case of terrorist attacks like this, the reaction and its consequences are taken into account.

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