|A LECTURE CANCELLED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
MUENSTER ON TERRORISM AND THE PRINCIPLE OF HUMANITY
by Ted Honderich
An edited version of this article, in a German translation to which you can go, appears in Telepolis, the German German Internet magazine, along with a half-dozen articles related to it, some by teh distinguished Prof. Dr. Georg Meggle of the University of Leipzig. Telepolis, published by the Heinz Heise Verlag, deals with privacy, science, culture, internet-related and general politics and media. Telepolis received the European prize for online journalism in the category "investigative reporting" in 2000.
In February 2009 an invitation arrived out of the blue from Dr Christian Spiess at the Institute for Christian Social Sciences at the University of Muenster. Would I write a paper on terrorism for the 2010 Annual for Christian Social Sciences? The Institute had on several occasions discussed my controversial thesis on Palestinian terrorism, he said. My opinion was esteemed. Would I also come to a symposium?
Subsequently I was warmly invited by Dr Spiess to give a lecture on terrorism and my Principle of Humanity at the University of Muenster. There were a lot of emails about the settled date of 19 May, an offered fee, an additional meeting with students, lodgings, and travel.
On 20 April I sent a lecture hand-out to which you can turn, 'Terrorisms, Terrorist Wars: A Philosophical Perspective'. Very soon after Dr. Spiess apologetically cancelled the invitation. He said the Head of his Institute had ordered him to do so -- "because of Jewish-Christian dialogue at our faculty on the one hand and your 'mistakable' statements on the other hand". He said he was disappointed with this view and of course could not comprehend it.
On I May I emailed the head, Prof. Dr. Dr. Karl Gabriel. I suggested he had cancelled the lecture because af an anticipation of familiar kinds of neo-Zionist reaction. I might also have suggested apprehension on his part owed to semitism -- prejudice or hostility in favour of rather than against Jewish people. There was no reply from him.
On 5 May, I emailed the Rector of Muenster University, Prof. Dr. Ursula Nelles. The email was about the free expression of opinion and the obligation of a university not to suppress it. In sum, the email was as follows.
In my writings, on the basis mainly of philosophical argument, and in particular from the premise of the moral attitude that is the Principle of Humanity, I justify Zionism -- the founding and the actually necessary defence now and in the future of Israel within roughly its 1948-1967 borders. I condemn neo-Zionism -- the taking from the Palestinians of at least their autonomy in the last 5th of their homeland, historic Palestine.
What is also explained in my writings, in the way of a philosopher, against convention and by way of much reasoning, is what I take to be a logical consequence. This is that the Palestinians have a moral right, derived from the Principle of Humanity, to their terrorism or self-defence or liberation struggle against neo-Zionism within historic Palestine.
You may remember, the email continued, that this was expressed first in the book After the Terror, the subject of a controversy in Germany in 2003. That involved the publication of a translation by Suhrkamp, its withdrawal after a protest by Prof. Dr. Micha Brumlik, despite the published statement of Prof. Dr. Jurgen Habermas that the book was not anti-semitic, and the publication of a second translation by the courageous Jewish publisher Abraham Melzer.
The email noted that my view has been invited and heard in about 25 or 30 universities, in Germany, the United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Greece, Cyprus and so on. In particular Leipzig University, Hamburg University and a nearby one, the Catholic University of Brussels, Columbia University and the New School in New York, MIT, the University of Massachusetts, Brown University, the University of Toronto, Oxford University, four or five colleges of the University of London including the Catholic one, a dozen or so provincial universities in England, Scotland, Ireland, etc.
Further, a book of papers on terrorism by 15 philosophers, Israel, Palestine and Terror, edited by Stephen Law, has lately been published in London and New York. Many of the papers consider my opening paper on terrorisms in Palestine. A long television programme made from my recent book *Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War*, was transmitted by one of the five main British channels, with a subsequent programme by a Jewish journalist.
The email, since such fellows as myself raise some suspicion, then included some details from my curriculum vitae. Also the postscript that I have taken successful legal action against a London student newspaper that engaged in the familiar libel of anti-semitism.
To the email there has been no reply. Now, a month later, it is time to say a couple of things publicly.
One is that there are also different universities in Germany. The lecture silenced at Muenster was heard instead in Dresden University on 20 May. Same lecture hand-out. Also, the University of Osnabrueck did not suppose my views on Palestine would infect my lecture on the nature of consciousness on 19 May.
The second and main thing to be said is that it is now time for all Germans to awake from an understandable sleep. They have not been awake to the fact that they now have a special obligation. They now have an obligation not only to give free expression to condemnation of neo-Zionism as well as its defence, but also to add their own voices in condemning it. Doing so will have a special effect, a unique effect, in being the breaking of a long silence owed to the Holocaust.
There is the possibility that President Obama will bring an end to neo-Zionism, act decently after the further bestiality of the massacre of Gaza. There are not two sides to this story, as there are not two sides to the story of a real rape. Germans can help. Is silence not a new guilt?
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