German philosopher declares support for Israel in response to antisemitic surge

‘Israel’s actions in no way justify antisemitic reactions, especially not in Germany. It is intolerable that Jews in Germany are once again exposed to threats to life and limb and have to fear physical violence on the streets.’

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

One of Germany’s most storied political theorists has issued a statement supporting Israel’s military response to the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7, decrying the surge of antisemitism in Germany during the intervening period.

“The current situation, created by the cruel attack by Hamas and Israel’s response to it, has led to a cascade of moral and political statements and demonstrations,” Jürgen Habermas observed in the statement published on Monday on the website “Normative Orders,” which is devoted to philosophy and social theory. As well as Habermas, the scholars Nicole Deitelhoff, Rainer Forst, and Klaus Guenther all endorsed the statement.

“We believe that with all the conflicting views that are expressed, there are some principles that should not be disputed. They underlie the well-understood solidarity with Israel and Jews in Germany,” the statement continued.

Arguably Germany’s leading philosophical thinker in the post-World War II period, the 94-year-old Habermas drew on philosophers as varied as Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, and Ludwig Wittgenstein in developing his influential theories of communication, which hold that all speech acts are guided by “telos,” or “purpose,” based upon the ability of human beings to reason.

The statement also urged Israel to observe the “principles of proportionality” in its response. However, the authors were in no doubt that the Hamas pogrom was carried out “with the declared intention of eliminating Jewish life in general,” adding: “Despite all the concern for the fate of the Palestinian population, however, the standards of judgment slip completely when genocidal intentions are attributed to Israel’s actions.”

The statement emphasized that “Israel’s actions in no way justify antisemitic reactions, especially not in Germany. It is intolerable that Jews in Germany are once again exposed to threats to life and limb and have to fear physical violence on the streets.” Postwar Germany’s commitment to preserving both Jewish life and a secure existence for the State of Israel “is fundamental to our political life,” the statement asserted.

Commenting on the statement, the Italian columnist Ricardo Canaletti said that it was “difficult to overestimate Jürgen Habermas’ contribution to contemporary thought.”

“Israel’s right to exist, although not derived exclusively from Nazi crimes, finds in an understanding of that period a reason for legitimacy in the eyes of Westerners that cannot be questioned,” Canaletti wrote in a piece for the MOW news outlet. “Whatever the judgment over these years, no European should question the right of the Jewish state to exist.”

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Canaletti noted that when “Habermas claims that the Federal Republic of Germany is also based on respect for the integrity of a state of Israel, he is saying something that in Italy, in a month of war, we haven’t heard yet.” He argued that Italy, like Germany, needed to base its postwar existence as a democratic republic on an awareness of its fascist period, which involved “racial laws, the hunt for Jews, and the political alliance with the Third Reich.”