Accused in Germany of anti-Semitism for drawing a parallel between apartheid in South Africa and the situation of the Palestinians, the Cameroonian intellectual Achille Mbembe has received the support of several great intellectual figures.
Die Zeit, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the Süddeutsche Zeitung ... The biggest German newspapers have taken up the controversy: Achille Mbembe is it anti-semitic? The Cameroonian philosopher, historian, political scientist and post-colonialist thinker is at the heart, since mid-April, of a virulent controversy which agitates the German politico-media sphere.
It all started with an open letter, signed Lorenz Deutsch, the spokesperson for cultural policy of the parliamentary group FDP (Liberal Democratic Party) in the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, asking to prohibit Achille Mbembe from pronouncing a speech at the Ruhrtriennale, an important summer cultural event - which has since been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The argument of the centrist elected official? A passage from Policies of enmity (ed. of La Découverte, 2016, published in a German translation the following year), in which Mbembe, referring to the Israeli settlement policy, considers that it "reminds in some respects" of apartheid in South Africa. A parallel which, according to the German elected official, stems from anti-Semitism.
"A smear campaign"
But the controversy, which could have been confined to the borders of the parliament of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, took on a national scale when Felix Klein, who heads the Commissariat of the Federal Government for the fight against anti-Semitism - created in 2018 faced with the rise of far-right movements in Germany -, echoed the demand. "In his academic writings, Achille Mbembe equated the State of Israel with the apartheid system of South Africa, which corresponds to a well-known anti-Semitic scheme," he said in an interview, assuring that Mbembe "also questions Israel's right to exist. "
When I discovered these attacks, I thought it was a hoax
“When I discovered these attacks, I thought I was going to vomit, literally. Then I thought it was a hoax, ”said Achille Mbembe to Young Africa. Today, the intellectual is not fooling around what he describes as a “smear campaign”. He even claims that, as the controversy grew, he was the target of racist threats and insults. "Klein expresses himself from a position of authority, but on the basis of total ignorance of academic debates", tances Mbembe.
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