Judith Butler Cancels Jewish Museum Talk Over Israel Controversy

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Literary theorist Judith Butler pulled out of a talk she was scheduled to give at New York’s Jewish Museum amid protests over her support for boycotting Israel.

Butler, who teaches comparative literature and critical theory at the University of California, Berkeley, was set to speak at an event on March 6 about the writer Franz Kafka.

But supporters of Israel took issue with the museum’s decision to invite her. Opponents cited her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement, or BDS, and harsh criticism of Israel.

“I cancelled the event,” Butler told the Forward in an email.

“While her political views were not a factor in her participation, the debates about her politics have become a distraction making it impossible to present the conversation about Kafka as intended,” the museum said in a statement.

According to the Forward, the museum scrapped the entire event because Butler pulled out of a panel of experts. She said in a statement that she regretted having to scrap the talk.

“I was very much looking forward to the discussion of Kafka in The Jewish Museum, and to affirm the value of Kafka’s literary work in that setting,” Butler said in a statement released by the museum.

Last year, Butler was among the speakers at an event at Brooklyn College that was cosponsored by a student group and the college’s political science department. That discussion prompted an uproar from pro-Israel groups, who said the event amounted to a tacit endorsement of BDS, or the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. That event ended up going ahead as scheduled and attracting some 200 attendees.

The Jewish Museum defended its decision to host Butler, issuing a statement to The Algemeiner through its communications department. “Dialogue and the sharing of multiple perspectives related to art and Jewish culture are central to The Jewish Museum’s public programs,” it said.

Judith Butler. Credit: Lior Mizrahi

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