Friday, June 27, 2008
PRIF: Always United with Israel
With tremendous dismay, media reports have come to the attention of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) which discuss anti-Semitism in conjunction with the Middle East conference that PRIF held last Tuesday and Wednesday. We very much regret that the feelings of several Israeli participants were hurt by the statements made at this conference by Mohammad Larijani, the former deputy foreign minister of Iran.
We would therefore emphatically like to state:
The Peace Research Institute Frankfurt strongly rejects anti-Semitism. PRIF and its employees have been working together with Israeli colleagues for years. In past years, Israeli ambassadors and envoys have regularly been guests at PRIF. With the modest means of an independent institute, the goal of our research work on the Middle East is to contribute to a lasting peace in the region that enables a life of peace, safety and prosperity for the Israeli people. We have always had close ties to Israel and this continues to be the case.
The PRIF conference which featured international participants brought guests from Arabic countries, Iran and Israel together. PRIF was unfortunately unsuccessful in its repeated efforts to acquire two ministers of the Israeli government for a speech. However, several panels had two Israeli representatives, including a former high-level government official. The conference was organized as an open discussion forum. None of the speeches were checked or sensored in advance. The event’s format makes discussing controversial topics possible. As a result, the anti-Israeli remarks made by Mr. Larijani, who was one of more than thirty speakers at the conference, were sharply criticized and rejected by German and Israeli participants in the audience. PRIF fully endorses this criticism.
Conferences like this are an activity of the non-government sector and are referred to as “second track.” The following is customary: An independent organization provides a discussion forum where politicians and experts can exchange positions – also controversial ones – without the limitations that diplomatic communication usually involves. Such events make it possible for opposing parties to explore possibilities for understanding, which is the task the majority of participants at this conference had dedicated themselves to. Because conferences like this are risky but useful, governments often support them without assuming responsibility for the course they take.
An article in “Financial Times Deutschland” erroneously asserts that PRIF is financed by the federal government. That is not the case. PRIF only receives grants for individual projects from various federal ministries with which it has confidently and successfully worked together for decades. Nevertheless, under the principle of the freedom of scholarship, PRIF always bears responsibility for these projects. They are not attributed to the federal government or individual ministries. That is, of course, also the case for the conference mentioned. It was a coincidence that the conference took place parallel to the federal government’s Middle East conference.
Two years ago at PRIF’s predecessor event, its director Professor Harald Müller stated the following in his opening speech: "And I say this explicitly from the perspective of a citizen of post-war Germany. Confronted with a horrible past, we derive our pride and patriotism from having come clean about that past. German courts have worked through countless cases of crimes connected to the Holocaust, proving beyond all doubt the immense dimensions of this genocidal action. German historians have, in parallel, studied all historical and documentary evidence of this case, with the same result. The identity of Germany is based on this serious and sombre dialogue with the country's recent history. Denying the Holocaust not only hurts the dignity of the victims, and their relatives, it also hurts ours."
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