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NY Jewish Museum Cancels Lecture by Israel Boycott Advocate

Decision to invite Judith Butler, noted academic and extreme anti-Israel activist, sparked controversy and anger.
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By Tova Dvorin

First Publish: 2/21/2014, 3:18 PM
Anti-Israel demonstration in Istanbul

Anti-Israel demonstration in Istanbul

Anti-Israel activist Judith Butler’s scheduled speaking event at the New York Jewish Museum has been cancelled, according to the Forward.

Butler, a literary professor and sociolinguistics expert, is a high-profile supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. While the scheduled event was due to be about Franz Kafka – not the Jewish state – the museum faced a strong backlash over the choice of speaker, initiated by public relations executive Ronn Torrosian’s op-ed on Arutz Sheva and continued by mainstream Jewish groups.

More than a typical run-of-the-mill BDS advocate, Butler has raised particular ire for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah as “legitimate social groups,” according to a 2012 Ha’aretz article. Butler also has participated in the United States Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, according to that report, as well as Canadian Israel Apartheid week.

“The hosting of [BDS] advocate Judith Butler by The Jewish Museum is a slap in the face to every Jew,” Richard Allen, head of JCC Watch, told

The academic last made major headlines in 2012, when the city of Frankfurt awarded her the prestigious Theodore Adorno award. The move offended both Israeli and Jewish organizations alike, many of which noted that Frankfurt is a sister city of Tel Aviv and that as such, giving an award to a supporter of terrorism was considered highly inappropriate.

Butler responded in a Der Spiegel article shortly after the award was given by claiming that Israel does not represent the entire Jewish people.

The Jewish museum did not comment on Butler’s specific politics in its decision to cancel the event, but noted that the controversy overshadowed the literary nature of the lecture.

“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. Butler confirmed that the talks were cancelled and expressed regret over the move.

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