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September 13, 2012 by Antony Lerman
The distinguished academic Judith Butler, professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, was awarded the prestigious Theodor W. Adorno Prize that recognizes outstanding achievement in philosophy, theater, music or film. The honour was conferred on her on 11 September in Frankfurt. When the award was announced Professor Butler was immediately attacked by some Jewish leaders, Israeli politicians and Israel defence and advocacy organizations, who argued that it was wrong to give such a prize in Germany to an outspoken critic of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Professor Butler responded to these unjustified attacks on her integrity with great dignity. There was never any question of the award being rescinded and the ceremony went ahead. There was a noisy picket outside while she was delivering her acceptance speech, but inside she was given a standing ovation.
Below we reproduce the statement about the award released by the German Jewish alternative group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (translation by IJV):
Congratulations to Judith Butler for being given the Theodor W. Adorno Prize. What an honor! – for the Theodor W. Adorno Award of the City of Frankfurt, for the tradition of critical theory, for the resistant traditions of thought in Germany, and, yes, for us few, who oppose the Jewish voice that works against the cosmopolitan Jewish traditions, against all that Judith Butler, the philosopher, the oppositional Jewish thinker, the Theodor W. Adorno Prize 2012 of the city of Frankfurt, stands for. She says it loud, her voice is strong and she adds: “It is of utmost importance that the ethical traditions of Judaism for our time again is again honoured and revived – they stand for the values of the Diaspora, the struggles for social justice and the ever more important Jewish value to repair the world (tikkun olam). Uncritical loyalty to the state and blind obedience to the Jewish traditions were never the most celebrated virtues”.
Public hostility towards the Jewish thinker Judith Butler, who dares, especially in her capacity as winner of the Theodor W. Adorno Award, to express the radicalism of the Jewish ethical traditions of thought in relating to the context of the Middle East, showing us, not least as much that we need to remember and continue with the cosmopolitan traditions of critical thinking yet again from the beginning, revealing how much the associated attitudes have disappeared, even if they seem available.
Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East