The Director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum Has Resigned Over a Controversial Tweet About the Israel-Palestine Debate

Peter Schäfer, who led the museum since 2014, has been criticized for being too vocal in the debate over Israel.

Peter Schäfer, former director of the Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation. Photo: Jule Roehr.

Peter Schäfer, the director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, announced his resignation Friday amid criticism stemming from a controversial tweet sent out by the museum earlier this month.

The tweet linked to an article by a left-leaning German newspaper urging German Parliament not to pass a resolution against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement—a Palestinian-led group that supports various forms of boycott against Israel. The tweet was the last in a series of incidents for which Schäfer was criticized by detractors as being too politically involved in the debate over Israel.

A statement issued by the Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation (JMB) did not provide an official reason for Schäfer’s decision, saying only that he resigned “to avert further damage from the Jewish Museum Berlin.”

In a statement, Monika Grütters, Germany’s culture minister and chairman of the museum’s board, said: “I respect the decision of Professor Peter Schäfer to resign from his position as Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation with immediate effect.” The board, she noted, would work with a selection committee to conduct a search for a new director. “All responsible persons must contribute to the fact that the Jewish Museum Berlin can concentrate again on its important work,” she said. 

Exterior view of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Photo: Burkhard Katz.

The article tweeted by the museum was published prior to the passage of a resolution in German Parliament declaring BDS to be anti-Semitic. The government was the first in the European Union to pass such a resolution, which claims the movement uses anti-Semitic materials to promote its mission.

Schäfer, who joined the Jewish Museum in 2014 and recently had his contract renewed, previously came under fire for inviting a Palestinian scholar to the museum for a lecture. Later that year, the museum’s exhibition “Welcome to Jerusalem,” which explored the city’s role as a center of tension among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, drew criticism from Israeli officials for “promoting anti-Israel Activity.” (Some critics complained that the model of 19th-century Jerusalem at the center of the show gave an unfair impression of Muslim dominance because the Dome of the Rock towered over the other sites and was placed in the center.)

The museum’s board will convene this week for a special session, during which it will begin its search for a new director. The foundation’s current managing director, Martin Michaelis, will oversee the museum in the interim. 

Contacted by artnet News, the museum declined to comment further; Schäfer could not be reached for comment. 

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