Region: Germany

OBJECTION against language rules for universities

Petition is directed to
Head of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK)
1.228 Supporters
25% achieved 5.000 for collection target
  1. Launched 11/12/2019
  2. Collection yet 4 months
  3. Submission
  4. Dialog with recipient
  5. Decision
I agree to the storage and processing of my personal data. The petitioner can see name and place and forward this information to the recipient. I can withdraw my consent at any time.

Every form of discrimination is reprehensible: this is also true of anti-Semitism, that is, discrimination against Jews. This is also the assumption behind the resolution "No place for anti-Semitism" (1) adopted by the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) of 19 November 2019.

This is precisely why we object to two of the four paragraphs of this resolution. There, the adoption of the "IHRA definition" of anti-Semitism is demanded, a definition propagated for clearly political purposes and which is highly controversial. Approved by the German Bundestag and Federal Government, this definition should now be "established in all places of higher learning", in other words, this definition should now become the compulsory basis for our speech, thought and research in all such institutions.

Our objection to this HRK resolution is based on two grounds, one being more formal in nature while the other is a question of substance. To begin with, we contest the HRK's assumption that it can impose any sort of binding rules of speech upon institutions of higher education and further we protest against any concrete restrictions (e.g. bans on public demonstrations) associated with this "IHRA definition" which are already being applied to hinder public reflection upon Israel's policy of occupation, a policy which has been in place now for more than 50 years. This reflection being restricted is one which is oriented toward international law and universal human rights.

In both of these respects we see our fundamental freedoms of speech, teaching and research threatened. And that this threat emanates from the HRK, which calls itself "the voice of the universities" and which, quite rightly regards universities as the "centers of democratic culture, locus of dialogue and places of diversity" is particularly troubling. We see in this decision a blatant contradiction, one which has evidently escaped the attention of the last HRK General Assembly.

We therefore appeal to the President of the HRK and to all members of the HRK - i.e. to all rectors of the 268 institutions of higher education in Germany - to revise this resolution so as not to include any parts which go beyond the general condemnation of anti-Semitism and further not to allow the kinds of restrictions of speech prescribed above, restrictions which moreover are clearly inadequate as regulative and compulsory norms for the use of language at our universities.

We would therefore like to ask all those who are directly affected by this HRK resolution - our academic colleagues from all disciplines at German institutions of higher education - to support us in this effort. Support our OBJECTION with your signature to this petition addressed to the HRK leadership!

In the "Comment" field ("Why is the petition important to you?"), please enter your subject area and your (former) university.



Do our fundamental freedoms of freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and freedom of research and teaching also apply to our universities?

Whoever agrees with this statement needs no further justification in order to support the request outlined above. We ourselves have already explained our own motivation for this action in publicly published objections directed toward the HRK, giving both personal and more general arguments. The restrictions we mentioned concerning public reflection on the Israel/Palestine conflict which center on international law and human rights are not only a source of fear for the future but are already in our time a matter of increasingly prevalent practice, one which now could claim legitimacy through this HRK resolution.

See letters to the German Rectors' Conference chair by the initiators of this petition:

Georg Meggle

Norman Paech

Rolf Verleger

Thank you for your support, Prof. Dr. Rolf Verleger from Lübeck
Question to the initiator

This petition has been translated into the following languages

new language version


  • Dear supporters of the petition,

    Here I would like to provide some background material on the IHRA "definition".

    There is not much to object to the definition per se, except that it is imprecise and too broad.

    Pragmatically, that was fine when it was introduced.
    Indeed, its lack of precision and broad range was fully intended by its creator, Kenneth Stern. Its purpose was to be a "working definition": Stern wanted to give the police in the EU a framework about which misdemeanors and crimes might be anti-Semitic.
    Kenneth Stern registers with shock and protest that this broad definition and especially its examples of application to Israel are now being used worldwide to restrict freedom of speech about Israel's policies, see recently [1]... further

  • Deutsche Version folgt in zweitem Schreiben.
    Dear supporters,

    Our petition has been on-line for nine days. Now it is time for some interim appraisal.

    We have been asked several times what exactly may be objected against the IHRA “definition" of antisemitism. I will comment on this in a second letter.

    Well, here is an interim appraisal:

    Today, Dec 17, 9:30h a.m. MET, we are 845 supporters of the petition: 764 at the German version and 81 at the English one.

    Originally we had planned to restrict the circle of supporters to academics at German universities, being the immediately affected persons. But we dismissed this restriction, after so many people had signed who are either not academics or have not been active at German universities.... further

Not yet a PRO argument.

No CONTRA argument yet.

Why people sign

  • on 06 Jan 2020

    Als Professor für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie liegen mir sowohl die Bewahrung einer angemessenen Diskussionskultur und der akademischen Meinungsfreiheit wie auch die Bekämpfung von Antisemitismus und Rassismus am Herzen.

  • Walton T. Roth , Los Altos Hills, California

    on 01 Jan 2020

    I am a professor of psychiatry at Stanford. The principle of free speech in universities is important.

  • on 27 Dec 2019

    Derartige Einschränkungen der Meinungsfreiheit sind sind inakzeptabel und in keiner Weise zu rechtfertigen.

  • on 25 Dec 2019

    Die Gleichsetzung von Kritik am israelischen Besatzungsregime mit Antisemitismus macht blind gegenüber dem Antisemitismus, den es unverändert zu bekämpfen gilt

  • Hartmut Rolle Salzhausen

    on 25 Dec 2019

    Weil endlich Schluss sein muss, mit dem inflationären Gebrauch der Zuschreibung des Antisemitismus, wenn die jahrzehntelange menschenunwürdige Behandlung des palästinensischen Volkes durch die Israelischen Regierungen berechtigterweise angeprangert wird!

Tools for the spreading of the petition.

You have your own website, a blog or an entire web portal? Become an advocate and multiplier for this petition. We have the banners, widgets and API (interface) to integrate on your pages.

Signing widget for your own website

API (interface)

Number of signatures on openPetition and, if applicable, external pages.
HTTP method
Return format

Help us to strengthen citizen participation. We want your petition to get attention and stay independent.

Donate now