SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: February 07, 2024

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Region & Country:Europe | Germany

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 7, 2024, Max Planck Institute (MPG) for Social Anthropology announced that it had terminated the contract of Ghassan Hage, an Australian-Lebanese professor and anthropologist, in apparent retaliation for pro-Palestine comments that he made on social media and his support of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Hage’s dismissal, which occurred about one year into a two year appointment at the institute, took place four months after a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, during which over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed and more than 200 abducted, and the Israeli military’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of early March 2024, has reportedly killed more than 30,000 Palestinians. The violence led to heightened tensions around speech throughout the world.

On October 7, the day of the Hamas attack, Hage wrote a poem on his blog. The poem referred to Palestine’s “capacity to resist,” “dig tunnels,” and “fly above walls.” On January 14, Hage posted to X (formerly Twitter) describing the situation in Palestine as “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “misery, racism, inhumanity and concentration camps.”

On February 5, De Welt, a right-wing German media company, published an article titled, “Max Planck Institute employs Israel haters.” The article labeled Hage as anti-semetic, referring to his online comments, including those made on October 7 and January 14. The article also referenced Hage’s support for BDS.

On February 7, MPG terminated Hage’s appointment, stating, “Many of the views recently disseminated by Ghassan Hage via social media are incompatible with the fundamental values of the Max Planck Society. The Max Planck Society has therefore parted ways with him in agreement with the Institute.” The statement ended with “Racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, discrimination, hatred, and agitation have no place in the Max Planck Society.”

On March 1, Hage reported on X, formerly Twitter, that he had submitted an unfair dismissal request.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary dismissal of a scholar for nonviolently exercising his right to freedom of expression – conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Germany is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, dismissals stemming from such activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

Sources:
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/professor-sacked-max-planck-society-over-israel-comments
https://www.mpg.de/21510445/statement-ghassan-hage
https://www.middleeasteye.net/live-blog/live-blog-update/professor-hits-back-racism-accusation-after-being-sacked-max-planck
https://www.trtworld.com/discrimination/scholar-fired-for-criticising-israel-slams-german-academic-censorship-16919713
https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/german-research-institution-parts-ways-with-professor-critical-of-israel/3131748
https://twitter.com/anthroprofhage/status/1763676415655026750