Germany’s Palestine problem

At a time when the Palestinian freedom struggle is gaining steam and spreading internationally, Germany has made anti-Palestinian racism its new status quo.

Protesters gathered at city hall in Neukoelln, on April 8, 2023, to demonstrate against the 2023 Al-Aqsa invasion. (Photo: © Michael Kuenne/PRESSCOV via ZUMA Press Wire APA Images)

At a time when the Palestinian freedom struggle is gaining steam and spreading internationally, Germany remains a fundamentalist supporter of Israel.

In September 2017, the German Federal Government endorsed the IHRA Working definition of antisemitism that subsequently conflates anti-Zionism with antisemitism. Then two years later, in 2019, the German Bundestag voted on an anti-BDS resolution deeming all actions that support BDS as antisemitic, and forbidding Palestinian organizations and individuals seen as supporting BDS from accessing public funding and public space. Palestinian journalists have lost their jobs, academics and artists are censured, and activists face slanderous campaigns depicting them as antisemitic by the media and politicians alike.

Now, however, Germany’s persistent intransigence against Palestinians has reached new levels. This month, as Palestinians around the world commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, Germany sent a message: advocating against Israel’s historic crimes can be a criminal offense.

Arresting anyone who looks Palestinian

Last year, May 2022 saw immense state repression against Palestinians and their supporters, when the Berlin police preemptively banned five registered events commemorating 74 years of ongoing Nakba. Over 120 people were arrested. Some who took part in a flash mob for Palestine were quickly disbanded, in addition to others who simply passed by while wearing the keffiyeh. The police admitted that they were racially profiling, arresting anyone who looked Palestinian. 

This year, the Berlin police once again banned all events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba. The police disrupted a Palestinian cultural event on May 13 in the Neukolln district of Berlin. They imposed restrictions on political public speeches, exercised discretionary control over the distribution of books on Palestine, and forbade attendees from engaging in the traditional Dabka dance by deeming it a form of “political expression.”

Other protests that were scheduled for the 13th, 14th and 20th of May were also canceled. At least 11 demonstrations on the Nakba have been banned in Berlin since April 2022.

The Berlin police justified the bans stating that “public safety is directly endangered when the assembly is held” and that there is an “immediate danger that the assemblies will feature inflammatory, antisemitic exclamations, glorification of violence and acts of violence.”

In a 15 page document, the Berlin police states that the Palestinian diaspora is too emotional to participate in a demonstration:

“Even if the media treatment of the topic “Al-Nakba Day” can no longer be compared with that of the last few years, it can be said that the mood within the Palestinian diaspora, most of whose members will be affected at least indirectly, is currently affected by a  considerable degree of emotionalization. Against the background of the current events in connection with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, gatherings that deal critically with the fate of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied areas are suitable for mobilizing people who, in specific cases, take action or get carried away with statements that are not compatible with German legislation.” 

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