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A Left-Wing Bar Needs to Be Open to Everyone, Including Palestinians

Syndikat, an anarchist bar in Berlin’s Neukölln district, has said that Palestinian groups aren’t welcome. As leftists who meet up at Syndikat, we think the bar should work like any other left-wing space internationally.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 20, 2024
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Joe Mabel, CC, Wikimedia Commons

Syndikat, an anarchist bar in Berlin’s Neukölln district, is full of cigarette smoke and punk rock — but it’s also an important space for left-wing organizing. On February 3, healthcare workers in Berlin were planning to launch a campaign: gesundheit4palestine (Health Care for Palestine). A day before their event, the Syndikat collective informed them it was canceled, and published a statement. The campaign had to be founded elsewhere in Berlin.

The Syndikat collective wrote that a meeting of healthcare workers to support the civilian population in Gaza could “of course” take place in the bar. But they “condemn any attempt to relativize the act of terror and to instrumentalize it for antisemitic ends.” They wrote that “political groups that relativize or glorify the Hamas terror are not welcome.” Further, “events organized or attended by such groups” cannot take place there.

Earlier in their statement, they claimed that the problem with the meeting on February 3 was it had been advertised on the Instagram account of Palästina Spricht (Palestine Speaks). The clear implication is that Palestine Speaks is antisemitic or supports terror against civilians. The statement does not provide any sources for such a claim.

Such defamations are repeated endlessly about all Palestinian and pro-Palestinian groups in Germany’s bourgeois media. But we should look at what Palästina Spricht says themselves: They take inspiration from Black Lives Matter, and they “aspire towards a political community which stands as an example for the Palestine which we want to build: free, just, humanitarian and without any form of racism.”

This is a left-wing Palestinian group. Anyone can see this because they regularly organize protests together with groups like Jüdische Stimme and Jewish Bund. It would be a strange antisemitic group indeed that is in a permanent alliance with left-wing Jews.

We fear that Syndikat is falling for right-wing defamation campaigns against the Palestine solidarity movement, which all over the world includes numerous Jewish and Israeli comrades. We have seen recently how German media and German politicians have attacked Jews for speaking out against Israel’s government.

Let’s not forget that the very same bourgeois press accuses Syndikat of being a bunch of violent hooligans. When the bar was evicted from its long-term location back in 2020, we were out on the streets, pushing back against 1,000 riot cops acting in the interests of billionaire realty speculators. These very same newspapers told lies about “aggressive vibes” and “30 injured police”.

Now, the very same police are just down the road, on Neukölln’s Sonnenallee, attacking the Palestine solidarity movement. The very same newspapers are repeating the same defamations, accusing protestors of being “aggressive” and “violent.”

At all these protests, we have seen zero hostility to Jewish people. Quite the opposite: Palestinians, Jews, and people from around the world (but not enough Germans!) are standing shoulder to shoulder to stop an ongoing genocide.

The Syndikat collective wrote that they want a “space where there is no place for racism, antisemitism, sexism, hostility towards Queers or any other exclusionary ideologies.” We are a reading group that has been meeting in the bar for many months. We include people from the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, and other countries, and some of us are Jewish.

Thanks to this decision, we don’t feel welcome in a bar we like. We know other international groups who don’t feel welcome either. Neukölln is full of both Palestinian and Israeli leftists. Talk to them, and ask them if they feel protected because Palästina Spricht is excluded. This feels like another in an endless list of cancellations of pro-Palestinian voices in Germany — and 30 percent of the cancellations are against Jews.

Cultural spaces that were once pro-Israel, like K-Fetisch, have softened their positions and opened up to Palestinians as a result of discussions with international leftists. We think Syndikat has a duty to do better. As leftists, we all have a duty to push back against right-wing defamation campaigns and support leftist movements around the world. Syndikat has always been against the German state, and so needs to show solidarity with people who are being attacked by the state right now.

We hope to open up a discussion so we and other international leftists can continue to meet at Syndikat.

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Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.



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