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Berlin Police Attack Jews and Palestinians Commemorating the Nakba

On the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the Berlin police banned all Palestinian demonstrations, and broke up a demonstration of Jewish Berliners in solidarity with Palestinians.

Nathaniel Flakin

May 22, 2023
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People in Berlin demonstrating on the 75th anniversary of the Nakhba.

Modern Germany has a huge problem with antisemitism. In fact, German capitalism drips antisemitism from every pore. This isn’t limited to the far-right party AfD — even prominent politicians in the mainstream parties also spin antisemitic conspiracy theories. The former intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maaßen of the CDU fumes about “globalists” while the former Berlin finance senator Thilo Sarrazin (SPD) writes about “Jewish genes.” There are German billionaires who inherited their wealth from Nazi war criminals. There are Nazi terrorists attacking synagogues. There are aristocratic antisemites planning coups. There are endless scandals about antisemitic views in the German police and army

But when German elites talk about antisemitism, they ignore all that. They say that real antisemitism comes from, for example, Indonesian painters who criticize the Israeli government’s support for the Suharto dictatorship. They say antisemitism is an “imported problem” brought by immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. The chutzpa! There is an endless stream of bourgeois propaganda claiming that any criticism of Israel is in fact antisemitism.

This past week, Palestinians and their supporters around the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, an event which saw the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians to found the State of Israel.

But in Berlin, no such demonstration was allowed. The Berlin police banned all events — they even banned protests in defense of the right to protest. Their written justification was full of unvarnished racism: young people of Arab origin, according to the Polizei, are generally emotional and aggressive, and thus tend to be violent. Multiple courts confirmed this ruling. 

This is in a country where freedoms of expression and assembly are guaranteed in the constitution. This is the justification for why Nazis often get police protection when they hold demonstrations. Covid skeptics were allowed to hold demonstrations in violation of public health rules where they spread antisemitic conspiracy theories, or even compared themselves to Jews in Nazi Germany, thus relativizing the Holocaust. “Freedom of expression” protects German right-wingers — but it does not apply to Palestinians.

On Saturday, the group Jewish Voice for Peace organized their own rally: “Jewish Berliners Demand a Right to Remember — Also for Palestinians.” Several hundred leftist Jews, Palestinians, and people from all over the world joined this legal event. But police soon declared that one slogan was banned: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” The organizers made clear that a “free Palestine” means that Palestinians, Jews, and everyone else can live together in peace.

Germany police officers are heavily armed at a Nakhba protest; two protesters are pinned to the ground.

But the Berlin police — who themselves have a centuries-long tradition of repressing, deporting, and murdering Jews — decided that demanding democratic rights for everyone in Palestine is antisemitic. They violently attacked the demonstration and arrested a at least a dozen people. The official organizer of the rally, an activist from the Jewish Bund, was thrown to the ground and detained.

Imagine that: German thugs in Black uniforms beating up Jews on Berlin streets! Any thinking person is reminded of the most horrific antisemitism in Germany’s history. But in the eyes of the German establishment, this anti-Jewish state violence is actually directed against antisemitism. The German bourgeoisie is washing its hands by blaming real antisemitism … on Jews!

The Berliner Zeitung, normally a relatively liberal paper, published a farcically dishonest headline: “Antisemitism in Kreuzberg: 100 Supporters of Palestinians Disrupt Jewish Rally.” Of course, the “supporters of Palestine” and the “Jewish rally” were one and the same — the only ones disrupting, and the only ones committing violence against Jews, were the police. As if to turn this untrue reporting into pure satire, the story was illustrated with the arrest of the Jewish artist Adam Broomberg. German authorities have repeatedly defamed him with accusations of antisemitism for his support of democratic rights for Palestinians.

At the moment, it is illegal to express Palestinian identity in public in Berlin. The police allowed a single “cultural event” to commemorate the Nakba, but prohibited any speeches or even dancing there. Apparently Dabke is now also “antisemitic”! 

This policy is being carried out by Berlin’s new government, made up of the racist CDU and the neoliberal SPD. But the ban against all Palestinian demonstrations was actually started last year, under the old government of the SPD, the Greens, and The Left (Die Linke). This year, Die Linke is divided, between party leaders like Klaus Lederer who are fanatical supporters of the Israeli government, and the district party organization in Neukölln that opposes racism.

Just a few days ago, the far-right billionaire Elon Musk used his platform to say that George Soros “hates humanity.” The far-right billionaire is trying to make people hate a Jewish billionaire. This is a painful reminder of the source of antisemitism: from the ruling classes in capitalist society. Musk is a huge investor in Berlin, yet Germany’s establishment — including official “antisemitism commissars” — had barely a word to say about his racist tweet. The racist repression against Palestinians has nothing to do with fighting against antisemitism — it is about terrorizing poor immigrant communities, while simultaneously defending German antisemites in positions of power.

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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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