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In Berlin, Jews and Palestinians Are Demonstrating Together

This Saturday, Jewish and Palestinian groups are organizing a demonstration against the war.

Nathaniel Flakin

November 4, 2023
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Photo: Sean Gallup

Originally published in Neues Deutschland

As bombs continue to rain down on Gaza, with several thousand children killed already, there will be a demonstration this Saturday at 14:00 at Alexanderplatz. In a time of chauvinistic hatred, this action is in an internationalist spirit, organized by Jewish Voice, Palestine Speaks, and leftists of countless nationalities.

When I published my last column two weeks ago, every single pro-Palestinian action in Berlin had been banned. Now, police continue to harass people on the streets of Neukölln, yet two demonstrations have been allowed to take place. On October 21, 5.000 people marched through Kreuzberg, and last Sunday, it was well over 10.000.

The bourgeois media only published the most superficial reports, repeating what police had said. Credulous readers might picture a mob of Hamas supporters chanting “death to Jews.” Said readers would have been shocked to see such a young, lefty, relatively queer, and extremely international crowd. English and Arabic were the main languages I could hear, with no more than a sprinkling of Deutsch – in fact, I heard more people speaking Spanish than German. Many demonstrators identified themselves as Jews with handmade signs objecting to attacks being carried out in their name.

Berlin’s Palestinian diaspora includes tens of thousands of people with diverse and complex views, as nd showed in this triple profile. (This is, incidentally, why we need left-wing media: virtually no one is letting Palestinians speak!)

An union sacrée of the German establishment, from the AfD to Die Linke, supports Israel’s “right to defend itself.” The government, a self-proclaimed “progress coalition,” is providing weapons, while opposing calls for a cease fire. On October 22, all the parties, alongside both state churches, NGOs, capitalists, and union bureaucrats, called for a rally in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Just 10.000 or so people showed up. While the AfD was not officially included, Israel’s ambassador gave the speech that the AfD would have liked to hold. This rally, supposedly about human rights and democracy, included calls for more deportations.

Many Germans, perhaps a majority, do not agree with the government on supporting war crimes. They are scared, however, that opposition to the war could be perceived as antisemitism. Internationals, of course, feel no such historical compunction. The German state demands that every immigrant accept responsibility for the unprecedented crimes committed by this country’s ruling class less than a century ago. This is a cynical demand, given that the vast majority of Nazi capitalists, Nazi bureaucrats, and Nazi judges were never asked to accept responsibility.

Germany’s ruling class remains rife with antisemitism – just look at the recently reelected Hubert Aiwanger – yet they give themselves a Persilschein, a bill of clean health, by declaring antisemitism to be an “imported problem.”

Does the repression protect Jews? In an open letter hundreds of Jewish intellectuals explain that what scares them is the “prevailing atmosphere of racism and xenophobia” and not a child wearing a Palestinian scarf at Sonnenallee. Udi Raz, a leading member of “Jewish Voice,” was fired from his job at the Jewish Museum because he described Israel as an Apartheid state (the same position as Human Rights Watch). Other critical Jews have been arrested or assaulted by police. For the German government, Jewish voices are only worth protecting if they are right-wing.

While hundreds of thousands of people across Europe and the United States are taking to the streets, German leftists remain largely silent. If your ears are burning, then in the name of your non-German neighbors, I call on you to join your immigrant friends this Saturday. This reminds me of a protest nine years ago: As I reported for nd at the time, more than 100 Israeli leftists demonstrated through Kreuzberg calling on German leftists to do something – anything. “Good morning, German left,” they chanted, “your silence is our death.”

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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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