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On the Anniversary of the Nakba, Berlin Police Ban All Pro-Palestinian Demonstrations

This is an unprecedented attack on the freedom of assembly, and it is being carried out by a “left-wing” government. Several hundred people defied the ban — and 59 were detained by police.

Nathaniel Flakin

May 16, 2022
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Photo: Simon Zamora Martin / Klasse Gegen Klasse

Last Sunday marked the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, which is Arabic for “catastrophe.” It commemorates the events of 1948, when 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes as part of the Zionist project of colonization that continues to this day.

The world was reminded of the daily horrors of occupation when the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated by Israeli troops. At her funeral, Israeli riot police attacked mourners and knocked the coffin to the ground!

On Sunday, there were pro-Palestinian demonstrations around the world — except in Berlin. In the German capital, the police banned all pro-Palestinian assemblies, including five separate events scheduled for last weekend. They even prohibited a meeting organized by Jewish Voice for a Just Peace to commemorate Akleh.

These bans were upheld by a local court and an appellate court. The official justification was that all of these events would likely lead to violence and incitements to racial hatred. Indeed, at the very end of Berlin’s last legal pro-Palestinian demonstration, back on April 23, some individuals did shout antisemitic slurs. The organizers, however, clearly condemned all forms of racism and antisemitism.

It is precisely demonstrations like these, where anti-Zionist Jews and Palestinians stand together, that can help overcome the false consciousness that leads to the conflation of the Jewish people with the crimes of the state of Israel. And where does this come from? It’s a deliberate project of the Zionists themselves, who deliberately sow the seeds of antisemitism by equating their racist, colonialist ideology with the religion of Judaism precisely so they can then charge anyone who objects to their criminal acts with being antisemitic.

The German constitution guarantees “freedom of assembly.” While individual demonstrations are banned from time to time, it is difficult to remember a case where all events connected to a particular topic were banned indefinitely. The group Palestine Speaks declared this “an attack on our basic rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.” If the Berlin government can ban any demonstration due to the behavior displayed by individuals weeks ago, then the right to peacefully assemble has been effectively abolished.

But this principle is only being applied against Palestinians. According to the German establishment, Palestinians are guilty of antisemitism simply for existing. This is a very shocking accusation in a country where the economy is still run by the heirs of Nazi war criminals. It is no secret where antisemitism springs forth: from the German Right. The German police and army are full of Nazis, racists, and antisemites. By blaming antisemitism on immigrants — especially from Muslim countries — and on leftists, the German elite can effectively wash its own hands.

There has been an resurgence of open antisemitism around the Covid-19 pandemic. At numerous demonstrations against public health measures, ring-wing demonstrators blamed George Soros and other “globalists” for creating the virus. Alternatively, they compared the minor inconveniences of mask-wearing to Jewish suffering under the Nazis — a crass relativization of the Holocaust. At all these demonstrations, Berlin police stated they would show as much restraint as possible — there was certainly no talk of banning all Covid-related assemblies due to antisemitic comments by individuals. 

No such restraint was shown to pro-Palestinian demonstrators on Sunday. Up to 1,000 police were spread out throughout Berlin to prevent any displays of solidarity. Up to 200 people defied the ban. There was a flashmob at Hermannplatz, followed by a demonstration on Sonnenallee — both in the Neukölln neighborhood, which has a large Arab population. Police detained 59 people, even grabbing passers-by whose only “crime” was wearing a kuffiya, a Palestinian scarf. Tim Jonat, a member of a socialist youth organization, described a “shocking” level of police violence: “The Palestinian movement was beaten, kettled and criminalised into submission.”

This is an unprecedented attack on the right to free expression — and it is being carried out by a “left-wing” Berlin government, made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens, and DIE LINKE. All three parties express unconditional support for Israel’s right-wing government, even when it’s raining bombs onto the people of Gaza. 

Also for Sunday, the Senate Administration for Justice, run by DIE LINKE, had planned to co-sponsor an event accusing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of being the “antisemites of the year.” A number of Nazi terrorist plots have been revealed in the last year, including ones planned by police and soldiers — but the only “antisemites” the German government wants to talk about are milquetoast human rights organizations that dare to point out the obvious: that the Israeli ethno-state is practicing a form of Apartheid. 

In recent years, Berlin has seen something of a renaissance of Jewish culture, with immigration from Israel, the United States, and other parts of the world. As a result, many of the pro-Palestinian protestors on Sunday were Jewish. The German police, in their “fight against antisemitism,” were beating Jewish people. “Palestinian activists and Jewish leftists were patted down, bullied, and harassed for shouting ‘Free Palestine’ or wearing a kuffiyah,” says Dan Kedem of DIE LINKE’s youth organization. “All in the name of fighting antisemitism!” Kedem, a Jewish socialist, has been subject to a campaign undertaken by the right-wing press, accusing him of antisemitism. At the end of the day, this is an old antisemitic stereotype: that of Jewish control even over antisemitic movements.

Germany’s “solidarity with Israel” has nothing to do with historical responsibility — if it did, the people in charge in this country would immediately expropriate the heirs of Nazi war criminals. Instead, their “philo-semitism” is all about Israel’s role as a pro-imperialist enclave in the Middle East. That is why German authorities are happy to attack Jewish people, and Palestinians even more so, in the interest of their racist and imperialist geopolitical projects.

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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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