German leaders face criminal complaint over Gaza genocide

Scholz and Netanyahu shake hands by podiums with Israeli and German flags behind

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Tel Aviv to show support for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, 17 October 2023.

Michael Kappeler DPA

Members of two Palestinian families have filed a criminal complaint against German leaders for aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Lawyers acting on their behalf have requested that German federal prosecutors investigate Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and finance minister Christian Lindner among other officials for providing Israel with weapons and political support, and failing in their obligation to prevent Israel from committing genocidal acts.

In a historic ruling in January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Israel is plausibly accused of committing genocide in Gaza and ordered a halt to all its potentially genocidal acts – a decision Israel has ignored.

“German criminal law requires a ground for initial suspicion to start investigations on a potential crime being committed,” lawyers for the Palestinian families said Friday.

“The ICJ ruling clearly showed that there is such ground for initial suspicion when it comes to the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

The lawyers say that Germany “has shown some of the strongest political and material support to Israel in its assault on the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians, with many German officials also inciting to genocide in their statements since October 2023.”

The case is being brought by the European Legal Support Center, PIPD (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy) and Law for Palestine – three organizations that are part of the Palestinian-led Justice and Accountability for Palestine Initiative.

“Fight for justice”

“We, the living, must remember the dead in Gaza, tell their stories and fight for justice,” said Nora Ragab, one of the plaintiffs. “We, Palestinians in the diaspora, will not stand by and watch a genocide being committed against our families and our people.”

“I lost family members in Gaza in November 2023. They were executed by the [Israeli] military while they were … defending their homes,” Ragab told a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

German federal prosecutors have a history of shielding accused Israeli war criminals from justice – such as their refusal to properly investigate Israel’s killing of a Palestinian German family in Gaza in 2014.

But against the background of the ICJ decision, there may be growing international momentum to finally bring an end to this impunity.

In a landmark ruling this month, for instance, a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to stop sending parts for US-made F-35 warplanes to Israel.

And a federal judge in the United States accepted that the American government was aiding and abetting what he plausibly considered genocide in Gaza, but dismissed a case against Biden administration officials over their complicity in these crimes on jurisdictional grounds.

“Our governments in Europe have a legal obligation not to provide Israel any support in perpetrating the current genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” said Nadija Samour, a lawyer on the German case who works for the European Legal Support Center.

“This lawsuit sends a clear message to German officials: You cannot continue to remain accomplices of such crime without consequences. We want accountability.”

German support for genocide

Germany has made no secret of its full support for Israel’s attack on Palestinians in Gaza, justifying Israel’s genocidal barbarity and opposing calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Chancellor Scholz and foreign minister Baerbock spread unverified Israeli atrocity claims– effectively incitement to genocide – and gave unqualified early support for Israel’s massive, indiscriminate attacks on Palestinians.

Scholz, Habeck and Baerbock have invoked the Holocaust, perpetrated by their governmental predecessors in Berlin, as a reason not to oppose Israel’s genocide in Gaza, but to actually support it.

Baerbock has also spread lies used by Israel to justify its direct and deliberate attacks on civilians.

In its zeal to allow Israel’s extermination in Gaza to proceed unabated, Germany opposed South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice that resulted in January’s historic order to Tel Aviv to halt all genocidal acts.

That prompted Hage Geingob, the president of Namibia – whose people were the first victims of a German genocide in the early 20th century – to admonish Berlin.

“In light of Germany’s inability to draw lessons from its horrific history,” Geingob, who died in early February, denounced Berlin’s “shocking decision” to reject “the morally upright indictment brought forward by South Africa before the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.”

German weapons kill Palestinians

Germany has done more than cheer Israel’s genocide from the sidelines. Between 7 October and early November, Berlin officials approved more than $300 million worth of military sales to Tel Aviv.

That’s 10 times more than Germany’s arms sales to Israel for the whole of 2022.

In a video posted by the German defense ministry on 19 October – days before Israel’s ground invasion that would dramatically escalate its genocidal violence and destruction – defense minister Boris Pistorius assured his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant that Berlin would provide Israel continued military support.

Meanwhile, Berlin bragged that it had begun a military airlift to Israel.

At Christmas, members of the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, even distributed traditional seasonal cakes to soldiers of Israel’s Golani Brigade.

The Germans evidently wanted to reward the Golani soldiers for perpetrating genocide against starving Palestinians in Gaza.

This all flows from long-standing military cooperation between Berlin and the genocidal regime in Tel Aviv.

For instance, the German military has previously boasted that it trains German soldiers in Israel to use Israeli-built drones that have been tested by killing Palestinians.

Since 7 October, the German military has returned at least two of its Israeli-built drones to Israel to allow them to be used in the genocide in Gaza.

Lessons of history

In keeping with the long-standing policy of West Germany, which carried over to the reunified German state, Chancellor Olaf Scholz continues to insist that unqualified support for Israel is required as atonement for the crimes of his predecessor, Adolf Hitler.

By contrast, the German Democratic Republic – East Germany – the socialist state that existed from 1949 until it was absorbed by US-backed West Germany in 1990, stood in strong solidarity with the Palestinians, as it did with other anti-colonial liberation struggles around the world.

Notably, Umkhonto we Sizwe, South Africa’s armed freedom fighters against apartheid, received significant military training and support from East Germany, while NATO member West Germany effectively backed the white supremacist apartheid regime.

By supporting liberation movements against barbaric European colonization, the former German Democratic Republic can be said to be the only German state that has ever truly absorbed the lessons of the country’s Nazi history.

That is perhaps one major reason why the United States and West Germany, which rehabilitated countless loyalists of Hitler’s regime and placed them in the highest positions, including even as West German chancellor, were so determined to destroy East Germany.

German public opposes Israeli attack on Gaza

Although today’s German rulers maintain this loyalty to their country’s Nazi past – even as they claim to renounce it – they are completely out of step with the German public when it comes to Palestine.

A poll in mid-January for state broadcaster ZDF found that 61 percent of Germans believed Israel’s military attack on Gaza was unjustified, while just 25 percent supported it.

In order to try to bring the public into line with their pro-genocide positions, German authorities are resorting to ever more brutal repression against Palestinians and those who express solidarity with their liberation struggle.



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