Activism and BDS Beat 15 February 2023
A Jewish person is going to court in Germany this week to challenge a conviction for illegally attending a demonstration in support of Palestinian rights on last year’s Nakba Day.
Observed by Palestinians each year on 15 May, Nakba Day commemorates the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, when 800,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their homes during the assault by the British-backed Zionist colonial militias that established Israel.
The person, who has chosen not to publicly reveal their identity, is appealing a fine of almost $400. Supporters will be attending Thursday’s trial and rallying outside the courthouse in Berlin.
Altogether, more than two dozen individuals were fined about $9,000 on similar charges. The individual in court this week is an activist with the Jewish Bund, a group that identifies with the historical anti-Zionist and socialist movement of the same name.
Many others will also be challenging their fines in court at later dates and are asking for public support.
“The event marks a serious escalation in the Berlin government’s attempts to punish and criminalize solidarity with Palestine. It is also reflective of a wider assault on the basic democratic rights of assembly and free speech,” organizers of the fightback say.
Police repression and brutality
Last year, police in Berlin prohibited any public displays of support for Palestinians on and around Nakba Day.
State security forces went around the streets of Hitler’s former capital attacking, harassing and detaining anyone they suspected of showing support for Palestine.Majed Abusalama, a Palestinian from Gaza, said at the time that he had to go to hospital “after the German racist police almost dislocated my shoulder with their violent reactions to us wearing Palestine kuffiyehs,” the traditional Palestinian head scarf.
Among those who were detained and fined is Ramsy Kilani, a Palestinian living in Germany who is helping organize the campaign.
Kilani’s father, his father’s wife, and five siblings – most of them German citizens – were killed in an Israeli air attack on Gaza in 2014, which German federal prosecutors are refusing to properly investigate as a war crime – a decision Kilani and human rights lawyers say is both politically motivated and illegal.
Now the activists are raising money online to help cover legal fees and other costs related to Nakba Day protest cases.
Kilani told The Electronic Intifada that the campaign aims not just to right the injustice of Berlin authorities’ repression last year, but to ensure that people in Germany can freely exercise their right to demonstrate this May, which will mark 75 years since the Nakba began.
“It’s a basic question of democratic human rights and the right to assembly and freedom of speech,” Kilani said.
Detained for hours
Pawel Wargan, a Berlin-based organizer, is another activist who will be challenging his fine in court.
He told The Electronic Intifada that the fines imposed on the activists are a continuation of the repression that he and others experienced on Nakba Day.
“What’s happening now is the police are justifying their grotesquely disproportionate response to what was in the end about 20 people in Hermannplatz,” a Berlin square, Wargan told The Electronic Intifada.
Wargan is charged with attending an illegal protest, but says “the police have no case.”
“I’ve spoken to my lawyer who has reviewed all the documents they have on me,” Wargan added, “and where they claimed on the day that I was detained, that they had video of me attending a protest, it turns out, they have nothing at all.”
Wargan says that on 15 May – Nakba Day – he went to a Berlin neighborhood where many Palestinians live, to meet a friend.
There he saw a man with a Palestinian flag on his bicycle get stopped by police dressed in riot gear who “intimidated him quite aggressively.”
“We went over to try to intervene because it was completely absurd,” Wargan said.
After that Wargan said he walked around to see what was happening and ended up meeting with other activists in the square.
“There are about 20 other people who obviously also came to see what was going on. But I’m not aware of this being organized or premeditated in any way,” Wargan said. “And really literally out of nowhere, we got surrounded by the police and kettled for three hours in the sun.”
“One by one we got taken to a police van to be processed, where they took our personal details,” Wargan said.
Other people were searched and Wargan believes the person who had the Palestinian flag on his bicycle “was arrested because he was dragged away by the police quite early on.”
In addition to a fine, police issued Wargan with a 24-hour ban on returning to the square, which would subject him to arrest if he violated it.
Germany’s “reasons of state”
So far, according to Ramsy Kilani, the campaign has gathered expressions of support from trade unionists and activists as far away as Ireland and Australia.
Inside Germany, there has been backing from some Christian organizers and some members of the left-wing party Die Linke, although Kilani acknowledges the difficulty of gathering support in the country due to the taboos on criticizing Israel.
This taboo is often attributed to guilt and shame over the German government’s murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
“But I actually don’t agree that these psychological issues are the main factor,” Kilani says. “The driving factor is actually that Germany profits off its relationship to the State of Israel.”
German leaders often say that supporting Israel is Germany’s staatsräson or reason of state.
This ideology formulated in the aftermath of World War II aims “to conflate Judaism, the state of Israel and Zionism,” according to Kilani, “and to say that the new Germany is now ‘with the Jew.’ So it’s also an anti-Semitic ideology.”
“Germany is aiming at international legitimacy for its own nationalism and its ambitions worldwide. So it’s a very important pillar of German imperialism,” Kilani adds.
“That’s why they shut down any criticism against Israel or Zionism, and make it seem as if it is anti-Semitic. So it has very clear material interests.”
But Kilani and the campaign’s supporters refuse to be silenced.
“Demonstrations in Berlin to mark the Nakba this year must be allowed to go ahead, and Germany’s attempts to criminalize solidarity with Palestine must end,” they say.
“We invite progressive forces from around the world to join our call.”
Permalink Karim S Gulam replied on
Germany is at it again, committing slow pace of genocide, this time vicariously, through Israel.
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