Three campaigners have gone on trial in Germany for disrupting an event featuring an Israeli political representative.
The trial, which opened Monday, focuses on a June 2017 conference held at Berlin’s Humboldt University.
Among the participants were Aliza Lavie, a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. She used the occasion to engage in “pinkwashing” – depicting Israel as a haven for LGBTQ rights in order to distract from its crimes against humanity.
One Palestinian – Majed Abusalama – and two Israeli activists – Ronnie Barkan and Stavit Sinai – interrupted the event in an effort to counter such propaganda.
The campaigners denounced Lavie for supporting Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza.
Following the event, the Humboldt Three – as the campaigners became known – were charged with trespassing. One of the activists has also been charged with assault.
The charges are being strongly contested.
Lawyers representing the three campaigners argue that there was no clear evidence of criminal activity and that the charges are disproportionate to what actually happened.
The lawyers have complained that putting the three on trial violates the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
They are also worried that the case could set a precedent by conflating criticism of Israel and Zionism – the state’s ideology – with anti-Semitism.
The Humboldt Three have already been smeared by the media.
One day after their protest occurred, The Jerusalem Post published an article, claiming that “20 activists stormed the talk” and had mounted an “anti-Semitic attack.” A number of German news outlets repeated those false accusations.
The case against the three campaigners follows complaints by the German-Israeli Friendship Society, which organized the conference in Humboldt University.
That society has a history of trying to muzzle activists who support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
The Humboldt Three trial follows a series of efforts to malign the BDS movement.
A number of local and federal bodies – including Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag – have passed resolutions or issued policy statements that equate BDS activism with anti-Semitism.
Tagesschau, the German television service, recently broadcast a news report endorsing a definition of anti-Semitism promoted by Israel and its supporters. The definition is being used to portray Israel’s critics as motivated by a hatred of Jews.
More than 50 supporters of the Humboldt Three held a demonstration in Berlin as the trial opened.
Speaking ahead of the proceedings, Majed Abusalama sounded a defiant note. Abusalama, who grew up in Gaza, said that his people are suffering a “slow genocide” and voiced solidarity with participants in the Great March of Return.
“We are not concerned with the outcome of the trial,” he said. “We are working towards exposing, resisting and eventually ending Israel’s barbaric [system of] apartheid.”