Germany threatens journalist with prison for speaking about Palestine

A man wearing a Palestinian scarf speaks at a podium

Khaled Barakat (No One Is Illegal Vancouver)

German authorities barred Palestinian-Canadian journalist Khaled Barakat from speaking at a Palestine solidarity event in Berlin, claiming his “anti-Semitic” speeches posed a threat to public order and could undermine relations between the country and Israel.

The activist has been prohibited from attending future political events and threatened with up to one year in prison, marking another success in the Israel lobby’s bid to clamp down on criticism abroad.

Barakat had been invited to speak at an Arab community event in Berlin on 22 June to discuss Palestinian liberation and its implications for other Arab communities, as well as US President Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century.

But he was accosted by police on arrival.

“As soon as we left the U-Bahn station nearest the venue my wife and I noticed heavy police presence in the area, including multiple vans full of police,” Barakat told The Electronic Intifada.

“I was approached by a group of police and one officer spoke to me. He said: ‘You have an event here tonight and you are the speaker … you cannot speak.’”

The police took Barakat and his wife to a police station where government officials handed him an eight-page document prohibiting him from political activity.

The document, issued by the Berlin Foreigners Registration Office and seen by The Electronic Intifada, states in German that Barakat faces a ban on participating in specific events and a general “limit on your political activity until you leave the Federal Republic of Germany.”

“They [representatives of the foreigners office] told me that I am banned from speaking at any public event in Berlin and even attending meetings and gatherings,” Barakat said.

He said was also ordered to avoid social events of “more than 10 people,” or face a one-year prison sentence.

Barakat’s wife is also a Palestinian rights activist, but not Palestinian and she was not banned.

“After I was told to acknowledge that I had received the document we were released from the police station. We also noticed significant police presence on the way home,” Barakat added.

German-Israeli relations trump free speech

Barakat’s case mirrors that of Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh who was smeared in the German media before being banned from speaking at an event in Berlin for International Women’s Day earlier this year.

She was finally forced to leave the country.

The official document states that Barakat’s political activities “pose a threat to public safety,” that his talk would “impair and endanger the peaceful coexistence of Germans and foreigners” and that Germany’s relationship to Israel could be “considerably endangered” if he were allowed to speak.

The document also states that it believes Barakat might be working for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – PFLP – which the document notes is listed as a “terrorist” organization by the US, Israel and the European Union.

However it acknowledges that the group is “not prohibited” in Germany. Israel considers virtually all Palestinian political parties and organizations that militarily resist occupation to be “terrorist” groups.

“If you look at the campaigns being carried out by Israel and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs against BDS organizations around the world, or Students for Justice in Palestine in the US, they are trying their best to criminalize all movements for Palestine or even human rights organizations by using so-called connections to Hamas and the PFLP,” Barakat said.

Barakat observed that in the leaked Al Jazeera undercover film The Lobby–USA, “representatives from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies openly advocated for this tactic and now we are seeing it in practice.”

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions – a global campaign for Palestinian rights modeled on the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is a Washington-based neoconservative think tank and agent of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry.

The document goes on to list a number of speeches given by Barakat in Germany, but fails to cite any examples of anti-Semitism.

Barakat believes this is because the authorities need to “exaggerate in order to justify their repressive measures.”

Despite offering no examples of anti-Jewish bigotry on Barakat’s part, the government order insists the draconian ban on his political activities is justified because “the public should be protected from your expected anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.”

Fear of a united front

Barakat strongly refutes the claim that his speech would have caused tensions between Jewish and Arab communities in Berlin and asserts, rather, that authorities are trying to prevent a united front from emerging.

“The same forces advocating for and issuing this political ban against me are involved in repressing Jewish voices that criticize Zionism, Israeli policy and German policy on Israel,” he said.

Barakat noted that under Israel lobby pressure, the director of the Jewish Museum Berlin was recently forced to resign.

Moreover, the group Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East had its bank account closed. And, two Jewish activists with Israeli nationality are on trial for criminal charges alongside a Palestinian activist from Gaza for interrupting an Israeli politician who supported Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 550 children.

In recent years, German music festivals have also been banning international artists who refuse to denounce the nonviolent BDS campaign for Palestinian rights.

These facts, as well as the German parliament’s recent resolution smearing the BDS movement as anti-Semitic make it increasingly difficult for activists to advocate for Palestinian human rights.

The people who face the brunt of these attacks are Palestinians themselves.

The racism, political bans and growing repression aside, Barakat remains undeterred: “I firmly believe that the vast majority of people in Germany support justice for the Palestinian people and reject Israeli war crimes and apartheid, but they live in fear and I understand.”




GERMANY , Those who committed the holocaust crimes should pay for it , Not the Palestinians . I always knew it was a fake Democracy !!!


Germany today is not the Germany that persecuted Jews, gays and others in the last century. Do not visit the sins of the father on the son. Where we might agree is that this state censorship is unacceptable and must be opposed.


On the contrary, it is exactly the same Germany that did that. Its men of power are the sons of the men of power who committed the holocaust.

The Nazis were never removed from the Police, nor from the courts, nor from the army, nor the spy agencies. They were simply told to put their swastikas away and follow American orders. Klaus Barbie became a big American hero!


The biggest lesson of holocaust should have been that no people should treated as inferior (as European Jews were done by German Nazis). Unfortunately the humanity has not learned this lesson. Today, Israel is treating Palestinians as inferior people. Of all people, I would have expected the Germans to be sensitive to this. But they are not.

I have a lot of respect for Germany (having lived there for almost two decades), but their (especially of the German government's) stand on Palestinian resistance, including BDS is shamefully adequate. Of all people, Germans should in the forefront supporting Palestinian struggle. Very sad and disappointing.


No, Germany today is not the Third Reich and no we shouldn't visit the sin of the father on the son. But the problem is that the 'son' is trying to atone for the sin of the 'father' by refusing to recognize the humanity of Palestinians or the crimes of the 'sons' of the Jewish 'father' persecuted by the Third Reich. The remedy is to oppose the state censorship and the criminalization of support of Palestinian human rights/opposition to Israel.

The article mentions that objections to Barakat speaking include that he could inflict 'considerable endangerment' to German relations with Israel. Alleging that public disorder or damage to relations within a state are the common grounds on which speakers are usually denied the right to speak. But here Germany is apparently trying to protect its foreign policy in relation to another state. This is pretty disturbing; its clearly an attempt to stifle political speech. The State authorities are not even pretending its all just to keep domestic public order.

Will the German court system throw this stuff out if there is a legal challenge?


"No, Germany today is not the Third Reich and no we shouldn't visit the sin of the father on the son."

While individuals cannot be held responsible for what their forebears did, collective responsibility does not go away. Germany as a nation is still paying Jewish organisations reparations for the Holocaust, and to the state of Israel by selling it military equipment which Germany will not sell to any other country.


If Germany truly wants to take responsibility for past persecutions inflicted by the state, selling weapons and passing laws in aid of a contemporary violator is not the way. At this point, they would do well to examine the principle of collective responsibility and consider its fresh application with regard to the state of Israel. Doing so might serve to impress on German judges, academics, parliamentarians, civil service and mass media that they have a duty to end the country's sponsorship of apartheid and an associated host of heinous war crimes. Failing to face this reality is not an act of collective responsibility but of collective punishment. And once again, the Palestinians are paying for Germany's crimes.


Khalid: If collective responsibility is never to go away maybe we should take a bit more care on whom we lay this burden.

Germany cannot bear full responsibility for the rise of the Third Reich and its eventual descent into mass murder. It was not Germany alone that was responsible for the accepted wisdom of the time that biological races existed and some were superior to others. It was not Germany alone that toyed with eugenics and held that the less genetically blessed should not propagate too much and/or interbred and thus weaken the genetic superiority of the superior race. These were commonly held ideas of the time and it was not until well after WWII that the idea of biological races was discredited.

It was not Germany alone responsible for the convulsion within Europe otherwise known as WWI which left 20 million or so dead. Germany just lost that war. It was not Germany that gave us the disaster of the Treaty of Versailles or the Great Depression of the 30's, that little reminder of the chaos unregulated markets can unleash on human populations which we seem to forget.

If we are to hold collective responsibility as never-ending, then at least let's visit some of that on the sons and daughters of other western states. Perhaps lightening the burden of guilt on Germany may allow Germans to see past the worst of the Third Reich and actually see that today it is Israeli Jews persecuting Palestinians.


@Eliza. You are eminently right. It was not the Germans alone that committed atrocities during WWII. The nations they occupied happily collaborated with them in fulfilling the German goal of eliminating certain communities, e.g. Jews, Roma, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses. The leaders of many occupied nations fell in line with the Germans (remember Petain, Quisling and others?) Many Poles worked at Auschwitz under SS officers, dutifully carrying out orders. It was local Lithuanians that virtually eliminated Jews in that country on Nazi's orders. Almost all these collaborators happened to be White Christians. Does that tell us something? And yet, we cannot escape the truth that Germany set the ball of virulent racism rolling. Others followed suit.


The purification of German political discourse continues. The state clings steadfastly to its history of ghastly crimes as a moral license with which to restrict speech, jail critics and suppress political meetings. Members of certain ethnicities- including Palestinians and Jewish dissidents- are banned from public life. Constitutional guarantees are suspended. New laws are handed down with new punishments attached. Germany has come full circle in this regard, that the idiotic sacredness of the volk community has been supplanted by the equally incontestable and wholly spurious sanctity of a violent, racist foreign state.


As a young woman studying German language and culture, it seemed to me Germany had done a fine job of confronting its past and achieving democracy. Clearly, I was wrong, or else things have changed. If there are any lessons to be found in the brutality and cruelty of the Holocaust, those lessons must apply to all people, not just the Jews. By supporting racism, occupation, and ethnic cleansing, Germany shows us they have learned nothing.


There you have it in black and white. And they dare accost us for being conspiracy theorists - mendacious zionists!


This demonstration of arbitrarly behaviour the German state reminds me of the words of von Clausewitz who wrote the famous book "on war ": "“War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.”
As a variation of these words I say: "The German Republic is nothing but a continuation of the National Socialist state by other means"with which I mean that in fact this state is of the same character as the National Socialist Germany under Hitler. Other means but with the same purposes.
Fascism has never gone away in Germany


Deutschland, for shame! Eine Schande! As in 1933, again you persecute the victims. Are Germans incapable of learning from their past?


It has always been the policy of the Zionists to promote anti-Jewish hatred and violence in the belief that this would encourage all Jews to return to Palestine but also because Zionists revile non-Zionist Jews. At the same time, anyone who dares to criticise Zionism, or the State of Israel, is deemed anti-Jewish. It's understandable that Germany is particularly sensitive to any accusation of encouraging anti-Jewish sentiment; but the German State is naive. It fails to realise the depth of Zionist duplicity. There is a widespread delusion that Zionists can't be anti-Jewish because they are Jews. It is this which needs to be undermined. The evidence for Zionist promotion of anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence is uncontroversial. The public internationally must be made aware of the manipulations of Zionist propaganda. It is not only in Germany that people criticising Zionism are banned. In Britain, Thomas Suarez, author of the excellent State of Terror: How Terrorism Created Modern Israel, has been banned from speaking at universities. And his book got virtually no reviews and is virtually absent from shops. Zionist propaganda has worked. That is what we must defeat.

Riri Hylton

Riri Hylton is a freelance journalist/editor working in both print and broadcast journalism.