Germany denies free speech on Israel’s crimes

German police have used heavy-handed tactics against Palestine solidarity campaigners. 

Anne Paq ActiveStills

A few years ago German police dragged me across the bare gravel, my face pushed into the cold ground.

It was fall 2015. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, had declared that Haj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian political and religious leader, talked Adolf Hitler into exterminating the Jews.

A group of us protested against this disgraceful and dishonest claim outside the Chancellery in Berlin. We held placards reading “Netanyahu is a Holocaust denier.”

That evening I was hospitalized due to my violent arrest.

A Palestinian from Gaza and I had been asked by the police for our identity documents immediately after the demonstration ended. Although we fully cooperated, the police resorted to brutality.

I screamed as police officers dragged me along the ground. One officer placed her feet on me. Another officer twisted my arms; it felt like he was trying to break my fingers.

Next, I was thrown into a van. A police officer mocked me in front of his colleagues. He told me – using a sexist tone – that I was a great actress and should star in movies.

An investigation soon ensued. I was accused of defaming a foreign head of government and disobeying a police officer.

Each of these charges was punishable by three years in prison.

With a sword of Damocles above my head, I had to withdraw from political activity in case it would put my doctoral studies at risk.

The charges were dropped after a few months. Yet I remained silent for most of the next two years.

Climate of intolerance

After completing my studies, I decided to resume activism. I did so against the backdrop of German politics becoming more extreme.

The most notable manifestation of this trend is how the far-right Alternative for Germany – known by its acronym AfD – has become the third largest party in the federal assembly, the Bundestag.

Amid this climate of intolerance, dissenters – and particularly those who criticize Israel – are subjected to smears and even criminalized. I learned this for myself during June 2017, when I took part in a protest at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

The protest involved disrupting a talk given by Aliza Lavie, a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Lavie used the occasion to engage in “pinkwashing” – presenting Israel as a haven for LGBT rights in an attempt to divert attention from its oppression of the Palestinians.

Ronnie Barkan, Majed Abusalama and I are facing a criminal trial over that protest.

The three of us have been charged with trespassing. I have also been accused of assault – though the charges do not specify who was assaulted. The trial is scheduled to open in March next year.

Our actions have attracted negative media attention accusing us of anti-Semitism. The fictitious allegation was even repeated – without providing evidence – in a report published by the Berlin Senate.

The assassination of our characters belongs to a wider pattern whereby consent is manufactured on shielding Israel from criticism. Yet the smearing of dissidents is nothing but a distraction from truths that can no longer be concealed: the crime of apartheid that Israel has practiced in a barbaric and systematic way for decades and how Germany has been complicit in that crime.

Suppressing political speech is an infringement of basic liberties. No country can genuinely claim to defend human rights if it denies freedom of thought and expression.

Curbing dissent can also have horrific ramifications as it weakens the power of campaigners and campaigning organizations to hold governments and institutions accountable.

Germany’s own experience illustrates the danger of crushing dissent.

Historians have long documented the social, economic and political factors behind why the Nazis came to power in the 1930s. Their analysis has often overlooked one important point. Fascism flourished in Germany because there wasn’t a vast resistance movement against it.

With the rise of AfD and the growing support for its racism, anti-Semitism and pro-Israel extremism, such resistance is needed once again in Germany.

Stavit Sinai is an Israeli activist. Her book Sociological Knowledge and Collective Identity will be published by Routledge in 2019.




Some Germans will appreciate the irony of a country with a recent history of virulent antisemitism now adopting laws to criminalise anti-racist speech. These laws are framed to defend racism and to facilitate military, cultural and trade relations with the world's only regime currently practising statutory apartheid. Even as Nazis take up seats and plant their banner in the Bundestag, heart of German "democracy", those who cry out for justice are beaten, smeared and threatened with imprisonment. This is a fight Germans cannot afford to lose.


Just a comment on this piece: The man being pulled up by the cops is an old friend of mine from #Gaza Mo Matter (Abu Yazen). May the Creator keep him (and all righteous protesters against the Occupation) safe from harm. #RestiamoUmani #StayHuman


The photo is much too nice, not representative of the violent robo-cops that usually are in action against most progressive demonstrations in Germany.
But worse that the violent-cops, is the German political hypocrisy: although claiming to have learned its historic lesson from its antisemitic past, Germany supports for Israel unconditionally even when Israeli racism + persecution of minorities is undeniable. Germany washes its sins in tears for itself + racist Zionists: it has learned NOTHING.


"With the rise of AfD and the growing support for its racism, anti-Semitism and pro-Israel extremism..."

Wait... are you saying the AfD is both anti-semitic and pro-Israel? That doesn't make a lot of sense.


I am surprised that support for Israel, and anti-Semitism, are perceived as incompatible. Quite the opposite. Zionism has always been seen by anti-Jewish bigots as a way to send Jews to a vast ghetto far away, while "proving" classic anti-Semitic notions of Jews as a "tribe" apart. This was true historically, and remains so: the emerging neo-facist governments today, from the US to Brazil to the Philippines to Eastern Europe, all are avid supports of the Israeli state.
More to the point, Zionism itself is a profoundly anti-Semitic ideology.


Plenty of anti-Semites admire and support Israel. Like Zionists, they also believe in ethno-nationalism and racial domination, and they see Israel as a valuable ally in its shared hostility to Islam, hatred of immigrants, support for western military aggression, implementation of apartheid, and adherence to fascist principles in general. The fact that they detest Jews and don't wish to live with them is no impediment to backing Israel, which after all is a state founded on the aim of removing Jews from all other countries and placing them in a remote enclave. If that goal can be combined with the project of implanting a violent western colony in the strategic heart of the Middle East, faithfully working to undermine movements for regional independence, so much the better.


Christian Zionists (an important part of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.) is both anti-Jewish in its theology and pro-Israel.


This duality is actually quite common on the far Right in the U.S. Much of the far Right (and Trump's core base) is made up of fundamentalist Christians who believe that the battle of Armageddon will be fought on the land that is now Israel, and "prophecy" says that the land must be the Jewish nation. Following Armageddon and the triumphant return of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, to rule the world, all Jews will convert to Christianity. Far-right fundamentalist organizations send aid to Israel and support the illegal settlements in the West Bank as part of "Eretz Yisrael."


Make sense? Lots of things that fascists and religious extremists believe in doesn't make sense.
Yes, AfD is antisemitic but they admire Israel exactly for its fascist policies of ethnic-cleansing, persecution of minorities. Just look at Hungary's Orban, a classic hateful person + antisemite, and yet he has an undeniable love-affair with Netanyahu.

Or look at the Christian Zionists: they support Israel as part of their obsession with "The Rapture", which in the end results in all Jews burning in hell. Go figure.


Ich kann nicht begreifen, dass viele meiner deutschen Landleute den Unterschied zwischen anti-Semitismus und anti-Zionismus nicht verstehen, oder verstehen können. Nichts ist einfacher. Ich muss deshalb annehmen, dass sie entweder keine Kennnis der tragischen Geschichte der palästinensischen Bevölkerung (al-Nakba) in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts haben oder an einer unkorrigierbaren, weil vererbbaren, Holocaust-Neurose leiden. Nicht genug, dass die deutsche Regierung den zionistischen verbrechern U-Boote verkauft, sie kriecht den israelischen Apartheitsfanatikern bei jeder nur denkbaren Gelegenheit in den Arsch. Schamlos! Mir stellt sich langsam aber sicher die Frage wann ich meinen deutschen Pass ins Feuer werfe. Ich bin deutscher Staatsbürger, der seit 30 Jahren in den USA lebte.

I can't grasp that so many of my German compatriots fail, or are incapable, to understand the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Nothing is easier. Therefore I have to assume that they are either ignorant about the tragic history of the Palestinian population during the first half of the 20th century or suffer from an incurable, because heritable, Holocaust neurosis. Not enough that the German government sold submarines to the Zionist criminals it misses no opportunity to lick the boots of the Israeli apartheid fanatics. Shameless! I have to start asking myself slowly but surely at what point to throw my German passport into the oven. I am a German citizen with residence in the US for the past 30 years.


Regarding the comment that it "doesn't make a lot of sense" to say that "the AfD is both anti-semitic and pro-Israel":
No, it makes perfect sense, and is the reality. Support for Israel, and anti-Semitism, are not just compatible, but inseparable. Zionism has always been seen by anti-Jewish bigots as a way to send Jews to a vast ghetto far away, while "proving" classic anti-Semitic notions of Jews as a "race" apart. This was true historically, and remains so.
The emerging neo-facist governments today, from the US to Brazil to the Philippines to Eastern Europe, all are avid supporters of the Israeli state.
More to the point, Zionism itself is a profoundly anti-Semitic ideology. By claiming to act in the name of (all) Jews, it /the Israeli state implicitly claims to make (all) Jews the doers of its crimes. Palestinians and Jews alike are the victims of Israel's cynical abuse of the smear of "anti-Semitism" as a tactic.


Germany's pro-Zionist bias is rooted in its WW2 guilt, never mind that the offense it is guilty of has shades of resemblance with the policies and practices of the Zionist State it supports.


Bravo for a magnificent display of courage! I had no idea that Germany had anti-defamation laws against heads of state - this seems quite incredible to me coming from England where there is a long tradition of mocking our leaders and the leaders of other nations! Personally, I believe that resistance is weak when solidarity is weak. I've found that when I have brought up the topic of Palestine with my friends that they just pass over it in silence. That's how resistance dies.


It is not the German population it is its political class, that conducts this hypocritical politics. A lot people I know are well aware of what is REALLY going on.