Why are Palestinians paying for Germany’s sins?

Israel’s wanton, daily aggression against Palestinians remains unchecked.  

Najeh Hashlamoun APA images

No matter who you are, no matter what greatness you’ve achieved in your life or what gifts you’ve given to the rest of humanity, if you criticize Israel, you must expect to become persona non grata.

You should expect an utter onslaught of attacks. Otherwise rational and decent people will, one by one, genuflect and sign onto the stupid clichés and tiresome accusations that question your character, integrity and even sanity. You will be called an anti-Semite, or a self-hating Jew if you happen to be Jewish. The Holocaust will be invoked. You’ll be reminded of Hitler and Himmler and Goebbels and perhaps likened to Nazis, or capos if you’re Jewish. You’ll be accused explicitly or implicitly of secretly supporting the genocide of Jews and having a deep-seated desire for it.

Incredibly, this nonsense does not occur among the paranoid fringe, but in mainstream culture.

It happened to moral authorities like Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, both of whom were called anti-Semites, crazy old fools and worse, for daring to criticize Israel’s criminal policies toward Palestinians — the natives of the Holy Land.

It happened to renowned scholars like John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt for publishing a well-documented and supported audit of Israel’s manipulation of US foreign policy through their domestic proxy lobby.

Judge Richard Goldstone was chastised, shunned and punished by his own community for reporting his findings which stated that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. In response, he then utterly discredited himself as a jurist by retracting his well-reasoned legal conclusions based on irrefutable evidence, which was nonetheless upheld by all his colleagues and by the international legal community.

Among many abuses, they called him a “capo” and a “self-hating Jew” and he was told he would not be welcome at his grandson’s bar mitzvah. Those labels too have been hurled at intellectuals like Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky — the latter actually banned by Israel from entering the West Bank to speak at Birzeit University. The list is too long for one article, but it stretches the full breadth of international thinkers, artists, intellectuals, clergy, moral authorities and political figures. No one is immune from this insanity.

Günter Grass and obvious truths

But the world still has brave people who are willing to take significant risks for the rest of humanity. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, renowned crime fiction writer Henning Mankel, 84-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and many like them risked their lives to break the siege of Gaza when they boarded the Freedom Flotilla, joining an unarmed group of people carrying humanitarian aid who were attacked, and, in some cases, killed by Israeli forces.

Others, like Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire, likewise have risked the abuse and attacks that come with speaking up for the rights of Palestinians against Israel’s unchecked aggression.

The latest case in point is Günter Grass, the German Nobel laureate who dared to suggest glaringly obvious truths: that Israel has a robust nuclear program and its hinted intention to attack Iran is a threat to world stability.

Of course, the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East” is banning him from ever entering the Holy Land, which happens to be my homeland. I’m barred from living there, too, but for different reasons. By the laws of the State of Israel, I am not the right kind of human being to inherit my family’s property and live where all my ancestors have dwelled for millennia. But I digress.

Germany sits on sidelines

Günter Grass has entered forbidden intellectual and political territory, and the criticism against him has been intense. The other side of Germany’s silence when it comes to Israel is loud and sure chastising of Israel’s critics. Every article here in the mainstream US press mentions Germany’s “understandable” reluctance to criticize Israel, as if it’s a foregone and logical conclusion that it’s perfectly fine for Germany to sit on the sidelines — eyes, ears and lips sealed — sending aid and weapons to a country that has placed itself above the law, a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world, and one that is engaged in systematic ethnic cleansing of the native population of the land it occupies.

As a member of that native population, I do not accept that it is “understandable” for Germany to continue unreservedly support Israel no matter what. It is convenient, for sure. Because Germany is not the one paying for its sins. We, the Palestinians, are.

Everything — home, heritage, life, resources, hope — has been robbed from us to atone for Germany’s sins. To this day, we languish in refugee camps that are not fit for human beings so that every Jewish man and woman can have dual citizenship, one in their own country and one in mine.

We are the ones who find ourselves at the other end of the weapons that Germany supplies to Israel. It is Palestine that is being wiped off the map. It is our society that is being destroyed. Of course, Germany’s silence is easy and convenient, but “understandable” it is not.

We remember

Israel is not Judaism. It is a nuclear power with the most advanced death machines ever known to man, which it unleashes frequently against a principally unarmed civilian population that dares to demand freedom. It is a country that is currently in violation of hundreds of UN resolutions and nearly every tenet of international law. It is a country that has been condemned by every human rights organization that has ever investigated the situation on the ground there.

It is a country with multi-tiered legal and social infrastructure that measures the worth of a human being by his or her religion. It is the regional bully that has refused a comprehensive peace proposal set forth by all Arab states. It has in the past attacked Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, all on the pretext of pre-emption. And now it wants to attack Iran under the same pretext, citing the tired “existential threat” mantra.

We are reminded of the Jewish Holocaust. But there is no need because we remember it. We also remember the Armenians, the Serbs, and we remember Rwanda. We remember the holocaust of the extermination of Native Americans and we remember the holocaust of slavery — 200 years of kidnapping, buying and selling human beings as a commodity. And we remember Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatila, Qibya and the many other atrocities Israel has committed against Palestinians.

But no matter how great or unspeakable the crimes, victims are not, and should not be, granted license to commit crimes against others with impunity.

None of us can fully predict the ramifications of an Israeli attack on Iran but we can all imagine the immensity of loss, blood, upheaval and instability that will reverberate far beyond the region. All so that Israel can maintain unchecked military dominance in the region.

I can only thank Günter Grass for making a minimal gesture that Germany should take measures not to remain complicit in the destruction of Arab or Persian life.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestselling novel Mornings in Jenin.




I am a German of danube swabian ancestry. My Grandpa and his family lived in Elek, Hungary before and during second world war. He and his sisters were little children during the war. (Danube Swabians are an ethnic group of German descent, they migrated to Hungary in the 18th century). However, after the war Soviets and Yugoslavian Partisans killed thousands of Germans from Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. They send them to concentration camps, starving camps, extermination camps and as slaves to Russia. Many many innocent children died there just because they were Germans and back then considered enemy of the mentioned countries. Nowadays, they still hide their crimes which they committed against innocent people (who were not responsible for the death of 6 million Jews). North America, Great Britain supported the idea of ethnic cleansing of Danube Swabians. There is even an video on youtube about the genocide of Danube swabians, if you are interested you can look it up. Many of the people who slaugthered and raped thousands of innocent swabian girls were Jews. They deny and hide it to this day because if the American mainstream would know about these crimes, they wouldn't see Jews as only victims anymore.
I think the German Government of today is still controlled by Americans so I think my Government is sort of forced to supply and support Israel.
I am so sorry for what is happening to Palestinians, I support you and your people.

Good luck :)
Take care


I totally agree with this "I think the German Government of today is still controlled by Americans so I think my Government is sort of forced to supply and support Israel." i think most of Europe not only Germany even some arab countries. Thank you for your time and i love you


I don't know why you would lie about the 2nd world war. I won't waste my time except to say, you are practicing taqyyia. No one is going to commit another genocide on Jews of Israel without a fight. Fact.


With all due respect to your publication, your article is falling into the false narrative that ignores Christian history. Germany was not alone. The French, Russians, Poles all conducted pograms. The Spanish conducted the inquisition. Everywhere you look throughout Christendom there has been persecution of Jews.
Nothing of this sort took place in Hindu culture, Sino culture, Arab culture, etc...ONLY Christendom.


You don't pay for German sins.
You pay the price for your myopia and obstinance. Cut your losses and settle for whatever is still available. History moves on. If you didn't grab the opportunity you are left behind. isn't it the sad story of the Palestinians?


Thank you for this excellent essay! And thanks also for "Mornings in Jenin," which I couldn't put down. It's unforgettable--a wonderful, beautiful novel.


I deeply hope that the people of Palestine will have their own state in the near future. There should be no need for refugee camps, and the only check points should be the usual border crossings you find between any countries or confederations of states. But Palestinians are not paying for Germany's sins. Sadly, the peace-loving Palestinians, who simply want to raise their children and provide an education for them and enjoy life on land where they have their roots, are oppressed by those who not only want the same, but who also want to destroy their neighboring state. There is absolutely no surprise that a people that lost about 6 million to genocide would take verbal threats by others seriously - like that of Ahmadinejad - or that would take the firing of rockets from Gaza - more than a verbal threat - seriously. It is terribly important that Palestinians who only want peace and to set down permanent roots in their own state speak up for the rights of their neighbors to the same. They have so much in common, in terms of cultural and religious roots, love for learning and for the land. Each side has to be willing to make compromises to make the two states work. Gunter Grass' major error in his poem was forgetting that Israel is reacting to verbal and violent threats. We may not approve of all Israel does to defend itself; we may think Israel at times overreacts and commits inexcusable acts of cruelty in the name of self-defense. But that Israel is threatened is a fact that must not be forgotten in these arguments. If one recognizes Israel's right to exist, then all other issues should also be on the table.


Susan, you never fail to bring tears to my eyes and streaming down my face with your writing. I was born and raised in the United States and never knew the truth about Israel until I read your book. Political discourse in this country will never be the same for me. I want the world to know the truth. So far, I just had to settle for sharing the book with my mother. Now she wants the world to know, too. Americans are woefully misinformed about this issue. Thank you for all that you are doing to try to change this horribly unfair system. Please keep going, you are helping humanity in your tireless effort to get long-overdue justice for Palestine.


The primary reason Germany sits on the sidelines is due to a little thing called the holocaust that occurred back in WWII under Adolf Hitler (Just a history lesson in case you forgot) So yes it puts Germany in a very awkward, uncomfortable position. Even though Germany condemns what occurred in WWII unfortunately they still have no room to voice their opinion. Now the biggest problem with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not the fact that Israel is a "big death war machine," it's the fact that the mass majority of Palestinians along with the rest of the middle east tend to have no idea what really is going on around the WORLD. They are educated by the discussions they hear from parents/aunts/uncles/friends who also hear from one another, but no one actually understands. It's always pointing the finger at "The West" blaming them for the tragedies and atrocities. But no one realizes that its our own Arab Leaders that are killing off thousands/millions of our own people for personal and political gain. Until only recently people finally had enough and decided to revolt in North Africa along with now Syria. Do you think Israel is sitting behind those chairs in the North African countries? Gaddafi wasn't exactly a fan of the Jews let along Israelis. And yet he was a crazy tyrant...imagine that Arab leaders who are bad, without "The West" being involved? That's crazy! We are far from a pure and innocent people, I am sorry to say, but if this offends you, you clearly have no true understanding of what is going on around you. Islam right now is a mess, in the hands of many uneducated people using it to sway the masses and convince them of "Jihad against the West" when in fact if the Prophet where alive today, he would be ashamed of what has become of his Ummah. If you want justice, you need intelligence. Why do you think the word for Judge in Arabic comes from the same root word of Knowledge and Wisdom, Hakim - Hikmah - Hukum. Stop blaming other countries for inaction


Point of correction Arab can be in mess NOT Islam.I don't know why people always tend to fault Islam for Arab muslim wrongdoing.


Point of correction, Arabs can be in mess BUT Islam can NOT be in mess. I don't know why people will blame Islam for Arab muslim wrongdoing


How can an act that was informed by racial/religious hatred be called atonement or contrition when it creates new victims that are selected due to racial/religious hatred? But with a material assist by the USG. Why continue building settlements on occupied land? There is no innocent explanation. There is no innocent justification. Before I learned of the Zionist perfidies I tended to be supportive of Israel. But every passing day more evidence erodes any sympathy.


" Because Germany is not the one paying for its sins. We, the Palestinians, are." In one sense, Germany is paying for those who are making the Palestinians pay for its [Germans from the war generation] sins. The "guilty" Germans are mostly gone now.


I have been asking the same question for more than 40 years when I first became aware of the truth about Palestine. The people of Palestine did not invade nearly all the rest of Europe and murder more than 40,000,000 innocent people in the Nazis' mad dream of World Domination.What did the Palestinians have to do with the Fascist dictatorships attacking the people of Spain? Not a DAMN THING!! What did the people of Palestine have to do with the Nanking Massacre when the Fascists of Imperial Japan order the murder of more than 250,000 Chinese during the 6 weeks of the Rape of Nanking in December 1937 and January 1938? Nothing !! So that begs the question, why is Palestine and Palestinians being punished for something they had NOTHING do do with ?

No, this whole "the Jews need a Homeland in Palestine" because of what the happened during WW2 is absolute rubbish. Zionist have demanded Palestine since at least the 19th century when modern Zionism got its beginning. During the meeting of Balfour and Weizman in 1903 , Weizman told Balfour that Zionism demanded Palestine. And Balfour became a committed Zionist. Palestine is the issue not what happened during World War 2. The Palestinians are the VICTIM not the the Perpetrators of European politics or the insanity of Europe that seems to be the norm in since at least the 17th century. Palestine has always the issue. Palestinians have always been the victim.


I might suggest that anyone interested in a history of Zionism in Europe, and Britain in particular, read Tuchman's "The Proud Tower "and" Bible and Sword". Tuchman can not be accused , under any stretch of the imagination or twisting of logic, as an anti-Semite.


@ omar excuse me , It seems like you are frustrated with the arab govs ,what does this have too do with the thousands of massacers that isreal has done to the palestinian civilians all the way from 1948 and before it by the zionist gangs till this day do you remeber gaza and how they showered it with white phousphere which is illegal and a crime againt humanity ,also there is currently a palestinian population who is subjigated to harsh inhumane occupation just to remind you incase you forgot.. im sure thier aunts and uncles did not have to tell them about the checkpoint that is 10 minutes away from thier homes . The problem with isreal is that it does not acknowledge rules or laws they think it does not apply to them and may i also mention they have 200 nukes thanks to the west ,the irony is that they dont make thier weapons ,the weapons and planes that isreal has is from the west mainly america gov and some other nations govs who feel guilt and think the only way to repay is to give weapons to kill another innocent people come on.. if that does not sound mucked up then you are the one thats completley ignorant of whats happening around the WORLD! and please stop bringing up religion into this because the people and activist that are helping the palestinians everyday in the west bank happen to be non muslims and most of them are western activists who have a heart and will go down in history as heros for speaking up for the oppressed like rachel corrie and many others God bless every human that stood up for the palestinians,what brave people!


They make plenty of weapons and its a major part of their economy too. They are the fifth biggest exporter of armaments in the world. Its population is 7m. Drones are their big baby. All sorts of weapons. They work closely with the USA armaments manufacturing and have intimate relations with its Pentagon and its security apparatus.


Dear Susan:

21 Arab Muslem countries is alot ar territory. Do you really think creating another one instead of Israel will solve anythong for you?

What happened in 1948, happened in 1948.
Today it is 2012. It is time to move on.


Well Falesteen , one could say what happened between 1939 and 1945 is history and it is time to move on too.


I'll read those books you recommended. I've got Sholomo Sand 'The invention of the Jewish people' yet to finish.


Palestines are victims of well orchestrated western conspiracy to commit genocide and steal their land in the process. The bellingerent state of Israel is granted permission to murder innocent Palestinians on a daily basis with impunity.
The fact of the matter is that the so-called ' Land promised by God in the Torrah' belongs to the Palestines.
Ask yourself how many Un resolutions were contravened by the state of Israel? Why is Israel allowed to have an arsenal of more than 200 nuclear missiles while other states are forbidden to have just one?
The people of Palestine have no other option but to fight for their survival.


Palestine is a threat to Israel's existence. It is just that simple. The President and Hamas has said that. Israel can't lay down and let themselves be murdered again. If Palestinians don't like that, they need to change it. Simple.


to emily, isreal is a threat to itself with its illegal actions agianst a defensless palestinian population its a cancer in the mideast no one likes them in the mideast ,europe any country around the mediteranean knows how isreal was created and that the palestinians have been living in that land for thousands of years be it the cannanities, arabs call them kannani or the philstines who mixed with them. leave palestine or live in it as a palestinian jew is the only way. because the future does not look so bright for the zionist entity and thats a fact.