The state of Israel has transformed a supposed democracy into a nation committed to silencing, censoring, and criminalizing the Palestinian population in Germany. And it only seems to be getting worse.
Hamas’s attack on October 7 solicited visceral reactions from the Western world, leading many to support Israel’s extreme retaliation campaign against the Gaza Strip that has claimed the lives of over 7,000 Palestinians. But there is yet to be a country as authoritarian in its approach to activists fighting for a ceasefire as the German government.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz claimed early on that “Berlin will prohibit any activities in support of [Hamas],” then almost immediately moved to ban the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Samidoun. Earlier this year, the German state sent a notice to one member of Samidoun — a Palestinian refugee from Syria — and informed him they would strip him of his refugee status over his activism.
Scholz then took it a step further. On his October 17 visit to Israel, he vowed that anti-Israel demonstrations that “glorify and celebrate violence are forbidden and will be punished.”
Given that no demonstration had taken place in Germany “glorifying violence,” it is clear that Scholz was indicating there would be a blanket ban across the country of any demonstration against the Israeli assault on Gaza. As we’ve seen these last few weeks, he meant exactly that.
In Berlin, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Heidelberg, and so many other German cities, protest after protest calling for a ceasefire has been banned or subjected to an extraordinary amount of police presence and subsequent police violence. Even a vigil to remember those killed, one I personally helped organize after the Al-Ahli hospital massacre, was banned at the last minute. Anyone who did not disperse was immediately detained.
At a protest in Frankfurt a few days earlier, the police banned the demonstration just 10 minutes before the official start time. I witnessed the detention of 300 people and the violent arrest of some who questioned why they were being detained. Not only were we kettled, but we were surrounded by what seemed like an army of police cars, water cannons, and a helicopter overhead.
In Berlin last week, 174 protestors were arrested by Berlin police, and legal experts informed me that since October 7, they estimate the number of protestors arrested in Berlin alone to be in the hundreds. This does not even include those who have been arbitrarily arrested while police patrol and racially profile Berlin’s Arab neighborhoods of Neukolln and Kreuzburg.
Extraordinary amounts of violent police interactions have been caught on video, leading the organization Campaign for Victims of Racist Police Violence (KOP), to make a statement: “Over a hundred people were held for up to 3 hours, many were not allowed to go to the toilet or even sit down. We have received numerous videos of violent police officers who prevent video recordings, hit people lying on the ground on the head and sit on their upper bodies in such a way that they can no longer breathe.”
“While the Brandenburg Gate is illuminated in the colors of the Israeli flag, Palestinians and people in solidarity have to watch in silence as civilians in Gaza are bombed” KOP said. …