The Electronic Intifada / February 17, 2023
Activists in Berlin are marking a victory after a court threw out charges against one of their members who was accused of “illegally” demonstrating in support of Palestinian rights.
“We celebrate the absurd charges being dropped against one of our comrades and call for the same for all of those detained,” said the Jewish Bund, an anti-fascist left-wing group.
“The shameful ban on commemoration and protest during the last Nakba Day marked yet another milestone in the criminalization of Palestinians and Palestine solidarity in Germany under the guise of ‘fighting anti-Semitism,’” the group added.
The Jewish Bund activist, who has chosen to keep their identity private, is among some two dozen people including Palestinians who face fines and court proceedings for violating a police ban on any public display of support for Palestinian rights on and around 15 May last year, the annual commemoration of Nakba Day.
That’s the day Palestinians mark the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, when 800,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their homes during the assault by the British-backed Zionist colonial militias that established Israel.
Last Nakba Day, Berlin police roamed the streets attacking, harassing and detaining anyone they suspected of showing support for Palestinian rights, whether by wearing a traditional Palestinian headscarf or holding a flag.
Many bystanders were swept up in the crackdown.
But on Thursday, a court in Berlin dismissed the charges against the Jewish activist, the first of the Nakba Day cases to come to court.
“The court considered the arrest unlawful because of the Nakba demonstration ban and therefore independently closed the case,” Ahmed Abed, the lawyer representing the activists, told The Electronic Intifada.
“The defendant stood up for the freedom of assembly to demonstrate against Israeli crimes,” Abed added. “Public pressure helped the court give up on punishing him.”
But Abed cautioned that the ruling covers only this individual case and does not necessarily prevent Berlin authorities from issuing new restrictions on free speech.
“Despite the victory in court, there will likely continue to be harsh restrictions and even bans this year,” Abed warned.
That’s why activists have launched a campaign against future bans. They are also raising money online to help pay for legal and other costs relating to fighting the existing cases.
During Thursday’s hearing, activists rallied outside the Berlin courthouse.
While any ban on free speech should cause outrage in a country that purports to be a democracy, the Jewish Bund noted the particularly egregious situation in Germany where unconditional support for Israel – even as it commits atrocities against Palestinians – is viewed by elites as atonement for the Holocaust.
“In the name of ‘remembrance culture,’ Germany bans Palestinians from mourning the Nakba,” the Jewish Bund said.
“Simply mentioning Palestine or even raising a Palestinian flag are immediately framed as potentially anti-Semitic.”
Meanwhile, according to the group, “white Germans, from Weimar to Neukölln, members of known anti-Semitic organizations, some the very successors of the Nazi Party, are given a greater ‘right to freedom of opinion’ than Palestinians trying to mourn the globally acknowledged horror of the Nakba.”
Addressing Germans, the Jewish Bund adds: “Driven by the guilt complex for the crimes of your forebears, you pat yourself on the shoulder for silencing Palestinians while ignoring the growing Nazi presence among your contemporaries – how outrageous, how hypocritical.”
The Jewish Bund is demanding that Berlin prosecutors drop all the remaining charges “and focus on the long-ignored problem of state complicity in and inaction against racist and anti-Semitic groups.”
Thursday’s win is the latest in a series of legal reversals German authorities have suffered in their long-running efforts to stamp out speech critical of Israel.
Ali Abunimah is executive director of The Electronic Intifada