Forget its freedom rhetoric, Germany suppresses all who stand in solidarity with Palestine

Adnan Hmidan

Middle East Monitor  /  November 2, 2022

In supposedly democratic Germany, the country that was reunited when the Berlin Wall was broken down, human rights activists who express solidarity with Palestine face discrimination and persecution under the pretext of the drive against anti-Semitism. In some ways, this is worse than what happens within the occupation state of Israel itself.

How else should we interpret the persecution of German Palestinians and persons of similar status because they participate in peaceful activities in solidarity with occupied Palestine? Although such activities are protected by the constitution and human rights charters, official persecution has got so bad that people are held to account for “liking” posts on Facebook and other such social media.

Not so long ago, a man applied for permanent residence in Germany, but was ordered to leave the country because of his peaceful solidarity with Palestine. In 2019, the German authorities refused to renew the residence permit of Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat and gave him just a month to leave the country after he was detained and prevented from speaking at a symposium in Berlin.

The pretext was that Barakat was involved in “anti-Israel” activities and the German people must be protected from him. He was banned from attending any family gathering in Germany if there was more than ten people there.

Palestinian journalist Maram Salim was fired from her job with Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The decision was justified by the fact that she had written on her own Facebook page that she had encrypted or deleted some of her posts out of fear of censorship. Her employer decided that she must have written something anti-Semitic and then deleted it, so she must be an anti-Semite.

Dr Nima al-Hassan was born in Germany to parents from occupied Palestine and Lebanon, and a winner of a number of prestigious awards. She was targeted after a photo report in 2014 showing her wearing the hijab and the Palestinian keffiyeh in a Jerusalem solidarity march in Berlin. Then the photo was republished in a local newspaper after seven years, prompting a vicious campaign against Al-Hassan due to her “anti-Semitism”. Her apology for taking part in the march did not stop the defamation campaign against her.

This hysterical persecution of anyone who rejects the claim that opposition to Israel’s many crimes in its occupation of Palestine is “anti-Semitism” also includes anti-Zionist Jews. Any Jew who rejects Zionism is “anti-Semitic” as far as the German security services are concerned, and faces a lot of pressure from the pro-Israel lobby in the media and political circles across Germany.

German MPs in the Bundestag (parliament) have criminalized the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Likewise, the commemoration of Nakba Day has been banned as have protests in solidarity with Palestine and raising the Palestinian flag.

Democratic Germany is the Palestinian Authority’s biggest financial donor, although the aid it provides is restricted to contributing towards the PA’s role in serving the Israeli occupation as designed by the Oslo Accords. Anyone who monitors the decision-making process in Berlin is well its human aware that this could and would not be done without a green light from Israel.

It is amazing that Germany regards itself to be an ambassador for human rights around the world, and readily imposes punitive measures on countries which habitually disregard such rights. At the same time, and with much hypocrisy, nobody in Germany can express their peaceful support for legitimate Palestinian rights and the Palestinian struggle for freedom from Israel’s daily breaches of international law and violations of human, civil and political rights.

International human rights organizations are silent on Germany’s violations of the rights of peaceful solidarity with Palestine. They are, in effect, accomplices in its silence and double standards on human rights issues. Such Western hypocrisy has been highlighted by the campaign against Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup later this month; the response to Ukrainian resistance against occupation by Russia compared with the “terrorist” designation imposed on Palestinians who resist Israeli occupation; and the blind eyes turned whenever coups take place in dictatorships across the Third World where Western interests might be threatened by democracy.

However, all that is happening must not discourage Palestinian solidarity activists in Germany and elsewhere from continuing to work peacefully for justice and freedom in Palestine. Freedom of speech is, after all, supposed to be a right guaranteed by law across the West.

Adnan Hmidan – journalist & writer