Scream if you hear “Palestine,” says Berlin’s new anti-Semitism chief

Samuel Salzborn, Berlin’s new contact person for anti-Semitism, advises screaming at anyone who mentions the word Palestine (Britta Pedersen - DPA)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  August 4, 2020

The state government of Berlin, Germany’s capital, has appointed a new official to combat anti-Semitism.

But far from a champion in the fight against bigotry, political science professor Samuel Salzborn is deeply intolerant of Palestinians.

“When you’re sitting in the train and the people next to you start talking about ‘Palestine’ without any apparent reason, it means it is time to either get off the train, put on your headphones, or scream at them,” Salzborn tweeted last October.

He followed up with the word “anti-Semitism.”

Salzborn does not appear to have tweeted anything before or after this statement to provide context. It appears to be a pure expression of his disgust even at the thought of Palestine or Palestinians existing.

While Israel and its lobby have for years smeared Palestinians and those who support their rights as anti-Semites, Salzborn has taken things to the logical limit: Even mentioning Palestine is in his mind an attack on Jews that merits aggression and silencing as a response.

Salzborn has previously echoed Israeli government talking points, for instance claiming that Israel is subjected to “double standards” and that human rights activists are attempting to “delegitimize” it.

He has even asserted that the primary cause of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is “Palestinian aggression.”

Salzborn also claimed that it is “completely absurd” to compare Israel’s colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian land to apartheid in South Africa.

After news of Salzborn’s appointment, his October tweet gained new attention with many people expressing consternation, or simply tweeting the word Palestine repeatedly in response to it.

Yossi Bartal, an Israeli left-wing activist who lives in the city, tweeted ironically that “As a Jewish Berliner, I look forward to my new ‘contact person for anti-Semitism.’”

Bartal added a screenshot showing he had been blocked by Salzborn.

That’s a sure sign the professor plans to practice what he preaches: shutting out any dissenting voices, including those of Jews critical of Israel’s crimes and abuses against Palestinians.

Spreading Israel’s lies

One of those welcoming Salzborn’s appointment is Katharina von Schnurbein, who serves as the European Union’s coordinator on anti-Semitism.

Von Schnurbein tweeted her congratulations and said she looked forward to working with Salzborn.

A close ally of the Israel lobby, Von Schnurbein has done little to fight real anti-Semitism, despite worrying trends that Nazism is re-emerging as a force in Germany.

Instead, her focus for years has been spreading Israel’s propaganda and lies and trumped up charges against activists for Palestinian human rights.

She also promotes a misleading and politically motivated definition of anti-Semitism that equates criticism of Israel’s policies with anti-Jewish bigotry.

Neither Salzborn nor von Schnurbein have responded to requests for comment from The Electronic Intifada.

The Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, a major Israel lobby group, also welcomed Salzborn’s appointment.

Like von Schnurbein, Salzborn can be expected to continue faithfully parroting Israeli propaganda.

His appointment is yet another sign of the growing intolerance for Palestinian rights advocacy in Germany – a country where robotic and unquestioning support for Israel is considered to be atonement for the World War II murder of millions of European Jews in German government death camps.

Victory for Humboldt Three

The news from Germany for supporters of Palestinian rights is not all bad.

On Monday, the long-running trial of three activists for a June 2017 protest against an Israeli official at Berlin’s Humboldt University finally concluded.

It ended in what Ronnie Barkan, one of the Humboldt Three, called a victory.

Barkan, an Israeli, and Palestinian activist Majed Abusalama, were acquitted of trespassing.

According to Barkan, the judge wanted to dismiss the charges against all three, but the prosecution insisted on proceeding with an assault charge against the third defendant, Israeli activist Stavit Sinai – for banging on the door of a lecture room after she had been punched.

“We also claim victory because Majed and Ronnie were fully acquitted, while Stavit received the minimum possible punishment, probably to save face for the prosecution,” Barkan stated.

“Throughout the trial we insisted on making clear statements that emphasize our legal and moral obligation to oppose Israeli crimes against humanity.”

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books