German police shut down Palestine event and arrest Jewish activists

German police shut down Palestine event and arrest Jewish activists
Berlin's police force shut down and banned a three-day Palestine event from taking place on Friday and even barred one speaker from entering the country
4 min read
13 April, 2024
German police entered the Palestine Congress event in Berlin before switching off the electricity and asking all attendees to leave [GETTY]

Germany deployed 900 police officers across Berlin on Saturday to enforce a ban on a Palestine event which was abruptly shut down on Friday, with organisers arrested and one speaker barred from entering the country.

The Palestine Congress event in Berlin was cancelled by police on Friday and one of the Jewish co-organisers was detained, in what activists are calling the latest example of state-led anti-Palestinian repression in Germany.

Hundreds of officers from the German police forces turned up at the event, stormed the building, switched off the electricity shutting down the live stream of speakers and ordered the 250 attendees to leave.

The three-day event was organised by the group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East and DiEM25, a pan-European progressive movement.

Berlin police force said that the event had to be shut down as one of the figures due to speak had made anti-Semitic statements in the past and was banned from "political activity".

British-Palestinian surgeon Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, who has become a prominent spokesperson for Gaza after he volunteered there in October, was due to speak but was barred from entering the country by border authorities at Berlin airport on Friday.

Abu Sitta said to The New Arab on Friday that he was told he could not enter the country for the duration of the three-day event.

Jewish activist and co-organiser Udi Raz was arrested by the police and videos shared widely online showed Raz being escorted by two police officers.

One woman in the background of the video shouts: "You are taking a Jewish person and then you're talking about anti-Semitism!"

Palestine Congress was due to be held over three days from 12-14 April, bringing together academics, activists, journalists and prominent figures to raise awareness of the Gaza war, Israeli occupation and the German government's involvement.

Germany is being challenged by Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice for perpetuating genocide in Israel's war on Gaza by supplying Tel Aviv with military weapons and aid. Germany denies the allegations.

Prominent figures such as the Greek former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta, Irish politician and activist Richard Boyd Barrett, and Palestinian American journalist Hebh Jamal were due to speak at the event.

Varoufakis said on Saturday that he had now been banned from "political activity" in Germany, including speaking via video software.

Organiser Karin De Rigo from DiEM25 said that the police were trying to intimidate people from speaking up for Palestine.

Speaking in a video after the incident, De Rigo said: "The violence that the police used today, like we were some sort of criminals is absolutely unbearable for a democratic country."

"They not only stormed the stage [but] they cut the power like we were transmitting something illegal".

Local newspaper Berliner Morgenpost reported that Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser applauded the police for shutting down the event, which she described as "Islamist".

"Anyone who spreads Islamist propaganda and hatred against Jews must know that they will be prosecuted quickly and consistently," Faeser told the German Press Agency in Berlin on Friday.

Berlin's mayor Kai Wegner also condemned the event for its "antisemitism and hate against Jews".

Journalist James Jackson, based in Berlin, in a post on X pointed out that Wegner did not mention that the event was co-organised by a Jewish group and that two Jewish people were arrested.

An aggressive anti-Palestinian atmosphere has pervaded Germany since the events of 7 October and Israel's subsequent assault on Gaza, described as a genocide by leading legal and rights experts.

Germany has imposed severe restrictions on demonstrations in support of Palestine, going so far as to ban displays of the Palestinian flag or wearing the keffiyeh.