German police block Shireen Abu Akleh vigil, pro-Palestine demonstrations in Berlin for 'anti-Semitism risk'

German police block Shireen Abu Akleh vigil, pro-Palestine demonstrations in Berlin for 'anti-Semitism risk'
Pro-Palestine Jewish organisation Jüdische Stimme arranged the Friday vigil for slain Palestinian journalist Shirine Abu Akleh, only to be informed by police that their commemoration would not be permitted.
3 min read
14 May, 2022
Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday [Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty-file photo]

German police blocked a vigil meant to take place in Berlin on Friday to commemorate Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces as she reported in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.

Pro-Palestine Jewish organisation Jüdische Stimme arranged the Friday vigil for Al Jazeera's Abu Akleh, only to be informed by police that their commemoration was prohibited.

It comes amid a ban by German local police on several other pro-Palestine demonstrations leading up to 15 May, when Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day to remember the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forcibly displaced from their homes for the creation of the Israeli state in 1948.

In addition to Friday's vigil for Abu Akleh, five pro-Palestine demonstrations that were supposed to take place in Berlin this weekend have also been blocked.

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In response to questions about the ban, Berlin police referred The New Arab to a statement it released on 12 May.

"After evaluating all circumstances and findings and weighing up all interests... the Berlin police today banned several assemblies reported for the coming days, as well as the holding of any replacement event in Berlin until May 15, 2022," the statement read.

Listing five Nakba Day demonstrations, the police said an examination showed there was an "immediate risk" of "inflammatory, anti-Semitic exclamations" and "glorification of violence", among other issues.

The police told The New Arab: "All alternative demonstrations are also included by the ban. The vigil for Shireen Abu Akleh... is considered by us to be an alternative demonstration."

The police said "alternative demonstrations" were any events they considered to be replacements for the banned rallies.

Jüdische Stimme chair Wieland Hoban told Al Jazeera: "The Berlin Senate wants to prevent Palestine solidarity as much as it can."

In April, German news outlets said Jews had faced antisemitic abuse in Berlin during a pro-Palestine demonstration.

Hoban said: "They'll take a handful of teenagers saying anti-Semitic things and use that to discredit thousands of people who want to demonstrate peacefully."

A Nakba commemoration event planned by Palestinian organisation Palestine Speaks was among those blocked by the police.

"This is an act of repressive violence against Palestinian people in Berlin," Nizar Haddad of Palestine Speaks said of the ban.

"We have never faced this level of repression before. It's really a new level of authoritarian state measures against minorities."

Palestine Speaks appealed against the police's decision, but this was denied on Friday.

Rallies during previous weeks and in 2021 saw fireworks lit and stones and bottles hurled at officers, according to the Berlin Administrative Court, which found this meant concern that there could be violence from protesters was reasonable.

Another consideration was the "high degree of mobilisation" anticipated surrounding Nakba Day, which saw more than 10,000 demonstators gather in Berlin in 2021.

Palestine Speaks will now elevate the matter to the city's Upper Administrative Court.

The organisation did not ask anyone to violate the prohibition, worried that officers could use violence, according to Haddad.

Authorities stand ready to implement the prohibition and eject anyone who comes to demonstrate, Berlin police spokesperson Heidi Vogt said.

Many Palestinians and supporters of Palestine have long complained Germany's institutional and media climate is hostile to them and their activism.