Gaza war: Germany's crackdown on Palestine solidarity does not spare even anti-Zionist Jews

Gaza war: Germany's crackdown on Palestine solidarity does not spare even anti-Zionist Jews
Across Germany, demonstrations against Israel’s bombardment on Gaza have been banned and criminalised. Even anti-Zionist Jews in Germany are not safe from extreme state repression and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement.
8 min read
18 October, 2023
Pro-Palestine protests across Germany have been met with severe police presence and brutality across Europe [Getty Images]

Across Germany, demonstrations against Israel’s bombardment on Gaza have been banned and criminalised, and are now met with an overwhelming presence of riot police. Videos from cities such as Berlin and Frankfurt show evidence of provocation by police, including clear instances of police brutality.  

On Saturday, Frankfurt police banned a scheduled protest 12 minutes before it was set to take place when hundreds were already in attendance. A water cannon was deployed to intimidate the demonstrators with a helicopter flying overhead. As German police kettled the demonstrators, over 300 were detained. One woman was pushed by police and had to be taken away by an ambulance.  

The demonstration that took place on October 15th, in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, was even more disturbing. Police banned the protest after hundreds were already on site. Video footage shows police brutally kicking, punching and pushing protestors, including one instance when an elderly woman was pushed to the ground. Only other protestors came to her aid.  

One hundred fifty-five protestors were arrested. 

Nearly 2800 people have been killed in Gaza from Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave . Civilians have been told to leave northern Gaza as Israel readies its troops for a ground invasion. 

Overnight, a suspected Israeli strike killed hundreds at Al Ahli Hospital, drawing worldwide condemnation. But not in Germany, whose leaders officials remain staunchly pro-Israel, and have expressed that they are hammering down on pro-Palestinian activities. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced last Thursday that his government “will ban all activities and organisations supporting Hamas” without qualification.

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“Hamas is already labelled as a terrorist organisation in Germany, but now Berlin will prohibit any activities in support of the group or its agenda,” Scholz said in a speech to parliament. The ban will apply to fundraising, the display of the Palestinian flag, and even the wearing of the Palestinian keffiyeh.  

Robert Habeck, Germany’s vice chancellor, addressed Israelis in a video message, promising them that “we stand at your side, and we have forgotten nothing”, an apparent reference to Germany’s role in the Holocaust and its post-war guarantee of Israel’s security.  

However, even anti-Zionist Jews in Germany are not safe from extreme state repression and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement.  

Even before the war in Gaza, Jewish artist, Yuval Carasso, was assaulted last month by two German undercover police officers while attending a public event held by the Mideast freedom forum , “Mythos#Israel1948,”  in Berlin.  

According to their social media post, the event’s goal is to “deconstruct common myths about the origins of Israel” and a political official that was in attendance was Neukolln, Berlin’s Integration Officer, Güner Balci.  

Carasso attended the event out of pure curiosity and only wanted to participate during the question and answer session towards the end. That, however, did not happen. According to Carasso, after he was suddenly asked to leave,and he did so willingly, he was attacked in the corridor.  

“The undercover police officers started to hit me. One of them choked me really hard and the other blocked my eyes so that I could not see anything. I was pleading with them that I am fully cooperating; they just did not tell me what to do” Carasso told The New Arab.  

Carasso’s lawyer, Ahmed Abed, tells The New Arab that Carasso “uttered cries of pain from the disproportionate force that was applied to him, and begged them to moderate the intensity.” Abed also pointed out that the undercover policemen did not identify themselves as law enforcement, and despite their assault, Carasso still complied and did not resist arrest.  

“In order to reduce the risk of injury for everyone involved, the officers brought the rioter to the ground, restrained him and handcuffed him” Head of the Berlin police press office, Anja Dierschke tells The New Arab. “With additional emergency services called in, the arrested man was led from the property to an emergency vehicle to establish his identity. Here too he repeatedly shouted loudly and resisted in the same way. No service personnel were injured as a result of the resistance act”  

“The investigation into suspicion of resistance to law enforcement officers and trespassing is being conducted,” Dierschke continued.  

“The police’s claim is completely false” Abed says. In fact, Abed tells The New Arab that there exists a video that one of the passers-by took outside. “ The video was taken after Yuval asked someone who was there to take a video, as the physical abuse included an invasive search where they groped his penis and it  continued even after his hands were tied and pinned to the wall.”  

Carasso says that he still suffers from severe pain in the rib area making it difficult for him to breathe or sleep.  

The pro-Israel event was riddled with anti-Palestinian tropes. In a voice recording handed to The New Arab one of the speakers, a director of a Germany based think-tank, claims that the idea that Israel is appropriating Palestinian land is a myth.  

“This myth of land theft will continue to be used to delegitimize Israel, to delegitimize this founding of the state. Yes, the land theft is part of a larger myth, which includes the right of return, the so-called right of return.”  

The speaker went on to claim that South Africans who experienced apartheid first-hand would turn in their graves if they heard the term applied to Israel.  

“Israel is an anti-colonial project which is proven relatively well” the speaker claimed. “There was no Arab Muslim state of Palestine that Israel occupied. Therefore, this land grab is a myth that stands in the context of delegitimization, where people do not want to recognize Israel," they added.

But why was Carasso faced with such police violence afterwards? He thinks it is because he is an openly anti-Zionist Jew living in Germany- a country that calls Israel its “reason of state.”  

For decades, Germany has been accused of anti-Palestinian racism; from categorizing the BDS movement as antisemitic, to denying Palestinians the right to protest, to denying or stripping refugee status away from Palestinians escaping war.  

Watch: Germany's Palestine Problem; article continues below

Pro-Palestine Jews not spared

It is not the first time Jewish anti-Zionists have faced criticisms of Israel in the name of fighting antisemitism. This week, a video sent to The New Arab shows a Jewish woman in Berlin who held a sign advocating against the aggression in Gaza. Almost immediately she was detained.  

Earlier this year, another Jewish artist, Adam Broomberg, faced a series of accusations and attacks by Hamburg’s commissioner on antisemitism due to Broomberg’s support for Palestine. Broomberg was even arrested by Berlin police for taking part in a Nakba demonstration.

Then there is Israeli born political economist, Shir Hever, who has had his speeches canceled because he actively supports the BDS movement. The State of Berlin even censored a Jewish organization’s vigil for the slain Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh in fear of a surge of “antisemitic incitement.”

As Germany reaches new lengths to protect the Israeli state, many expect more violence and censorship towards Jews who express discontent with the apartheid state.  

Anna Markakos was a witness at the event where Carasso was assaulted, and shared her testimony with The New Arab. “There was a sharp contradiction where there were ground rules that said we cannot record or take photos, while the organizers aggressively took closeup photos of everyone present throughout the evening, without taking data protection and personal rights into account.” 

“The reason for all of this was safety concerns. All these measures and the aggressive mood were justified under the pretext that Jewish people in Germany would be threatened if they spoke out on this issue. However, the only people in the audience who publicly identified themselves as Jewish in their speeches were either booed, insulted, shouted or told to “shut up” by the same person who was filming and photographing the audience” Markakos said.  

Germany continues to push Israeli propaganda without the presence of Palestinians or their history. The city of Bonn recently opened an exhibit titled, “1948: How the State of Israel into being.” Their description states that after “70 years from 1948, half knowledge, opinion or ignorance dominates instead of knowledge.”  

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The knowledge that is presented? Complete erasure of Palestinians. On thirty of the thirty-two panels, Palestinians are only referred to as Arabs. On others, Nakba denial is on full displayed, describing Palestine as “desolate,” “malaria infested,” and “abandoned.”  

“The biographies of many Palestinians living in Bonn are shaped by war, displacement and refugee camp experiences. But what unites us across all differences and generations is the trauma of the Nakba - the expulsion, disenfranchisement and deprivation of our people by Israel in 1948” Die Palestinesche Gemeinde Deutschland, an organization representing the Palestinian community in Bonn said in a press release.  

Now we have to experience that an “exhibition” is being shown in the foyer of the Bonn town hall; in fact a malicious collage of omissions, blatant falsifications and slanders, which comes without any serious evidence in order to publicly scorn us Palestinians” the press release continued.  

This week, the literary association Litprom said it would postpone an award ceremony for a novel by a Palestinian author at the Frankfurt Book Fair following the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict since October 7.

The fair's organiser also said on it would be making Jewish and Israeli voices "especially visible" at this year's edition. Several Arab entities and figures have since withdrawn from the event.

For Palestinians and anti-Zionist Jews like Carasso, “combating antisemitism” discourse is not about the protection of all Jewish people, but about undoubtedly protecting the state of Israel.  

“Unfortunately, it mostly feels like a weapon against anyone who challenges Israel's policy. As a Jew, there is nothing that scares me and makes me feel threatened more than this "struggle,"” Carasso said.  

“My existence as a Jew becomes a marionette, as if Germany is not interested in Israeli Jews who have an opinion, you are only welcome if you are a good Jew who behaves as expected of you. This is very worrying.”