Anti-Muslim racism by proxy: Udi Raz on how Germany is stepping up repression of pro-Palestinian Jews

4 min read
08 May, 2024

The German government and establishment are stepping up the repression of pro-Palestine Jews including Israelis, but it's all about anti-Arab/Muslim racism by proxy, says Udi Raz, a Jewish activist who spoke to The New Arab in Berlin.

“Germany is very much engaged in an attempt to self-define itself through the exclusion of other minorities. In the 30s and 40s, it was the Jews, and now it is Muslims,” explained Raz, adding that Germany is eager to protect Jews but only to the extent that those Jews are also “willing to produce anti-Muslim racism.”

Calling the last seven months a culmination of a decades-long oppression of Palestinians in Germany, Raz believes that this marginalisation of Palestinians also targets the entire Muslim population living in the country. 

Nearly 5 million Muslims are based in Germany. The number of Islamophobic crimes more than doubled last year, according to media reports, seeing a spike due to Israel’s war on Gaza. 

In April, Human Rights Watch stated the German government was falling short of protecting Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims from racism and hate crimes.

Fired, detained, de-banked for the sake of Israel

Raz, a doctoral fellow at the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies and an Israeli Jewish activist living in Berlin, said that since moving to ' liberal and queer-friendly' Germany, before and after October 7, he has consistently witnessed anti-Palestinian stereotypes and discrimination, encouraging him to speak out.

Raz was fired last year from a job as a tour guide at a Berlin Museum for calling Israel’s occupation of the West Bank “apartheid”.

Last month, he was detained by German police during the forced closure of the pro-Palestine activists’ meeting dubbed Palestine Congress.

“The police interrupted our safe space with a lot of brutality and force. It was a place we booked privately. To my understanding, this is a severe violation of constitutional law in Germany, and we are going to court for this,” Raz said.

More recently, police interrupted pro-Palestine protesters and Raz at the encampment set up in support of Gaza next to the Bundestag (German parliament) and a sit-in outside Berlin’s Humboldt University demanding a ceasefire. Police were seen dragging away protesters covered with keffiyehs and banners, and making arrests as students and activists accused Germany of enabling and “funding a genocide”.

As a regular at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Berlin and a board member of the German branch of the Jewish Voice for a just Peace in the Middle East, Raz advocates for Palestinian rights. He says his support for Palestinian self-determination began in Haifa, the mixed Jewish-Arab city in modern-day Israel where he grew up.

“Living with them  [Palestinians] never made me view Palestinians as less than me,” Raz shared with The New Arab, sitting in a café in Berlin, proudly wearing a watermelon-themed kippah, a symbol of the Palestinian resistance.

“But I know through other individuals in the region how Palestinians are dehumanised, seen from a militarised perspective and perceived as a danger,” said Raz, explaining how Palestinians experience a different and discriminatory reality in a city shared by Jews and Arabs.

The discrimination Raz has witnessed inspired him to become politically active, protesting in Israel and visiting the West Bank before he moved to Germany.

The German branch of Jewish Voice for a just Peace in the Middle East, the secular Jewish organisation Raz is member of, had its bank account frozen multiple times by the German authorities. As of March 2024, German bank Berliner Sparkasse requested a list of its members and their addresses. In 2016, the account was frozen only to be reinstated after a legal court process.

“During all this [the struggle with the blockade], we won a peace prize for our activism in Göttingen and the mayor of the city did his best to not make it happen. How the state accuses us of antisemitism with these kinds of steps is just so ridiculous and so painful,” Raz said.

Raz further pointed to what has been a long tradition of intimidation against them, an anti-Zionist Jewish organisation, adding that it is quite indicative of how democracy is collapsing in Germany and Jews who are critical of a right-wing government in Israel are being silenced.

“It is quite interesting and ironic that German politicians refer to the country as a secularist state and yet a secular Jewish organisation in Germany is being marked as a problem. These manifestations of state repression are something we knew for a long time, but since October 7, they are just on another level.” 

Raz emphasised commitment to advocating for Gaza and the West Bank despite facing unprecedented levels of intimidation in Germany.

“For more than seven months into an ongoing genocide in Gaza, so many people are taking to the streets calling for a ceasefire from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,"

"Whenever we perceive Palestinians as potential siblings with whom we can envision a common future with and not as enemies, those in power in Germany try to paint us as antisemites, extremists and Israel-haters,” Raz said.