How Germany sacrificed its democracy for the sake of Israel

How Germany sacrificed its democracy for the sake of Israel
As it cracks down on Palestine solidarity, the German security state now resembles that of a Cosa Nostra crime family rather than a democracy, says Timo Farooq
5 min read
30 Apr, 2024
German police arrests a protester during a demonstration to show support to the Palestinians and protest against Germany's arms shipment to Israel on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Berlin. [Getty] ​

On Friday, the German police brutally cleared a pro-Palestinian protest camp outside the Reichstag, the Chancellery building in Berlin that was set up in early April. 

The Occupy Against Occupation protesters had been at the building, hosting readings, discussions, and workshops. These activities have angered Berlin’s pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian authorities.

The crackdown followed almost daily incidents of harassment against activists at the Palestine solidarity protest camp near the Bundestag, the German parliament.

Here and there, activists were banned from using any language other than German and English so that police can better monitor them. 

This included banning Arabic prayers during Ramadan, Jewish comrades reading Hebrew texts, and even activities by Berlin’s Irish community.

Betätigungsverbot: The draconian travel bans reserved for ISIS

A couple of weeks earlier, German police violently shut down the Palestine Congress in Berlin and slapped travel bans on the likes of Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

These scary bans issued by the Interior Ministry, called Betätigungsverbot, are a rare last resort typically reserved for Islamic State operatives.

Commenting on the ban, Alexander Gorski, a member of the Palestine Congress’s legal team, criticised the federal police’s actions as “a new level of repression which until recently was unthinkable.”

Gorski went on to explain how the German government’s pro-Zionist raison d’état has increasingly weakened basic democratic freedoms enshrined in the German constitution, particularly the freedom of assembly.

Germany's dark turn into authoritarianism with the severe state repression against Palestinian solidarity in Germany is not news to pro-Palestine activists; but since October 7, the world has started to notice something is rotten in the state of Germany. 

The solidarity group Irish Bloc Berlin have sent an open letter to Ireland’s ambassador to Germany, which describes how “the Berlin police imposed an ad-hoc and constitutional ban on the use of the Irish language, and the assembly of Irish people in groups of two or more.”

In the letter, there is a strong demand to raise the ban with the Berlin Senate and the city’s police commissioner.

Social media users have also been charged with “using anti-constitutional and terrorist symbols,” citing the slogan “From RISA to the Spree, Palestine will be Free.”

This substitute chant to Berlin’s banned “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” has offered no protection from persecution by the capital’s increasingly Orwellian state apparatus.

At an urgent press conference held the day after police forcefully intervened at the Palestine Congress, Wieland Hoban, chair of Jüdische Stimme, exposed the level of state intimidation against conference participants, comparing it to the tactics of “organised crime.”

“Are these the methods of the mafia or methods of democracy?” he asked the assembled press.

This comparison to organised crime comes from what happened at the Palestine Congress. Videos online show police entering the venue’s control room to cut the power during a speech by Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta. Even though organisers tried to give them access, the police still disrupted the event. This type of behaviour is typical of both the police and the mob, who often damage property to "send a message."

Considering these events, the hierarchical structure of the German security state resembles that of a Cosa Nostra crime family, with a boss and underboss at the top, caporegimes in the middle, and foot soldiers at the bottom.

Media complicity

One of journalism’s main responsibilities is to hold those in power accountable. However, In Germany, mainstream media has consistently aligned with the government in providing cover for Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Leading up to the Palestine Congress, Berlin’s major news outlets spent significant time and effort in discrediting the event and its participants. Der Tagesspiegel labelled it a “congress of terrorism apologists” attended by “Israel haters,” while taz, once known for its people-centric journalism, echoed state propaganda and displayed troubling signs of anti-Palestinian bias by portraying individual speakers and organisers as sympathisers of terrorism and antisemitism.

Media attacks against the Occupy Against Occupation camp have been even more vicious, showing how anti-Palestinian racism has brought together news outlets with different political views to support Israel’s public relations. The right-wing tabloid Bild, known for its conspiracy theories, has mocked the camp as a gathering of “right-wing mystics and pink-haired Palestine romanticists,” labelling them as “friends of Hamas” and “followers of Odin.” Meanwhile, Der Tagesspiegel has matched this racist reporting by accusing protesters of inciting murder and promoting terrorist acts.

The collaboration between the state and media in Germany is evident, with police secretly allowing non-accredited members of anti-Palestinian news organisations into spaces like the Palestine Congress. This reality undermines the Fourth Estate’s role as an independent watchdog against government abuses of power.

More than six months have passed since Israel decided to start a brutal war in Gaza. Germany has supported Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians, making it one of its most loyal backers in continental Europe. Despite widespread criticism from around the world, and facing complicity in genocide case at the ICJ, Germany continues to back the wrong side of history, even if it means heading towards authoritarianism at home.

Sacrificing the freedoms of its citizens for the sake of protecting Israel seems a price Germany, like the United States, is willing to pay.

Timo Al-Farooq is a freelance journalist based in Berlin, Germany.

Follow him on Instagram: @talrooq

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.