'We Jews have simply been arrested; Palestinians 'have been crushed': Protesters in Germany


German-Israeli activist Iris Heifets was the primary to be arrested in Berlin final October – simply weeks after the beginning of Israel's struggle on Gaza – for holding an indication that learn, “As a Jew and an Israeli, Cease the Genocide in Gaza”.

On the time, police advised Heftes, a 56-year-old psychoanalyst who’s a member of the anti-Semitic activist group Jewish Voice for Peace, that it was calling for a whole ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

She was launched shortly afterwards, however she says: “I didn't suppose I'd be detained for this – I used to be naive that it occurred.”

He was arrested a second time on November 10 for “inciting racial hatred” whereas holding the identical signal – his cost was just lately dropped. His third arrest was for holding an indication warning that “Zionism kills”. Once more, he was quickly launched however, this time, his insignia was confiscated.

Hefets, she says, has filed a grievance with the police to get her signature again and intends to put it within the “Museum of Palestinian Liberation” sooner or later.

He believes that, no less than for the latter two arrests, the choice to detain them was made on the recommendation of a brand new Particular Police Activity Pressure, which is “accessible to all police forces in relation to the Center East battle.” is the purpose of contact”, a Berlin police spokesperson confirmed to Al Jazeera. The duty drive was established on October 30 final 12 months – shortly after Israel's struggle on Gaza started.

This “Besondere Aufbauorganisation” (BAO) process drive, which is a part of the Landeskriminalamt (LKA) – the police intelligence middle – displays “leftist and overseas ideologies”, together with communist teams and pro-Palestinian teams, the police, and the police. The spokesperson confirmed. It points steering and directions to police forces as to what phrases and phrases utilized by activists could also be thought of unlawful. For instance, a Berlin police spokesperson advised Al Jazeera that, in Berlin, utilizing the phrase “from the river to the ocean” is presently thought of a criminal offense.

A Berlin police spokesman stated, “…the felony classification of slogans is made in shut session with the Berlin public prosecutor's workplace.”

Freedom of expression is beneath assault in Germany

Palestinian protesters look like bearing the brunt of the police crackdown on protests in Germany – “We Jews are simply being arrested, Palestinians are being crushed,” says Heifetz. An instance of this was the brutal arrest of a hijab-wearing protester at a sit-in at Berlin Central Station final weekend, which was captured on video and posted on social media channels.

However Hefets believes his group of Jewish activists can be being particularly focused within the demonstrations due to their Jewish id.

Final week, Jewish Voice's checking account was frozen for “regulatory causes” forward of the Palaestina Kongres (Palestine Congress) in mid-April, in line with the state-owned Berliner Sparkasse Financial institution. The group's account has beforehand been frozen in 2019 resulting from its assist of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion.

“They (Jewish protesters) get in the way in which of the narrative of Jews being protected by the Germans in opposition to Muslims – however if you see the Jews marching, you see that's not wanted.”

Heifetz's case was one of many explanation why Germany's rating was “narrowed” within the Civicus Monitor, an annual rating that measures civil freedom to protest.

“Germany's ranking downgrade ought to be a wake-up name for the nation and the continent to vary path,” stated Tara Petrovic, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Civicus Monitor. However there have been many different incidents of heavy-handed policing – or, as critics cost, repression.

Earlier this month, Berlin police raided the condominium of a 41-year-old lady for writing “from river to sea” 4 instances on social media. Police described it as “use of anti-constitutional symbols”, the identical regulation that bans displaying the swastika, a logo of the Nazis.

But it surely was a very evident instance of Germany's heavy-handed policing – or, critics cost, repression of pro-Palestinian speech.

The validity of the phrase “from river to sea” has been interpreted in another way within the federal states of Germany. A court docket within the central state of Hesse dominated in late March {that a} program referred to as “From the river to the ocean, Palestine shall be free for all” may go forward on the grounds that the phrase may have a number of totally different meanings. .

Nevertheless, in mid-November, the phrase was banned by the Federal Inside Ministry, which thought of it a name to destroy Israel and stated it ought to be thought of a slogan of Hamas, which is formally designated a terrorist group in Germany. Label is given.

In November, the phrase was banned in Bavaria, the place authorities prosecutors stated they thought of the phrase supportive of Hamas and ought to be topic to the identical regulation that bans displaying Nazi swastikas.

germany protest
A demonstrator gestures throughout a pro-Palestine demonstration amid the continued struggle on Gaza in Berlin, Germany on December 2, 2023 (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

'Very harmful restrictions on expression'

The German capital Berlin, residence to the most important Palestinian group in Europe (estimated at 300,000), has been a specific focus of clashes between protesters and police.

Prosecutors have filed 2,140 potential felony instances and launched greater than 380 investigations between October 7, 2023, and mid-February 2024.

In line with Alexander Gorsky, a Berlin-based migration and felony lawyer, the latest arrests quantity to an “virtually unprecedented” crackdown on freedom of expression since October 7. He warned that legal guidelines that have been initially designed to take care of hate speech in Germany have been now quickly transferring towards “imposing very harmful restrictions on expression that might set a precedent that might stifle expression on this nation.” may critically restrict freedom”.

In a single case in December, seven residential and business properties have been raided by 170 cops, after the feminist collective Zora posted a press release on Instagram calling on “all revolutionaries for Palestinian independence”, together with the PFLP (Common Entrance for the Liberation of Palestine). Help was expressed for the “fighters”. , which has been categorized as a terrorist group by the European Union since 2002 – as a “progressive energy”. Investigation is ongoing.

Gorski stated, “Germany made the proper determination that there ought to be restrictions on political speech after the Second World Conflict, however a few of the legal guidelines that ought to shield democracy are limiting political dialogue round Palestine and Israel.”

Since October 7, he stated, “absurd” conditions have arisen, comparable to “Jewish activists being detained for accusing Israel of committing genocide”.

german protestor
An instance of one of many protest indicators that led to protesters being arrested in Germany (Courtesy of Maryam Jouma)

One other German-Israeli member of Jewish Voice for Peace within the Center East, a feminine software program developer in her mid-50s who spoke to Al Jazeera on the situation of anonymity, was shot by 5 cops after calling her “one other Jew Was detained for holding a “Yet another for” signal. “Free Palestine” after coming to Berlin for a number of protests in February.

The activist stated police advised her that the mix of the Jewish flag with Palestinian colours might be interpreted as “a name to destroy Israel”.

“Once they first surrounded me – it nonetheless haunts me at evening,” the employee stated, including that the expertise has made him query his determination to come back right here. “The police need to painting it as hate speech, however what we’re saying is freedom.”

Chatham Home fellow and Germanist Hans Kundani, in an essay on 7 October entitled Zionism über Elise (“Zionism above all”), criticized the nation for its enthusiasm for canceling or prosecuting those that criticize Israel or in response to it. Described as “Zionist McCarthyism”.

Regardless of waning public assist for the struggle on Gaza – 69 % of German residents responding to a ballot by broadcaster ZDF stated Israel's navy motion in Gaza in late March was unjustified – lawmakers have continued to assist it. . Kundani wrote, “What has emerged within the final decade will not be a post-Zionist Germany however a hyper-Zionist Germany.”

Regardless of demographic adjustments, he stated, “German elites have doubled their dedication to Israel” partly as a result of “they worry that their understanding of the teachings of the Nazi previous is not broadly shared, They usually need to make it non-negotiable earlier than it's too late.

'Somebody grabbed my face from behind – it was the police'

Palestinian activist Ola Alzayat attended a protest in February and defined that as a result of she was pregnant, she took particular care to keep away from bother.

Instantly, “any individual grabbed my face from behind. I didn't know what was taking place”, she says.

This was the police. In a video of the incident seen by Al Jazeera, a visibly pregnant Alzayat may be seen being pulled by the neck, her keffiyeh being pulled from her neck to her face. She's screaming: “I'm pregnant, please, please!”

Alzayat says that when she tried to maneuver, the officers slapped her within the face, inflicting accidents. He initially accused them of attempting to “stop arrest”, later including an extra cost of hitting cops with the flag, though he claims he didn’t even have any flag.

She says she was taken away by 5 officers and put right into a police automobile, from the place she additionally noticed her husband arrested. Though the cost of resisting arrest was dropped, he says an investigation continues into allegations that he assaulted a police officer.

Stella Maris
Stella Maris being arrested at an anti-colonial protest in Germany (Courtesy of Andres Trujillo)

Artist and activist Stella Maris has been arrested thrice since October 7. At an anti-colonialist demonstration he participated in, he stated police declared that Palestine “has nothing to do with colonialism” and due to this fact banned Palestinian flags.

“They arrested me and tried to throw me to the ground, only for carrying the Palestinian flag,” she says. “They stated it was just like the swastika, an unlawful image that I may by no means present in a public place.” “

At one other demonstration, Meris held an indication that learn, “From river to sea, we demand equality”. After leaving, she went to a close-by metro station, the place she says about 15 cops have been looking for her. He was arrested on costs of inciting racial hatred. “On the time, I didn’t know that this slogan was within the means of being criminalized,” she says.

Leave a Comment