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“We have to talk about Palestine in the context of anti-racism and anti-colonialism.”

Interview with Elisa Baş about the accusations of antisemitism against her, racism in Germany, and standing in solidarity with Palestine.


To begin, can you please introduce yourself?

I’m Elisa Baş, I’m 22 years old and I’m a climate justice activist. I work primarily with Fridays For Future (FFF) and BIPOC for Future. My perception of climate justice is very influenced by anti-racism, anti-capitalism and anti-colonialism.

Your name has been in the media a lot the last week or so. Why is that?

There were various headlines about me. All of them were negative, such as “climate activist shocks with accusations against Jews.” Essentially, the Bild and other Springer media were trying to present me, as a FFF spokesperson, as ignoring Germany’s history and acting distastefully. The original article by Julian Loevenich appeared first in the Berliner Zeitung, then an hour later in Bild and within a day even spread to the Austrian Exxpress and more.

The reason was that I shared a critique in my Instagram story of Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. This critique was written by someone else, and I shared it in my story as someone else’s words, something which was clearly visible but has been falsely portrayed in every article about me. In a guest commentary for Bild, Schuster wrote “the barbarians are among us” and “something must happen.” The photo accompanying the article showed someone waving a Palestinian flag, so it was clearly referencing Palestine solidarity.

You’ve been a public face in German activism for a while now, are you surprised by these attacks?

I knew that at some point, it would hit me. I’m public, I’ve been a spokesperson for about one and a half years now. I’m a very good target, they can speak about me and use my face in their pictures to underline their narrative about “Islamic antisemitism.” In Germany, the level of islamophobia is incredibly high right now, and is connected to immigration and the ongoing refugee debate. So I was very suitable. But, I didn’t think they would use such bad journalism, with lies and things that are such clear constructions, like claiming I was comparing Josef Schuster to National Socialism. Even the Green Party has put me down, saying that my comments could not be surpassed in viciousness. They don’t know my work, that I speak up against every form of oppression, and have spoken out several times against antisemitism. It was just the perfect time to attack me, and so they looked into my story and tried to scandalize me talking about genocide and anti-racism. 

This character assassination against my person is in fact directed against the entire climate justice movement, and against the movement for the basic rights of Palestinian people. Racism and incitement are being covered up; no one speaks about the use of the term “barbarian” right now, in the media, or in the articles written about me! 

These smear campaigns are common against pro-Palestinian activists in Germany and elsewhere. It’ll often be one newspaper which writes the first article based on weak arguments like this. After that, there’s this avalanche, where there’s just so many articles that it no longer matters what’s actually being written. Preparing for this interview, I looked you up on Google news. It’s just all these horrible headlines, and, the sheer number of them practically proves the point to the reader. And I think that that’s often how these smear campaigns take place, especially against racialized activists. 

So in terms of the attacks, can you break down the accusations against you?

We have to understand that there is a very fertile racist ground for the campaign against me in Germany with the narrative of “imported antisemitism,” or “Islamic antisemitism.” So take a person like me, who wears the hijab and is clearly Muslim, who does climate justice activism and dares to speak about anti-racism and white supremacy. And then I have an opinion on the so-called Israeli-Palestine conflict, which is different from the hegemonic opinion about it, and this also suits the narrative of “Islamic antisemitism.” So I was the perfect target for Bild, which is mostly read by right-wing and centrist people.

It was also claimed that I called for banned demonstrations or rallies, which is a lie. Every demonstration that I promoted was initially authorized by the police and allowed at the time I promoted them. If they were banned it was only several minutes before the rally and I had no way of knowing this at the time I posted. 

My criticism of the racist term “barbarians,” which was used by Schuster, was construed as hostility towards Jews, which is an absurd perpetrator-victim reversal. The term barbarians has been used for centuries to racially dehumanize minorities, including here in Germany. Now it’s happening with Palestinians, and no daily newspaper or person, even if they’re Jewish, should be allowed to do that. 

It was also partially because I used the word “pogrom.” Because Jews were murdered in pogroms during Nazi times, Loevenich claimed I was comparing the president of the Central Council of Jews to National Socialists, or specifically, putting him “in the vicinity of National Socialists.” 

To be clear, a pogram is preceded by a pogrom mood or atmosphere. The comment I shared on Instagram spoke about a pogrom atmosphere that can be fueled, and thus could develop into a pogrom. Pogroms also have a historical connection to antisemitism, of course, but a pogrom mood is not limited to National Socialism. The term is much older and is still used today in a wide variety of contexts. Even the Duden dictionary, and the Federal Agency for Civic Education see pogroms as violent actions and riots against ethnic, national, religious minorities or political groups. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz described the settler attack on the Palestinian village of Huwara as a pogrom, for example. In the German context, even the pro-Israeli Anne Frank Educational Centre refers to the racist attacks of Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen on migrants as pogroms. So it is perfectly possible that pogroms will take place again in Germany.

It is clear what is being attempted with this reinterpretation of the term. They want to blur the racism and silence the critical voices. A whole identity is scandalized, national symbols are banned, children are no longer allowed to wear their identity to school, like traditional Palestinian tatreez clothing. When everything Palestinian is equated with antisemitism, Palestinians are placed under general suspicion, this is incitement to pogroms. The consequences of this can be seen in Germany’s wide attacks on Palestinian identity, the police violence and the restriction of basic democratic rights of freedom of expression and assembly. I cannot and will not remain silent in the face of such an injustice. Raising my voice to end the occupation is not disturbing the public peace, it is maintaining it.

What would very clearly disturb the public’s peace would be collective attacks on Jewish people, communities and public institutions, for the actions of the Israeli state. This is clearly antisemitic, through the conflation of the Jewish people with the state of Israel. The throwing of molotov cocktails at synagogues or the drawing of Stars of David on homes is violence against Jewish life and must be rejected and condemned. Of course, justice in Gaza will not come when Jewish people are attacked, it will come with an end to the occupation.

There’s also your use of the term genocide, which has been criticized. 

The term genocide is used by leading scholars to describe the systematic siege and area bombardment of Gaza. The Israeli Holocaust and genocide scholar Raz Segal called it textbook genocide, because the genocide of Gaza was openly announced by Israeli army mouthpieces. Palestinian people were described as animals who would be and have been cut off from water, food, electricity and fuel.

Even before the current war in Gaza, the UN declared Gaza was not fit to survive. 97% of the water was contaminated. The daily import of calories was limited and half of the children show no will to live. Over 90% of the children suffer from PTSD. This is clearly not a war against Hamas, but a war against all civilians in Gaza. We cannot remain silent when 2.3 million people are collectively condemned to genocide. And speaking the truth about it is a human duty in the face of such crimes.

Let’s move on to the wider context, what role does racism play here in Germany, for you as an anti-colonial activist?

There was a study in 2022 about racism in Germany, which showed that racist knowledge and ideas are deeply rooted in this society. 49% of respondents even believed that biological human races exist. Half of the people in Germany! Even though this has long been scientifically disproven, and this lack of scientific grounds is taught in schools. There’s also a strong increase in support for right-wing extremist positions, which is now at 6.3% compared to the previous year’s results which were just under 2% or 3%. This right-wing extremist self-image is now quite confidently presented in public. This is happening as the basics of life, like having shelter or something to eat, are becoming harder to guarantee. And around a third of those surveyed also believe that refugees only come to Germany to exploit the social system, which is fueled by almost all of the political parties. Olaf Scholtz has even recently announced in Der Spiegel that Germany must finally deport on a grand scale those who have no right to stay in Germany. 

Talking about what it has to do with me as an anti-colonial activist, I think it’s important to speak about things as they are. It doesn’t help to cover things up, like the climate justice movement has done for a long time, instead of acknowledging that it is impossible to combat the climate crisis within this capitalist system of oppression. So as a climate justice movement, we recognize that the climate crisis has its origins in capitalist colonial structures. It would then be a perversion of the climate justice struggle itself, not to stand in solidarity with the colonized Palestinians. Within FFF International though, the German chapter has a special role. FFF Germany has a history of refusing to show Palestinian solidarity, despite international pressure from other FFF groups. While Greta Thunberg and other groups have in recent days reached the logical conclusion of solidarity with the Palestinians, this risks damaging the prestigious reputation which FFF Germany has in this country, a reputation they are not willing to risk. 

You’ve mentioned how pogrom is a historical term, and the striking counterexample of Raz Segal’s use of the word genocide. But a major difference is that he’s in the US, and you’re in Germany. Even I find it difficult to engage these debates in Germany in conversations, nevermind newspaper headlines. I often even find myself having to almost tokenize the fact that I’m Jewish and am a descendent of people who died in Auschwitz, to be able to even put my position forward. How do you see Germany’s memory culture from your perspective?

Germany’s remembrance culture is simply focused on having good ties with Israel. Seeing Israel as a Jewish collective which must be saved, through protecting Israel the remembrance culture of Germany is effective. They measure the outcome, the success of the remembrance, by considering Germany’s diplomatic ties and support for the Israeli state and everything it does. And it is also indifferent which Israeli government is there, whether they are fascists or not. It’s really ironic, because we try to have remembrance around our fascist history, so we support fascists today because we remember and condemn our history of fascism. I don’t know what else I can say to such a weird approach to remembrance. It also only remembers one aspect of the genocide, while ignoring people from the LGBTQ+ community, Roma and Sinti people, and other marginalized people who died. 

I would add, there’s a very obvious tokenization of not just Jews, but even Israel as a representative of Jews. This tokenization of the Israeli state leads to what you pointed out about the contradictions of Germany’s support for fascism in Israel. And I think there’s so many people, including both of us, who get erased in this narrative.

You’re totally right and I want to say that “Never Again” is right now legitimating a genocide against the Palestinians. This is a very narrow-sighted view on remembrance culture. Because as you said, the remembrance culture is limited to Israel, including through the German Staatsräson. This allows them to feel like they’re purged of their guilt, and have purified and reformed a new idea of Germany. This capitalist and imperial form will not be able to have a radical shift in its ties with Israel, when it defines the memory culture as it currently does. It also requires a radical shift in society to expand to all people, and to understand that it should be about Jewish people and other groups that were affected, rather than a state. But pointing to the state of Israel is easier for Germany than actually dealing with antisemitism, work which is not actually happening. 

If it was happening then the Corona demonstors would not have been allowed to wear the Star of David trivializing and downplaying the Holocaust. But German media couldn’t have such a racist debate as is currently happening, because these were white Germans, and so there was no debate about deporting them. There was no racists grounds for these criticisms to flourish on. Likewise with the clearly antisemitic conspiracy theories about the planned nature of the COVID pandemic, but again there was no scandal. It has become obvious that it’s not about antisemitism itself. Remember that the police said they couldn’t ban the Corona protestors, because they could not anticipate that people would commit crimes, since we are in a democratic state. They said they had to let things happen, and then they could ban. And right now, I mean we’re both laughing because we know that there’s no similar explanation right now, but instead on solely racist grounds pro-Palestinian demonstrations are repeatedly banned before they even start.

I feel like all these points you’re raising, whether we’re talking about false antisemitism accusations, or supposed “Islamic antisemitism,” calling people “barbarians,” or these Corona protestors with the Stars of David, there’s a clear line running through all of these. This is the refusal to consider either colonized perspectives, or really anything outside of the German narrative. 

To add to that, Germany consistently disregards the historical responsibility it bears for the overall situation in Israel and Palestine. Not only in Israel and towards the Jewish people, but also how the Holocaust was used to justify the dispossession and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people for decades, as Israeli historian and socialist activist Ilan Pappé has pointed out. Germany categorically disregards this and refuses to take historical responsibility towards the Palestinian people, due to the role the Holocaust had in causing the Nakba, as Jewish people were fleeing for safety.

One last point I’d like to touch on after this last week. We’ve seen racist comments being put forward so openly, and comments such as your twisted so easily. From a strategic perspective, how do you think we on the left can do a better job communicating directly to people and getting our anti-racist message across?

I think it’s very important to make clear that we also have a colonial past in Germany, and we also used terms such as barbaric to legitimize colonization, just like Great Britain and France. The current discourse is very much based on racist and colonial grounds, even if people think colonialism is something of the past. About Palestine, I think we have to push forward with anti-racist and humanitarian groups who need to take responsibility for what is happening. Clearly this would be difficult in the German context, where we’ve seen the apartheid reports about Israel being delayed in translation and so on. So I think right now is the time to speak into their response and responsibility. For example, Amnesty is now taking baby steps towards speaking about the repression of democratic rights. So maybe this is a first step in the right direction, although I know that the bar is very low. But we have to talk about Palestine in the context of anti-racism and anti-colonialism, and make clear that being pro-Palestinian is a logical consequence of these struggles. Central personalities and ideas that gained prominence in Germany during the course of the racism debates through the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, could also act as catalysts for linking the anti-racist struggle and the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.

Is Germany a Democracy?

Suppression of Palestinian advocacy in Germany is a portent of the country’s illiberal future.


On October 14th, at 2:45, I was walking toward Frankfurt’s Alter Oper for a demonstration against the war on Gaza that has now claimed the lives of 5,000 Palestinians, 2,000 of them children.

Then at 2:50 I received a message from the organizers: “demonstration banned by Frankfurt, they are blocking off Alter Oper.”

I was already there, so I decided to walk towards a crowd gathering a few minutes away at Hauptwache. Different groups of of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered on opposite sides of the street, holding signs that say “end the war,” and “free Palestine.” There were hundreds there, except the groups couldn’t unite because of a wall of police officers separating them.

A water cannon was pointed directly at me and a helicopter flew overhead. Soon enough I witnessed and documented the detainment of over 300 that were in attendance. Young men and women filled with grief and anger, not understanding what they did wrong to be forcefully dragged by police in riot gear one by one.

A “Solidarity with Israel” rally, however, was allowed to take place at the same time and day, not too far from Hauptwache.

I personally helped organize a vigil in Heidelberg after the massacre that killed over 300 Palestinians in Al Ahli hospital, aiming to greive and ask for an end to this war. That too was banned.

As my whole extended family is currently in Gaza facing consistent bombardment funded by US and German taxes, I am living here and wondering, why can’t we grieve for our dead? Why is Germany so terrified of us demanding a better life for them?

Protest after protest has been banned and subjected to ample amounts of police violence over the course of these two weeks. Video footage coming out of Berlin shows evidence of racial profiling and consistent harassment on the corners of Neukölln and Kreuzburg – home to thousands of Palestinian refugees who came to Germany after the Lebanese Civil War.

In Germany, Palestinians are completely and utterly dehumanized, despite being home to the largest Palestinian diaspora outside of the Middle East and South America. We are not allowed to demonstrate, the media refuses to do its due diligence and bring the Palestinian perspective, and politicians conflate all of us with antisemitic terrorists unworthy of sympathy.

Today, Germany announced that it is opposing calls in the EU for a humanitarian ceasefire for the Gaza Strip.  It can be seen that massive rocket attacks continue to be carried out on Israel.

“There will only be peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians if terrorism is fought,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Except what Baerbock refuses to consider for a moment, is that half of the population in Gaza is under the age of 18, and the terrorism that she believes Israel is fighting against, is in fact an act of collective punishment inflicted on civilians – an internationally recognized war crime.

Israel  has targeted ambulances and paramedics, residential buildings that have wiped out over 50 complete families, UN workers, journalists, and places of worship such as the third oldest church in the world that was made as a safe haven for those seeking refuge from the bombings.

Even if Israel was only targeting Hamas bases, (although international experts have already proven this not to be the case) does this justify the murder of 5,000 people? Are German sensibilities that blind to the absolute barbarity that is taking place in Gaza that it is too difficult to demand the absolute bare minimum: a humanitarian ceasefire?

The only justification for valuing innocent Israeli lives more than those of the Palestinians is simple; it is racism.

CDU leader, Freidrich Merz piled onto the complete dehumanization of the people of Gaza:

If there are refugees from Gaza , then these are initially an issue for the neighboring countries. Germany cannot absorb any more refugees . We have enough anti-Semitic young men in the country.

Imagine that? Thousands of innocent men, women and children facing extreme violence and barbaric killings  that have nothing to do with what took place on October 7th,  are not even seen as human enough for Merz to consider their refuge. Maybe it is because they are not white Ukrainians.

Unconditional solidarity with Israel, and categorizing their national security as Germany’s “Reason of State”, has created a failed opportunity for a real and fair debate to take place amongst the German public. Instead, political pundits and the media are talking amongst themselves regurgitating Israeli talking points of “Israel related antisemitism” as the reason for people’s frustration towards this war, failing to see a real and cruel injustice taking place right before their eyes.

What is a democracy if we cannot question our country’s foreign policy positions? Isn’t that the absolute essence of what a democracy is even about?

This dehumanization, however, did not start only in the last two weeks. Unconditional solidarity for Israel has led to an increasingly shrinking space for Palestine advocacy where speech is immediately labeled as antisemitic without conversation, without question, and without exception. Following the passage of the anti-BDS resolution in the German parliament in 2019, federal institutions began deeming all actions that support the BDS  movement as an example of hatred against Jewish people. This has allowed universities, state governments, and public institutions to deny Palestinians the right to free speech and assembly.

Throughout Germany, pro-Palestinian professors are being shunned from academic spaces, journalists are fired for declaring solidarity with Palestinians on social media, and speaking out on Palestine as a student can lead to encounters with the police.

It is not only Palestinians that face the brunt of state repression. There are thousands of Jewish Israelis living in Germany that have expressed criticisms of Israel and want an end to this war, and who feel isolated in the growing presence of what can only be described as an act of authoritarianism.

As the Jewish Israeli artist Yuval Carasso told me recently:

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.

While the rest of the world is having these tough conversations, in Germany, Palestinians are routinely subjected to persecution and are criminalized for wanting to express their opinions. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, while underlining his support for Israel, stated in a recent interview that Germany has to “deport people more often and faster.”

This rhetoric is not only racist, but it is scary. It means that disagreements in foreign policy, and not wanting Israel to commit mass atrocities, can lead to the exile of people who have nowhere else to go. Forcing silence leads to the outcasting of entire communities impacted by this violence, driving a wedge between migrants and Germans even further.

Antisemitism and antisemitic acts are an abhorrent phenomenon that should not be undermined. The few instances of antisemitism on Berlin’s streets should be addressed throughout all Palestinian organizing groups and in fact, they are and are condemned constantly. But when there is no oppurtunity for trained organizers, activists, professors and journalists to even express that the liberation of Palestinian does not in any way mean the destruction of Jewish people – it births a vacuum that only opens the door to ignorance, frustration, and hate.

This article was published in German on the neues deutschland website. The first few paragraphs were edited out of the German version, but are included in this English text which first appeared on Hebh Jamal’s blog. Reproduced with permission.

Photo Gallery: Demonstrations in Berlin for Gaza, 28 October 2023

2pm Washingtonplatz and 4pm through Kreuzberg


Photos by: Christine Buchholz, Phil Butland, Karim Ghaleb, Erika Mourgues, Basma Mostafa, Annie Musgrove, Rosemarie Nünning, Tau Pibernat, Rachel Shapiro, Arslan Yilmaz

Because of the current level of repression in Berlin against Palestinians and their supporters, most faces have been pixellated.


Film Review – “Gaza Calling”

A film made 10 years ago can help us understand why people in Gaza feel so desperate today

Review by Phil Butland

Director: Nahed Awwad (Palestine, Switzerland, UAE). Year of Release: 2012

Gaza beach. A mother and her young daughter are playing in the sand. Safa, the mother draws a map of Palestine with a stick. She says: “Sama, look! We are here, in Gaza.” Pointing to another part of the map, she says: “And here’s the West Bank. Where is Samer?” Answering herself, she goes on: “In the West Bank. Samer’s in Ramallah. They closed the crossings so we can’t see him.”

Cut to: a graduation ceremony. One of the participants clutches his mortar board in one hand, and his old-style mobile phone in the other. A caption says: “Samer, Safa’s son, RAMALLAH”. Samer chats with his mother, excited that his family saw the ceremony. Later, Samer is interviewed in a car, where he says: “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen. My family relies on me so it would be a big disappointment if I returned now to Gaza.”

“Gaza Calling” is a story of two mothers and their sons. When Samer sneaked off to the West Bank with an 18 hour visiting pass, of course Safa was proud that her son could study film. And yet she knew that because his papers were from Gaza, it would be hard for him to return. When the film catches up with Samer and Safa six years on, Samer is working for a news agency in Ramallah. He has still only seen his young sister Sama through skype calls.

Meanwhile, another mother – Hekmat – is negotiating with the authorities and human rights organisations about the possibilities of visiting her son Mustafa. Mustafa visited his father in Gaza in June 2006. Four days later, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian fighters. Israel retaliated by blockading Gaza, making it impossible for people like Mustafa to return to their families. Hekmat tried to meet him in a different country, but Israel refused her any visa application.

Much of the film consists of Hekmat sitting with a phone in her hand, listening to a sympathetic voice telling her that they can do nothing to help her. Palestinians in Gaza, and the West Bank for that matter, are limited in what they can do by what is allowed by the Israeli government. The Palestinian Authority (PA), which was set up after the Oslo Accords to nominally govern the Occupied Palestine Territories is shown to have no authority.

In one scene, Hekmat asks what is the point of the many NGOs that have offices in Ramallah? Although it must be said, my experience is that these offices are rarely in the poor part of town. The NGO’s occasionally protest against Israeli human rights abuses, Hekmat says, but what are they able to do practically for people like her? It is as if the NGOs are mainly there to try to convince people in the West that “help” is being offered to Palestinians while nothing really changes.

Young men aged between 16-35 are particularly limited in their movements, as Israel considers them to be a security risk. The only exceptions to the general rule to prevent them visiting the West Bank require close family members to be dying or seriously ill. Even then, after the funeral, or after their loved one recovers, visitors must return immediately. Gazans living in the West Bank without the right papers are treated as criminals.

A Gazan ID card confirms second-class status – actually third-class, as people from the West Bank are hardly ‘privileged’. This is not limited to the poor. We see a meeting in which a former manager of the Hilton hotel in the UK came to Palestine to take on a new job at the Mövenpick Hotel. As soon as his Swiss employers found out that his ID card was from Gaza, they took away his job.

As the film progresses, we return to Samer. He is confronted with a crucial dilemma. He wants to go abroad to pursue his studies. He wants to provide for his family, who live on a small piece of land which has been devastated by sanctions, blockade and decades of Israeli air attacks. And yet he misses his family. Referring to the continued bombing he says: “Gaza is where they will die and I want to be with them when they do”.

Samer also loves and misses Gaza. When his family send him photos from the beach, he says they are mocking him (people in the West Bank are denied any access to the sea). At one point, he says “We have a beautiful country”. Ironically, this is while he is being transported through Israel passing road signs which have been written in Hebrew. The country may be beautiful, but the land remains stolen.

This evening’s screening was organised at very short notice with very little advertising. Nonetheless it was standing room only with 100 people packing a room with 30 seats. A Q&A afterwards with director Nahed Awwad was very subdued. It was as if it was trivial to talk about the everyday indignities suffered by the people of Gaza 10 years ago – as compared to the current Israeli deliberate bombing of hospitals and expelling half of the country from their homes.

But there is a causal link between the two. Previously there was an indifference of Western governments to the daily humiliation of the people of Gaza, and the ineffectiveness of NGOs. It is this that legitimised Israel’s more outrageous attacks being carryied out now. It was not surprising that today’s audience contained very few white Germans. In Berlin, where there has been a blanket ban on demonstrations for Palestine, many people are looking away.

The answer is not fewer screenings of films like this, but more. And not just to an audience which is primarily dressed in kuffiyahs. It is great that the Arab Film Festival Berlin put this on as an extra event. But these pictures and stories must also be seen by a Western audience. If you’re able to organise a screening, I’m sure you will get Nahed’s full support. As bombs continue to rain down on Gaza, it’s the least you can do.

This review first appeared on the cinephil Berliner film blog

If you are interested in organising a screening of Gaza Calling, please contact us at, and we will pass on your message to Nahed

Stop the killing in Gaza! End the occupation!

Statement by the Initiative Sozalismus von unten (“Socialism from Below”)


The Middle East is on fire. The current escalation began with the Hamas attack on Israel on October 6, where many civilians were killed in the commando raid and over 200 were taken hostage. The raid and the subsequent reaction of the Israeli government mark a turning point in the situation.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army is carrying out a collective punishment of the population in response to the Hamas attacks. Every day, hundreds of men, women, and children die from bombs, the collapse of the health system brought about by the violence, and the lack of electricity and food supplies. “We are fighting human animals and will treat them accordingly,” commented Israeli Defense Minister Joaw Galant on the complete blockade of water, food, electricity, and fuel to the more than two million people in the besieged area.

The displacement of over a million people from northern Gaza, in addition to the ongoing attacks on the West Bank, threatens the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

The German coalition government has issued a carte blanche to the Israeli government for its retaliatory actions, supplying it with weapons in support of these actions.

How could this have happened and how can the killing be stopped?

On October 6, the armed wing of Hamas and various other armed Palestinian organizations launched a combat operation, breaching the six-meter high and ten-meter deep barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip, known as the world’s largest “open-air prison,” entering Israel with hundreds of fighters. For the first time in decades, Israel’s army and intelligence services were caught off guard. It was not until days later that the Israeli army was able to recapture its military bases.

For Palestinians around the world – in the occupied territories, refugee camps and in exile – the breakout was a sign of resistance against the occupation after more than 16 years of imprisonment and siege in Gaza.

The people of Gaza knew that this event would result in a massive counterattack. However, the enormous support that ensued from Palestinians must be contextualized against the backdrop of the intolerable daily living conditions that they have been subject to under the occupation for almost two decades. 97% of drinking water is unfit for consumption. Electricity is available for only a few hours a day. Medical supplies and food are rationed. Unemployment is consistently above 50%. All of this is accompanied by daily attacks and arial bombardments by the Israeli army, leading to the ongoing destruction of Gaza’s vital infrastructure. Since 2020, the UN has deemed Gaza an unviable living environment due to years of Israeli blockade and isolation. Under these deadly conditions, there can be no hope for improvement.

As the Israeli military attempts to distract domestic attention from the fallibility of its “security services,” the U.S. has responded by immediately stationing two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean.

Israel’s positioning in U.S. foreign policy arises from the fact that the region’s vast oil resources can be controlled by U.S. policy only as long as the states in question are ruled by regimes dependent on the United States. History has repeatedly shown that these regimes are threatened by revolutions, as seen as recently as 2011 in the “Arab Spring.” 

Israel, on the other hand, has always remained a stable ally, due to the special circumstances surrounding the state’s origins. Israel was founded by European settlers who had only recently escaped antisemitic persecution in Europe, driven by the conviction that as Jews, a Jewish state was the only possible means for them to live safely and securely in the future. This is the basic maxim of Zionism, the Jewish national movement, summarized by the slogan: “A land without a people for a people without a land.”

In order for the state to be “Jewish,” the Zionist movement dictated that it had to consist exclusively, or at least primarily, of Jews. Long before the founding of the Israeli state, the movement thus attempted to remove the non-Jewish population from every piece of land they settled. With the establishment of the State of Israel, this policy escalated into the expulsion of much of the Palestinian population from the area, referred to by Palestinians as “the Nakba” (“catastrophe”). 

From its founding until today and irrespective of the ruling government in power, the state of Israel has stood in irreconcilable opposition to the Palestinians, whom they expelled from their land and continue to displace on a daily basis. Through this positioning, Israel stands, by default, in opposition to every anti-colonial or national liberation movement in the region, and represents the perfect ally for maintaining and strengthening imperialist rule in the Middle East.

German foreign policy is also guided by the motivation to maintain the region’s dominant imperialist structure, rather than by so-called “moral values.” This was the driver of Germany’s close security cooperation with the Egyptian dictatorship until its fall in 2011, and with the new dictatorship after its coup two years later. It is why German arms manufacturers are allowed to supply entire factories to Saudi Arabia. And it is why solidarity with Israel is at the heart of German national policy (“Staatsraison” or “raison d’état”).

Widespread protests against the bombing and expulsion of the Palestinians are indiscriminately treated in the media as antisemitism.

Many people in Germany remember the crimes of the Nazis with disgust, particularly with regards to the Holocaust. In this spirit, we stand firmly against attacks on Jewish institutions and antisemitism.

However, this revulsion has been used for decades to discredit anyone who speaks out against the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state by labeling them as “antisemitic.” This, in turn, allows the federal government and its allies in the media to perpetuate the discrimination against Palestinians. Displaying Palestinian symbols is banned. Demonstrations, vigils and in some cases, the wearing of Palestinian scarves, are prohibited. Freedom of speech is restricted. The most marginalized and oppressed people in Germany – refugees primarily from regions where experiences with colonialism have engendered a solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement – are thus further disenfranchised. 

As a by-product of these dynamics and policies, the political right often accuse left wing activists of antisemitism and “forgetting the past,” as exemplified by the personal attacks on federal press spokesperson of Fridays for Future, Elisa Baş, by BILD and other Springer media. Activists must contend with the very real fear that speaking on the Middle East conflict will provoke a defamation campaign against them.

The only means of contesting and refuting this framework is by stating clearly and unequivocally that the state of Israel does not speak for or represent all Jewish people. This is exhibited by widespread protests by Jewish activists around the world. In Germany, Jewish activists from the organization “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” have been arrested on numerous occasions at demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians.

The equation of the State of Israel with the Jewish people, a narrative pushed by both the Israeli and German governments, deliberately and purposefully blurs the true conflict.

Colonialism, racism, anti-Semitism, displacement and war are all elements of a system of exploitation and oppression that exists everywhere.

Every additional death in the region is one death too many. And every fatality is a direct and indirect result of the dynamics of the occupation and settlement policies of the Israeli state, and violent reactions to this oppression. Liberation from occupation and oppression can only be achieved through grassroots resistance from the ground up, alongside the people of the Middle East and against their respective rulers.

  • End the occupation and the war on Gaza!
  • Free Palestine!
  • Stop the criminalization of Palestine solidarity!

EVENT: How can we build solidarity with Palestinians?

with Ramsis Kilani and Elisa Baş

7 November, 7 pm 

Am Flutgraben 3, 12435 Berlin (behind Festsaal Kreuzberg)

Meeting in German with translation into English. Zoom details to follow

This article first appeared in German. Translation: Rachael Shapiro. Reproduced with permission