“Against Muslims Today means against Jews again Tomorrow”

Speech by Iris Hefets (Jüdische Stimme) and Nadija Samour (Palästina Spricht) at the anti-war demonstration, 25th November 2023 at Brandenburger Tor



21 years ago, I—literally—forced my family to emigrate from Israel to Berlin. They weren’t happy with the decision, but I didn’t see a future in an increasingly militarised society. Shortly after I was on the streets with hundreds of thousands of others of all colours protesting against the war in Iraq. Here I was, an Israeli, protesting with so many people against the war—I thought surely I had landed in the middle of a dream.

That was Germany in 2003, where nationalism, militarisation, and war were still up for debate. A Germany, where many still knew the meaning of war.

Twenty years later, those who call for a ceasefire are denounced as “Putin-Sympathisers” and “Hamas-supporters.” This is frightening.


Yes—20 years later we live in a Germany in which unconditional solidarity with war crimes and genocide is reason of state, and in which Palestinians and their supporters by default no longer have basic rights.

I want to remind us of what is happening right now on the Gaza Strip. Since it seems as though the German media attempt to deny and distort the immeasurable pain caused, with full support from the EU and USA, by the Israeli war machine. As we stand here, more than 14,800 people have been murdered, half of them children. More than 6,800 still lie beneath the rubble of destroyed homes and schools. 1.7 million are fleeing; that is 77% of the total population of one of the most densely inhabited areas in the world.

That begs the question: to where should they flee? The Gaza Strip has not only been besieged and occupied for decades, but since October 9th has been cut off completely from fuel, power, water, and food. Without the international community taking action to save lives. Nearly 100 journalists have been murdered on the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank by the Israeli army, medical personnel, hospitals and ambulances, schools, refugee camps, mosques and churches—everything is being bombed, destroyed. On top of it all comes the claim that the victims are at fault because they supposedly share common cause with Hamas.

But unconditional solidarity with war crimes and genocide did not begin driving politics in Germany as of October 2023. Normalisation and full support in word and deed of Israeli settlement colonialism, apartheid and military occupation of Palestinian territories have paved the way for Germany to once again be involved as a world political superpower.


Germany had to rehabilitate itself after the last World War. Because Germans could not speak with the direct victims—be it because they were murdered or, were they able to escape, wanted nothing more to do with Germany—a suitable proxy for reparations was found: the state of Israel.

That was a good solution for all involved. Chancellor Adenauer could carry on rebuilding Germany with former Nazis. Prime Minister Ben Gurion, who was responsible for the first ethnic cleansing in Palestine, got urgently needed money. One hand washes the other.

It was primarily civil initiatives that triggered the German public’s confrontation of deep-seated antisemitism and the crimes committed during the war. Noteworthy examples include the Stolpersteine and the “Places of Remembering” in the Bavarian quarter.

German politics discovered a moral goldmine; ‘the Jews’ were chosen as the object of reparations and Israel as their representative. From ‘the Jews’, who were nearly obliterated because they were stand-ins for ‘the bad guys’ became ‘the good guys’. Very convenient.

Today, the some 200,000 Jewish people living in Germany comprise neither a political nor an economic or electoral power. The Central Jewish Council—who, even under Heinz Galinski and Ignaz Bubis cooperated and showed solidarity with other minorities – is financed by the German government and instrumentalised against Muslims.

In the 1930s, many German Jews denied the racism directed at them and were certain that Germans ‘only’ had something against Eastern Jews. They thought that they were safe because they fought for Germany in the first world war.

Against Muslims today means being against Jews again tomorrow.


At the same time Germany has elevated Palestinians to being the enemies of the state, projecting onto them ‘barbaric’ traits such as antisemitism, misogyny, queerphobia, and so on. Painting a portrait of the enemy serves a German nationalism that wants to exist in the world once more. Israel serves to showcase a substitute nationalism. A purified Great Germany, that arms its deadly borders, threatens mass deportation, creates racist exclusions through tightened residency and naturalisation laws, and attempts to hinder every resistance with police violence, protest bans and defamation. A purified Great Germany that measures domestic nationalism in weapons exports, all the while believing, despite its core imperialism, it can maintain a clean image.


Today we lack civil resistance to these alarming totalitarian tendencies found hiding behind the ‘fight for western values’ in the Ukraine, or the ‘fight against antisemitism’.

Much alive, and also to be said, very deadly is Adenauer-Globke-Ben-Gurion-ethnic cleansing,  which merges into Scholz-Habeck-AfD-Netanyahu-genocide in Gaza.

in 2010 I published an article in the “taz” — back then I could still write for the German press. It was called ‘Walking on Tiptoe’. It began like this:

‘What do the two professors Ilan Pappe (Israel), Norman Finkelstein (USA) and the publicist Hajo Meyer (Germany) have in common? All three are Jewish, holocaust survivors or descendants thereof, and vehement critics of Israel’s politics.

‘What do the city of Munich, the Trinity church in Berlin, and the Heinrich Böll and Rosa Luxemburg foundations have in common? They, after granting initial permission, disinvited Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein and denied them the event venues promised to them. Just as the Holy Spirit Church in Frankfurt did to Hajo Meyer a few years prior. And so, the aforementioned institutions gave in to the pressures of pro-Israel circles who denounced Finkelstein, Pappe, and Meyer as ‘Anti-Semites’.

Those were the beginnings of state cleansing – through not the AfD or other brownshirt organisations – but supposed progressive actors. All the while, children and eventually the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, are taught by presumed ‘Jew-friendly’ politicians what antisemitism is.

The Bundestag will gut the constitution by replacing legislation with ‘resolutions’. The anti-BDS resolution, supported nearly without exception from the AfD to the Linke, was an alarming sign. Representatives knew that such content as “law” – had no chance of passing because it transgressed upon the right to freedom of speech embedded in the constitution. The perfidious thing is that legal action cannot be taken against such a resolution because it is not legally binding. A new resolution titled ‘Protect Jewish life in Germany’ now threatens us – a resolution according to which those who criticise Israel, incriminate themselves in so-called ‘anti-semitism in relation to Israel’. They risk deportation or having their citizenship application rejected. The AfD no longer needs to become the ruling party, their xenophobic agenda is already coming to fruition. But Germans shouldn’t consider themselves out of harm’s way, either. Cultural institutions that give criticism of Israel a platform, for example, risk losing future financing. By contrast, it seems almost harmless that our organisation, ‘Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East’ (JVP), had its BFS bank account closed in the name of the fight against anti-semitism a few years ago. Jewish people who do not fit the current German portrait of a Jew are undesirable.

I was invited to speak here because five weeks ago I did not want to be silenced by an unconstitutional protest ban. The JVP was not allowed to protest on Oranienplatz, so I went to Hermannplatz in Neukölln alone with a sign that read ‘As an Israeli and a Jew: Stop the Genocide in Gaza’. There I was taken into custody by the Berlin police. After a police investigation the officers apologised to me because I was right according to the constitution and I was escorted to a spot where I stood with the sign for about two hours. Two weeks ago, at a protest for an immediate ceasefire I was again taken into custody with the same sign. The sign was confiscated and the police filed a criminal complaint against me for Volksverhetzung [1]. The same happened to others at this demonstration. Such cases are counted toward statistics on anti-semitic crimes since October 7th.


As a lawyer who receives a lot of mandates from the Palestinian community, I can report that anti-Palestinian and anti-Jewish repression as Iris describes have been well-known to us for years.

People are losing their work and residency status; artistic venues and cultural institutions are losing their funding; police violence against protesters is celebrated; the media is overrun with shocking propaganda and a general climate of intimidation prevails. Indeed, since October, we experience all this to a degree that I could not have seen coming. In October in Berlin alone, all Palestine protests were blanket-banned through general decree. Pro-Israel celebrations, organised by the state apparatus itself, naturally were not covered by this ban. In Neukölln, a dominantly Arabic working-class neighbourhood, the police ruled the streets with impunity. Arabic-looking individuals were arbitrarily stopped, searched and registered on the street. Schoolchildren have been subjected to disciplinary action and violence at the hands of teachers because the Berlin education senator wanted to forbid the Keffiyeh or other Palestinian symbols. And we are now dealing with thousands of court proceedings involving people who wanted to take advantage of their fundamentally secured right to assembly. But—we must say, clearly and distinctly: it was the daily, unwavering gatherings on Sonnenallee and other parts of the city that finally succeeded in breaking through the protest ban. It was the solidarity of tens of thousands of Berliners and internationalists who fought for the rights of Palestinians. Today at this protest, too, is it important to demand, loud and clear, solidarity with the Palestinian people. Why? Edward Said, one of the most well-known Palestinian intellectuals, tells us: ‘think of solidarity with the Palestinian people here and all over Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia, and think, too, of the fact that there is something which engages many, despite the difficulty and obstacles.

‘And why? Because that something is just, a noble ideal, a moral strive toward equality and human rights.’

Long live international solidarity! Free Palestine!

Thank you very much Iris.

Translation: Shav McKay. Reproduced with Permission


1 Literally ‘rabble-rousing’, incitement of the people, mass instigation. Conceptually, this is intended in German law to prevent viewpoints considered dangerous to social order from spreading.