German-language media in Berlin, from the Berliner Zeitung to the supposedly left-leaning newspaper taz, have been united in their call for for artists and clubs to show support for Israel and the Israeli government in its ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The Berliner Zeitung wrote on 12 October 2023, “AfD and A100, they are clear opponents, but Hamas is not? Why does it seem so difficult right now to mobilize forces of solidarity in Berlin’s techno scene?”
Despite the lack of solidarity or sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza in the German media, artists and musicians in Germany have been speaking out against the ongoing genocide of Palestinians by the Israeli state. They have also spoken out, more generally, against the occupation of Palestine, the support of the state of Israel by Germany, Canada, the United States, Britain, and other white-majority countries, the violence of checkpoints, and the 16-year-long blockade that has made the Gaza Strip an open-air prison. By choosing to show solidarity with Palestinians, artists in Germany who are not Palestinian risk threats, arrest, and loss of income and opportunities. Artists who are Palestinian simply have had no choice: they have faced repression in Germany their whole lives.
To understand how speaking out has been affecting artists, we at the Antifascist Music Alliance asked those artists to report to us any gigs lost due to posting about Palestine on social media. As Israel bombed Gaza in the first weeks after October 7, most of the artists who spoke out against the indiscriminate murder of Palestinians were Black people and people of colour. Even though white artists have also spoken up, Black artists and artists of colour have been the most affected by cancelled gigs. Such a discrepency can serve as a reminder for white artists to use their privilege in this moment to turn the tides of support in Germany.
Pinkwashing and the German media
You have probably read the term “pinkwashing” in connection with the state of Israel. “Pinkwashing” is an effort by the Israeli state public relations initiative “Brand Israel” to portray Israel as especially welcoming to queer people. “Brand Israel” launched in 2005 after a three-year consultation with American marketing executives, to rebrand Israel as “relevant and modern, instead of militaristic and religious,” as Sarah Schulman lays out in Brand Israel and Pinkwashing: A Documentary Guide, an appendix to her book Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. “Brand Israel” thus makes use of anti-Muslim hate and racism amongst Israel’s supporters to portray Palestinians as homophobic. In Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique, Sa’ed Atshan clarifies:
Pinkwashing is defined as a discourse on Israeli LGBTQ rights aimed at detracting attention from violations of Palestinian human rights. […] The dynamic that this term signifies is as follows: rather than improve its global standing by providing Palestinians with basic human rights, the Israeli state and its supporters, increasingly moving to the right, seek to market Israel as a state that supports LGBTQ individuals and communities.
In an article in the Berliner Zeitung (BZ), a Berlin-based Black trans DJ mentioned that they had posted an Instagram story about a “police-banned, anti-Israel ‘Demo in Solidarity with Palestine’ on Neukölln’s Richardplatz.” The BZ reported, “police feared anti-Semitic exclamations, glorification of violence as well as violence.” The reporter then added that the DJ is “queer and trans themselves. Hamas would certainly disagree with this way of life. But there seems to be this certain tendency in the club world, even among people who themselves belong to minorities, to feel solidarity with the Palestinians without any ifs and buts – and to label Israel simply as a perpetrator and colonialist aggressor.”
Queer Palestinian-American @officialjakegyllenhalal published a video response to the argument, “You would be ____ed in Palestine as a (rainbow flag emoji) person.” In it, she says, “Homophobia, transphobia and misogyny unfortunately exist in all parts of the world and just because it can happen in Palestine […] does not mean that Palestinians don’t deserve to exist because of it.” She clarifies a few reasons why this idea is so harmful: for one, it denies the diverse existence of Palestinian people. There are of course many queer and trans Palestinians. She adds that the “attempt to homogenize [Palestinians] is a dehumanization strategy in and of itself,” and it takes away the right of Palestinians to be flawed. Palestinian individuals’ shortcomings must not be used to to garnish support for their Israeli-backed genocide. When someone repeats the idea that queer people would be sure to experience violence in Palestine, those imagined acts of violence came from somewhere. The person imagining this violence, like the Berliner Zeitung reporter, “absorbed that information as truth from a heavily funded, 75-year-long misinformation campaign that is working very hard to dehumanize [Palestinians] to justify [their] genocide.” @officialjakegyllenhalal also makes it clear that saviourism is completely unwelcome; whatever queer Palestinians are facing in their own communities in terms of homophobia, transphobia or misogyny, it is their own battle to fight. Queer Palestinians will certainly not be turning to their oppressors for help, the same people who are “massacring [their] families, demolishing [their] homes, ethnic cleansing [their] people, and taking [their] land – queer or not.”
As leftist people in Berlin reflect on their solidarities, at a time when the German state and media attempt to sanitize the genocide of Palestinians by describing a war on Hamas, this evergreen 2012 quote from Sarah Schulman might be helpful. Schulman grappled with her own failure to “get it” – she was progressive except for Palestine. She writes,
“I have been in antiwar demonstrations with Catholics who actively fight against abortion rights, which I consider to be essential to female autonomy. So the only reason that sharing a common outrage with Hamas at the killings in Gaza disturbed me more than all the other religious fundamentalists I had had some moment of common ground with in the past was my own prejudice. Once that conceptual gap was faced, I examined the specifics. Hamas was democratically elected. It doesn’t matter what I think about Hamas. What matters is that my country, the United States of America, is providing military aid to Israel, who in my name is committing war crimes. So, consistent with my lifetime of work for justice, my responsibility regarding Israel is to speak out against what is being done in my name with my tax money. Period. It’s not always so clean, these decisions, but they still need to be faced.”
(Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, pg. 19)
One way to express your support for queer people in Palestine is to read and share the open letter from the group Queers in Palestine. The statement calls for a refusal of “the instrumentalization of our queerness, our bodies, and the violence we face as queer people to demonize and dehumanize our communities, especially in service of imperial and genocidal acts.”
Open letter to gay nightclub SchwuZ after censorship of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian queers
For an example of what pinkwashing has accomplished locally in Berlin, we can look at two incidents of repression at the gay nightclub SchwuZ. A group called Drag for Palestine wrote an open letter to SchwuZ after an event called “Drag Open Stage Finale” on 13 October 2023. That night, a German-Palestinian attendee with family in Gaza was asked to turn his shirt inside-out. The shirt read, “Anti-Apartheid Club.” At the same event, a drag performer brought a banner on stage that read, “Free Palestine/It is not a conflict, it is settler colonialism against which resistance is justified,” after which the performer was asked not to bring the banner on stage again. SchwuZ staff told the performer that the drag event was, “not about a political agenda,” and that, “it is not possible to show the complexity of the situation in a banner.”
As a response, the open letter was published. They are still collecting signatures and publishing comments from signatories on their Instagram account. The authors highlight in the open letter that, “Queer liberation and liberation from any form of oppression must go hand in hand. Drag is an inherently political art form […] Just as anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist expressions are part of drag, the solidarity with Palestinian liberation has its representation in this art form.” (Drag them!) Drag for Palestine takes a strong stance against the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, for which the Antifascist Music Alliance would like to thank the authors. The letter includes a few easy-to-fulfill requests: that SchwuZ not censor Palestinian or pro-Palestinian voices in the future, and that SchwuZ issue a public apology for their acts of intimidation, and express solidarity and support for Palestine and against the apartheid. The authors call for a boycott of SchwuZ as performers or visitors until they show accountability.
Munich club Blitz cancels night after Palestinian solidarity posts
The nightclub Blitz in Munich cancelled a night called VAPOR on 27 October 2023, which was meant to feature artists JASSS, Blawan, LCY, and Lydo. LCY is a UK-based artist who had posted in support of the Palestinian people in the days leading up to the party. As they were about to board their plane to Munich, they were told that Blitz’s club owners did not want them to play because of their posts on Palestine. Blitz then cancelled the night entirely.
In response, LCY wrote in an Instagram post: “I am anti-fascist/pro-equality and in my lifetime would never ever stand to see ANY humans displaced, tortured, murdered and vilified just as what is happening to the Palestinian people. I stand against that.” They added, “It is a shitty situation to lose work and was reluctant to share because I never want anyone to be in fear to voice their opinions on a subject like this […] I’m not the only artist that has been pulled from gigs and there are people being fired all over the country for sharing their opinions – we need to be a unified voice against the genocide or it is easier to pick at the individual.” LCY showed great courage in the face of repression.
Afterward, Blitz made a post on Instagram, saying that it cancelled the event because an artist posted a video on social media recommending the “dissolution of Israel.” The video LCY had reposted was a video made by another person. What Blitz failed to mention is that the video went on to say, “Israel must be dissolved and go back to being called Palestine—a home for Muslims, Jews, Christians.” This statement is not anti-Semitic at all and was taken out of context by Blitz in a way that the club knew would incense their pro-Israel German audience. Later, Blitz deleted their post after many people wrote to ask them to take down this misquote. Blitz apologized for “any harm caused” in a now-gone Instagram story, and they called for an “immediate ceasefire to stop the killing of innocent lives.” Blitz still felt it was necessary to add that they, “profoundly disagree with the idea of dissolving the state of Israel as the only possible chance for co-existence.” It is because of the courageousness of LCY that Blitz backtracked their statement that was so harmful to Palestinians, but a lot of damage was done, including in an article by large-circulation newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which criticizes Blitz for failing to call the video anti-Semitic in their apology story.
HÖR Berlin censors artists’ pro-Palestine clothing
For many artists, getting a mix on local streaming platform, HÖR, has been a career goal for gaining visibility and traction. However, over the last weeks, at least two artists came forward to say that HÖR asked them to stop playing or remove clothing that was in support of the Palestinian people. Several artists are calling for artists to boycott HÖR and remove their mixes from the platform in solidarity. HÖR, whose owners are Israeli, issued a statement by email to artists who have performed for them in the past. In it, HÖR made it clear that they do not understand Palestine to be occupied land that Palestinians should be able to live on. One censored artist wore a shirt that included a map of present-day occupied Palestine. In their email, HÖR called this shirt, “offensive,” and wrote that it was calling for the eradication of Israel. Confusingly, they also wrote that, “We believe in freedom of expression, and we have not, and will not, censor flags or peaceful slogans” and that “our platform will remain open to anyone looking for an outlet to express themselves via music.”
With respect to the use of the map of pre-occupation Palestine, Ijeoma Oluo said it well in an Instagram post: “The idea that Palestinian liberation would require the mass k*ling of Jewish people is so fucking racist and it boggles the mind how many so-called progressives believe it […] If your safety requires the occupation, imprisonment, and oppression of a people: you don’t have safety and you never will.”
Bored Lord is one artist who called for the removal of her DJ set from the platform in solidarity. About her support of the censored artists, she wrote: “i didnt remove my set from hör as some ‘trendy cancel culture’ thing. i did it bc i don’t want zionists profiting off my free labor. and i dont care about the mix i made. it’s a very small price for solidarity. last waste of breath I’ll spend on this topic. invest in diy radio culture. and free Palestine.” The Antifascist Music Alliance support Bored Lord and other artists calling for a boycott of HÖR wholeheartedly. Other artists who wish to contact HÖR or ask for their mixes to be removed may reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes… we have something to say about ://about blank
Anti-Deutsch Berlin club ://about blank made a statement via Instagram on 12 October titled, “the horror won’t go away, the nightmare won’t end.” Their statement is a clear example of Jewish trauma and Germany’s white guilt being misused and weaponized against the Palestinian people. This frame is specifically pushed by the Israeli government to justify their ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.
://about blank directly links the horrors of the Holocaust to the Israeli people who were killed on 7 October calling it, “the biggest mass murder of Jews since the end of nazi extermination camps in 1945,” as if these situations are the same. Their statement removes all context: an act of desperation of an oppressed people against an fascist apartheid state is not comparable to Germans’ own (still deeply rooted) antisemitism. The outrageous part is that this framework is so effective in Germany and elsewhere. With this racist approach, German white guilt and fear of being called a Nazi are instantly activated. At the same time, Germans’ superiority complex is activated, because they think they are heroes by criminalizing everyone who opposes the genocide of Palestinians. In this context, ://about blank can propagate their Islamophobia (using phrases like “the islamists of hamas”) and actively support Israel’s genocide.
In the statement there is a heavy emphasis on Islamic and Jewish identity. This is an attempt to justify Israel’s violent colonialism as if it were a religious conflict. To be clear: this is and has always been about stealing land and erasing its indigenous inhabitants. ://about blank ignores completely the many thousands of Jewish people worldwide who have been non-stop protesting the violence of Israel. Not, “Never again to my people,” but, “Never again to ANY people.”
Reclaim Club Culture reposted the statement from ://about blank on their Instagram. Reclaim Club Culture is probably best known for their street rave “A100 weg bassen!” and their organising against the A100 highway that is planned to flatten a good chunk of the Ostkreuz area so it can only be used by cars. They have close ties to ://about blank, having hosted events there in the past. It’s disappointing to see an ostensibly leftist group repost the statement from ://about blank, which speaks over leftist Jewish groups in Berlin like the Jewish Bund, which are calling for solidarity with the Palestinian people and an end to the genocide in Gaza.
Heartening solidarity with Palestine from platforms, venues, and artists in Berlin
Despite all the repression from the music scene and from the German government and media, there have been many encouraging statements of solidarity and actions in Berlin.
Refuge Worldwide is a local radio station that honoured the call for a global strike on 20 October by going offline for 24 hours and making a clear statement calling for an end to the genocide and the occupation. They drew attention to police brutality in Berlin, writing that, “Basic human rights in our home of Berlin are under threat, we are witnessing police brutality on the streets of Neukölln. People must be able to speak out and grieve, and the right to demonstrate must be protected.” They also shared resources and linked to Radio Alhara, a radio station in Palestine’s West Bank, and to Jewish Currents, an anti-occupation Jewish Left magazine.
A new collective of Berlin-based artists and workers called AATMA (Antifascist Art Techno and Music Alliance) was announced on 25 October, with a public statement and call for action in solidarity with the Palestinian people. In their first Instagram post, they “condemn the dehumanisation of Palestinian lives by the Israeli and German state and media,” noting that, “in the past weeks, state and city officials have banned the Palestinian flag, the kafiyyeh, as well as all statements, public gatherings and demonstrations that express solidarity with Palestine.” In the open letter, they draw the connection between artists/art workers with Palestine solidarity, writing that, “We believe that clubs and cultural spaces can play an important political role in refusing the illegal crackdown on the right to freedom of assembly and the debasing practices of media policing,” and call for, “music and cultural venues to offer their spaces for congregation while it is unsafe for us to gather in public.” They added, “We regard music venues and cultural spaces as important places of techno-political assembly that have historically played substantial roles in resisting fascism.”
Trauma Bar is a Berlin music venue that made a public statement on 1 November. In it, Trauma Bar wrote that they, “condemn the ongoing retaliatory actions by Israeli forces, characterised by indiscriminate bombings and a blockade of essential supplies such as water, electricity, and fuel to Gaza.” They also linked to an Amnesty International petition calling for ceasefire, and called for donations to the European Legal Support Center, which is a great place to donate now that most aid is not reaching Palestine.
Passive voice and silence is violence
Berghain only broken its apolitical silence once to post about anything other than its no-photo policy when they expressed solidarity with Ukrainians in March 2022. Their website still says, “Stop the War!” It would be nice to see a call from Berghain to stop this war with a ceasefire and an end to occupation, but don’t hold your breath.
Another not entirely silent yet comparatively violent aproach can be witnessed by CTM Festival’s use of passive voice for Israel’s actions in their statement on instagram. CTM launched a section on their website that specifically shares ideas on how to help and “Stand with Ukraine and Stop War!”. However, after 7 October the festival’s positioning reads at best like a “both sides” narrative. The focus of the aggression is put on Hamas through use of active voice, without mentioning Israel and the ongoing genocide with a vastly disproportionate number of civilian victims. CTM instead focuses on the cutting off of water and electricity as a humanitarian crisis. All of it without mentioning Israel as an actor holding a blockade on resources and their targeted bombing of civilians, hospitals and schools. After four weeks of this initial statement there has been no follow-up.
DJ & producer Bjarki calls on other artists to use their privilege
Bjarki is an Icelandic DJ and producer in Berlin, who has been using his platform to speak out in solidarity with the Palestinian people. In an interview with the Antifascist Music Alliance, Bjarki noted that since starting to speak out about Palestine in 2020, many people discouraged him. He said, “I’ve been advised by industry contacts and acquaintances not to discuss this topic publicly. The conversations around this issue are often heated, and there seems to be an effort to dissuade me from speaking out. I believe it’s my duty as a human being and as a musician who stands by connecting with people through music, which speaks a universal language of awakening, love, understanding, and togetherness to speak out freely.” From German clubs and promoters, Bjarki said that he hasn’t received a lot of backlash directly, but he did say that, “promoters are trying to silence people.”
When he first decided to speak out by posting information he thought was important, some people began writing to him to contradict the content of his posts, and he realized he needed to further educate himself. At that critical point, his grandmother in Iceland recommended him Hjálmtýr Heiðdal’s book Iceland Street in Jerusalem. The book is an in-depth history of Iceland’s role in the founding of the Israeli state. His grandmother explained that the issue was simple, but profound: it’s about colonialism.
In a statement shared with the Antifascist Music Alliance, Bjarki issues a call to other privileged artists:
To artists who aren’t touched by the fires of injustice, remember, your comfort is not a shield to hide behind, but a platform from which to lift others. […] We’re not just here to create art; we’re here to stir the souls and awaken the minds of the world.
Call for action
As the Antifascist Music Alliance, we call for an end to the occupation, an end to apartheid, and for an immediate ceasefire.
If you are looking for a page where you can publish your letter, essay, poetry, etc. in support of and solidarity with oppressed peoples, we are offering our Antifascist Music Alliance website. Our main focus right now is Falastiin, Sudan, Congo, and Haiti. We published a poem by Edel Ahmed recently. We especially encourage people who are doing a call to action, such as letters addressing institutions that are silencing people and institutions that are silent. this includes nightclubs, art spaces, radio stations, etc. to reach out to us.
Honour Boycott Divestment Sanctions
The 3 demands of the BDS movement are: 1. Ending Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall, 2. Recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Donate to European Legal Support Center
ELSC is “keeping track of incidents of repression against Palestine advocacy in the EU and the UK” – – this is a great place to donate within Europe
Share the open letter of Queers in Palestine
Report incidents to 7amleh, the Palestinian Observatory of Digital Rights Violations
This organization collects incident reports of fake news, hate speech, incitement, smear campaigns, hacking, gender-based violence, arrest, and censorship:
Read some books
- Israel/ Palestine and the Queer International by Sarah Schulman, Duke University Press (2012)
- Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique by Dr. Sa’ed Atshan, Stanford University Press (2020)