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Israeli scholar cancelled by German teaching union – this cannot continue

Protest letter to chairs of the GEW education union

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Fanny-Michaela Reisin.

I am addressing you who hold prominent positions in the “Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft” (GEW – trade Union for Learning and Science“, the school and university teachers’ union in Germany), an association with whom I, as professor emeritus and as former president of the International League for Human Rights, have collaborated on a number of events and other cooperations over several decades, and with whom I have enjoyed a positive working relationship which remains to the present day.

The reason for my letter is a press release on the website of the Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e. V. – European Jews for a Just Peace Germany” (JS), which, I only read yesterday and which I found shocking and deeply troubling. I am a practicing Jew and a committed JS-member.

It concerns the cancellation of a lecture by our association member, Dr. Shir Hever by the GEW-Kreisverband-Rhein-Neckar-Heidelberg. As I have come to understand, Dr. Hever was invited by the GEW to participate in an online event on October 27th this year, where he was supposed to give a lecture on the topic of “Child Labor in Palestine”, then discuss it with the participants.

The event was cancelled by the GEW district association at short notice. There was no discussion with Dr. Hever explaining the reasoning behind the decision.

The fact that a regional chapter of the GEW, the “education union in the DGB” [German Trade Union Federation], which prides itself on being a “militant agent for law and democracy” – would cancel such an informative event with an invited guest speaker is in and of itself “odd”, to say the least. The justification given – without any evidence – that Dr. Hever is an anti-Semite is utterly preposterous and would fail to stand up to any form of scrutiny. This action is slanderous and – I know Dr. Hever personally (!) – is tantamount to character assassination.

As a scientist and author, Dr. Hever is widely acclaimed not only in his home country, Israel, but also internationally – and in particular in German and English-speaking countries. A frequently-invited speaker for lectures worldwide, Dr. Hever is highly regarded for his unassailable integrity and his personal warmth. Last but not least, he is also held in high esteem as a resourceful political activist.

It is still difficult for me to comprehend how the GEW could be involved in this third party ban on a planned informational event concerning Palestine, and subject the event to blanket censorship without questioning its content. This has applied a “GEW muzzle” to our member Shir Hever.

How can it be possible that the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany could be superceded by a political practice which the GEW itself has been known to stand up to and effectively protest against? What on earth has happened? Do the Constitution and the rights to freedom of expression and of assembly not matter at all any more for the teachers union’? These are also in the interest of its own members and must be vigorously fought for.

In addition to all of this, having to read that Dr. Hever was offered the agreed payment for his lecture provided that he remained silent – in my eyes a malicious and deeply dishonest attempt at extortion – is at once both frightening and horrifying. All the more so, as the discrepancies described above come at the expense of children and minors, whose miserable situation in the territories of Palestine, which have been under military occupation now for 55 years. They desperately need the attention of people abroad. At the same time, for school children of Palestinian descent living here in Germany, increased interest in and knowledge of the history of their place of origin and the situation for family members both in Palestine and here, would be most beneficial.

I could glean from the press release published by the “Jewish Voice” that the initiative to cancel this lecture came from Dr. Blume, the anti-Semitism commissioner for the state government in Baden-Württemberg. This office was institutionalized by the Interior Ministers of all federal states under the leadership of the former Federal Minister of the interior, Horst Seehofer in 2018, after the official working definition of anti-Semitism EU-wide had been extended to be also understood as “anti-Semitism related to Israel”. This nationwide institutionalized anti-Semitism commissioners network de facto provides the Israeli government a say in decisions regarding what criticism can be allowed in Germany, for example concerning prevailing conditions and practices which are allowed in Israel. Such criticism can be prevented and simply branded “anti-Semitic”.

Along with other colleagues, Dr. Blume has been making a name for himself nationwide as an unwavering motor for bans on events, lectures and even professions. He has particularly focussed on those representing solidarity with Palestine, as they are naturally critical of the constitutional predispositions and the policies of Israeli governments. On this basis alone, these appointed commissioners suspect individuals – and, yes, even organizations – as being anti-Semitic. Those, which have accused Israel of being an apartheid state have been systematically discredited. Organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Israeli NGO B’Tselem and others have been treated in this manner.

Lecturers, scientists and artists have been “hunted”  as soon as they pledge their support to the international BDS movement – particularly if they are employed or receive some finance from state institutions. 

“BDS” (“Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”) stands for the political orientation of the non-violent movement – which, by the way, has long been legitimized at the EU level – that mobilizes a civil society counterweight worldwide to Israel’s ongoing military occupation and settlement of Palestinian territories in violation of international law. Our JS member Shir ever is feeling the effects of this attack on BDS through the muzzle placed on him by GEW.

It is, however, comforting in this depressing socio-political situation that Dr. Blume and his colleagues have continually had to answer for their ambition to silence Palestine solidarity in Germany before the German courts. In most cases, Dr. Blume in particular has been advised that his accusations and attacks have no legal basis.

The aggressive attacks, which Dr. Blume and his colleagues are engaged in under the auspices of their offices is bad enough. The fact that they have succeeded in banning this publicly announced event in the name of the GEW disturbs and outrages me even more.

On what basis could this have happened?

The anti-Semitism commissioner, Dr. Blume, likes to use the BDS Resolution of the German Bundestag (No. 19/10191) which was passed by a majority (a nonetheless unfortunate decision) to justify his activities. This resolution is not legally binding but rather an expression of the opinion of the representatives in the Bundestag who voted for it.

It should have been the position of the GEW, which prides itself in pursuing the goal of “emancipation” in its education policy and in supporting argumentative democracy, not to simply submit to the enactment of such encroachments upon constitutionally guaranteed civil rights and freedoms but rather to loudly and clearly denounce and counteract them, if only in the interest and protection of its own members.

The following excerpt from the report of the Scientific Service of the German Bundestag suggests that the responsible persons in the Heidelberg GEW District Association Rhine-Neckar, neither knew what “BDS” was about nor were really familiar with the Bundestag resolution against it:

“In the opinion of the Munich Administrative Court, the finding that a person or group violates the free democratic basic order by making anti-Semitic statements is not in itself sufficient to prohibit corresponding expressions of opinion from the outset on the part of the authorities, even in the context of political information or events featuring discussion, or to base an exclusion of use. A violation of legal interests or a situation of danger through expressions of opinion is only to be assumed if they “endanger public peace as the peacefulness of public debate and thus mark the transition to aggression or breach of law”. (cf. VGH Munich, judgment of 17.11.2020, 4 B 19.1358, para. 58 f.) 

Moreover, in the cases decided by case law to date, the municipalities have not been able to demonstrate a violation of the free democratic basic order of persons and groups close to BDS, especially since the BDS movement has neither its own legal personality nor a solidified, legal organizational structure (cf. VerfGH NRW, decision of 22.09.2020, 49/19.VB-2, para. 19; VGH München (fn. 18), para. 55; VG Köln, decision of 12.09.2019, 14 L 1765/19, para. 15. ), from which a sufficient threat to public order could emanate.”

With reference to what is quoted above as well as further excerpts from this opinion, but above all because the cancellation of the aforementioned lecture event and the resulting prohibition of speech and last but not least the slander cast upon our member, Shir Hever, and by association the slander of our entire organisation indirectly through the regional GEW Rhein-Neckar-Heidelberg is utterly unacceptable, I will be recommending to the Executive Board of the JS to review:

1) Whether this matter should not be legally prosecuted by the JS – if necessary through the person of Shir Hever -, since the slander, claiming that the contents were anti-Semitic without Dr. Blume first examining them. This means that the lecture event was prevented in ignorance of the existing legal grounds.

2) Whether trade unions in other European countries, which are known to us as being in solidarity with Palestine and in part as supporters of the BDS movement, should not be informed of the ban on the event, which was carried out in the name of the German teachers’ union, and called upon to show solidarity with Shir Hever and the JS.

3) Whether the associations and NGOs in Europe, Israel, Palestine, USA and South Africa, which are friendly towards us, should not be informed about this scandalous practice of the teachers’ union in the Federal Republic of Germany.

4) Whether it would not be appropriate to inform the children’s organizations of the UNO about this matter. In support of this I would like to add two links to children’s organizations of the UN, which on my search query “Children in occupied Palestine” belong to the first of 47.5 Mill.(!) entries, which popped up within 0.5 seconds:

Ultimately, the GEW regional association’s handling of the planned online event, “Child Labor in Palestine,” makes it obvious how arbitrary the interest can be concerning the virulent state of emergency confronting children in militarily occupied Palestine. Especially since the attempt to rectify these issues through education has been rejected in such a shabby manner.

All things considered you will understand that it is impossible for me to exercise leniency with those in the GEW Rhein-Neckar-Heidelberg district association who were successfully able to obtain a ban on this event and thus create the scandal of a “GEW muzzle”.

I fully expect – particularly in light of my decades long relationship with the GEW – an official apology to Dr. Hever and a credible corrective to the handling of the planned and announced lecture.

With best regards

Sincerely Yours

Prof. em. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Berlin, 9th November 2022

English translation by Sidney Corbett. Reproduced with permission

Why and How we are Challenging the Bundestag Resolution on BDS

Interview with Christoph Glanz (Bundestag 3 for Palestine)


26/11/2022

Hi Christoph, thanks for speaking to us. Could you start by introducing yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

I’m an antifascist and leftist from Oldenburg. My love story with Palestine began 30 years ago. I was raised as a liberal Zionist. Today I’m a campaigner for the BDS campaign for Palestinian human rights, and co-initiator and activist plaintiff of the BT3P – an initiative that we started two years ago.

For people who haven’t heard of the BT3P, can you briefly explain why you set it up and what you’ve been doing since then?

BT3P stands for the “Bundestag 3 for Palestine”, and consists of Amir Ali from Palestine Speaks, Judith Bernstein from Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue group, and me – as the spokesperson of the BDS Initiative Oldenburg. While we are the plaintiffs, we also like to consider ourselves to be parts of a network of Palestinian, Jewish, German, (ex-)Israeli allies with roots in all kinds of intersectional struggles. BT3P is open to anyone to whom human rights and democratic freedoms truly matter and who stands up for Palestinian rights. But let’s get back to the incident that triggered it all:

In May 2019, the German parliament Bundestag infamously passed a resolution called “Der BDS Bewegung geschlossen entgegentreten [“Resisting the BDS Movement with Determination”]. We consider this resolution both racist and undemocratic. Its main content slanders the Palestinian human rights campaign as antisemitic and calls on all state and municipality entities in Germany to deny us public space and funding of any kind.

Even before the resolution was passed, there was quite a commotion, politically speaking. More than 240 Jewish and Israeli intellectuals called on the Bundestag not to pass this travesty of a pseudo-law. But they did so anyway.

What we need to understand is that the Bundestag resolution is both the result of a Zionist hegemonial mindset and of anti-Palestinian racism in Germany and simultaneously an amplifier of these hateful ideologies. Our lawyer, Ahmed Abed, who is based in Berlin-Neukölln, had a crucial role in bringing us together. We all understood that the time had come to take the “Staatsräson” bull by the horns.

The Bundestag resolution on BDS is not a proper law. Is that of any importance?

There was an excellent article in der Spiegel quite a while ago, demonstrating how lobby organisations targeted parliamentarians individually and as groups to get this resolution passed.

The fact that “only” a seemingly innocent resolution was passed (instead of a proper law banning BDS) is not the result of sloppiness, but – in a Machiavellian sense – was well-crafted and strategically planned. According to a public statement issued by the scientific service of the Bundestag itself (Wissenschaftlicher Dienst) this resolution would be unconstitutional if it were a proper law.

The soft status of a resolution was chosen for two reasons: In a society with strong authoritarian roots and presence such as Germany, it amounts to a public character assassination when the Parliament condemns the movement you’re in. I’ve heard the phrase, “But even the Bundestag says that BDS is antisemitic,” more than once. Case closed. It doesn´t matter anymore how absurd its reasoning is, the state has spoken so you´d better obey. And secondly, they knew that a resolution would be more difficult to attack in the courts.

More difficult but not impossible?

Not only not impossible, but the opposite: very promising! We want to win this case and are cautiously optimistic about the ultimate outcome. Here is why: We can demonstrate in dozens of cases that the resolution was handled by municipalities and politicians as if it were a law, and one with disastrous effects on activists, international artists, journalists. I’m sure that many readers could quote more than one example themselves. Our statement of claim demonstrates this in depth, and also how in this resolution the state is turned (once again) into a semi-god dictating its will. That’s verfassungswidrig, unconstitutional.

What we perhaps consider even more powerful as legal argument is that international law is on our side: Five UN special rapporteurs have expressed their dismay over the Bundestag resolution, stating that it unduly interferes with the right of the people of Germany to engage in political speech, namely, to express support for the BDS movement. French friends of ours were taken to court for alleged hate-speech after handing out BDS leaflets in front of an Elsassian supermarket- and they ultimately won their case against the Republic of France! (European Court of Human Rights, Baldassi and Others vs. France, 2020).

Likewise, our own statement of claim has legal expertise attached to it, which underlines the fact how well-founded in international law our case is. This expertise was penned by four legal scholars, among them Professor Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967!

The defence of the Bundestag, in contrast, is mere legalese trickery with no substance to it whatsoever. Let´s see who will win.

Why is fighting the Bundestag resolution still of relevance today?

Following a whole series of legal wins on local levels, the Zionists have turned a little quiet over the Bundestag resolution recently, but it’s still forming the opinion of decision makers on all kinds of levels. Some people might argue, “So what? You´re winning in the courts, so everything is fine and dandy, no?” It´s not. We cannot tolerate a situation in which we as human rights activists need to fight a legal battle for every single event we want to hold while politicians can throw racist slurs at Palestinians at pro-Israeli rallies while Gazans are bombed to smithereens.

Do you think this is specific to Germany Or are there links to be made with similar attacks on Palestinian and their supporters in other countries?

Research by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz shows that the Israeli state gave $1.1 million to international law firm Sidley Austin with the objective of smearing BDS activists in public.

These anti-BDS resolutions are obviously efforts to counter our movement in a situation where we have the facts, the popular opinion and the political compass, while Israel has the guns and tanks, and is supported by most governments all over the world. This is not only true for Germany, although many consider Germany to be one of the fiercest battlegrounds.

Let’s look briefly at three European countries: Austria passed an anti-BDS resolution in 2020 following in the steps of the Bundestag. Two other examples are France and Britain: France, as far as I know, does not have a specific anti-BDS law, but they are applying existing laws to target BDS activists – in vain as we have seen above. In Britain, there have repeatedly announcements been published by government politicians saying that they are going to pass an anti BDS law soon. They are aiming for a proper law.

It’s not a perfect picture, but in a way, we are in between the French case and the possible future British law. We know that both lawmakers and Zionist spin doctors are eagerly watching our case to see what’s happening. Given the dominant role that Germany unfortunately has in the EU, it is even worth considering that the fact that not more countries have followed Big Brother yet might be a result of our legal intervention. If we manage to bring down this law in Germany, then the likelihood of other such laws and resolutions being successfully targeted under international law is very high.

In Germany, we’ve now had just over a year of a so-called Traffic Light Coalition. A couple of government ministers have – privately at least – said they support Palestinian rights. Has the new government made any changes which affect the BDS law?

Please do introduce me to government ministers who support Palestinian rights! I haven’t heard from any of them! Coming back to your question:

The new government has not yet spoken explicitly about this case or the BDS movement in public.

Angela Merkel once famously spoke to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, about German commitment to the safety of the state of Israel and referenced to that as “Deutsche Staatsräson“. Even before that, it is clear that the main aim is to shield the state of Israel from any form of criticism, let alone follow up with sanctions.

From the far right AfD to the supposedly left DIE LINKE, the German party leaders firmly stand with the Staatsräson. So, no- there was no change for the better and we didn’t expect any.

This includes harsh criticism of DIE LINKE. Can you back that up?

For obvious reasons, we are targeting the one resolution that got passed with the votes of CDU/CSU, SPD, Greens, FDP. But initially there were three drafts presented in the Bundestag. The first by the AfD was proposing a proper legal ban of BDS. The majority could not agree to that for two reasons: a) because they don´t want to be associated with the AfD too obviously, b) because they knew that such a law could be sacked easily. The third draft was issued by DIE LINKE. The mildest statement you can make about it is that it’s extremly contradictatory. It refers to the UN resolutions as a solid base for a peaceful solution in Palestine/Israel, and then goes on to reject the BDS movement, which is based in its entirety on those very UN resolutions!

Not one lawmaker in the entire Bundestag, including DIE LINKE, stood up to defend Palestinian human rights and BDS. The very title of the Linke´s draft was “Rejecting the BDS movement” and in its text they double down on the lie that BDS was per se targeting “Israeli citizens of Jewish faith”, i.e., acting antisemitic. In this sense and regarding that topic, DIE LINKE was and is part of the wall-to-wall Parliamentary consensus that Palestinians may not strive for the human rights they are entitled to without being smeared antisemitic and excluded from the public.

We know who our comrades inside the party are, but we and they must face the fact that none of their efforts has been successful. No matter how delusional, the party leaderships is striving for coalition capability. And they know that this cannot be achieved without endorsing the Staatsräson regarding Israel.

How is the BT3Pcampaign going now? Are you winning?

We lost the first court session public hearing at the administrative court. We are not too worried about this. Why? We, and I as an individual, have charged municipalities and others on several occasions for breaching basic democratic rights. And in 95% of the cases, we lost at the first stage as these administrative courts usually go with the administration and whatever they decide.

This is in contrast to the higher appeal courts which do grant importance to basic democratic rights. We usually win in this second stage of the public hearings.

In our humble opinion, this is a very strong case with concrete examples based on German and international law, supported by some of the highest authorities in the field. The next hearing has been announced by the Higher Administrative Court Berlin-Brandenburg for spring/summer 2023. Please join us if you can!

I’ve recently been covering the case of sacked Palestinian journalist Farah Maraqa who recently won on all counts. Could it be that the German legal system is currently more progressive on Palestine than German politics?

This is an interesting question. In many regards, I would say yes. I think that the legal system, generally speaking, feels still bound to democratic freedoms, which are no longer defended by the political elites and leading politicians and parties.

I see the whole thing that we are doing, as embedded into the general struggle for securing whatever democratic rights we have had in the State. In many ways, it’s about defending or even enlarging our power.

On Palestine, once the state is in a position where it can more easily target leftist and internationalist activists, it will do so even worse than it’s doing now. That’s one of the aspects why the BDS struggle is important, because if we let them get away with this, they will build on this, and target activists -be it for the Kurdish cause or against the ecocide- in an even more destructive way. We need to understand that our struggles are connected.

You’re now trying to organise a “Parlamentsseminar” in the Bundestag. What do you hope to achieve and how likely are you of succeeding?

The basic menu of such seminars includes being shown around in the Bundestag, having an introduction explaining the mechanisms of how for example, laws are made. And then the group of participants meet with members of every fraction of the Bundestag to discuss a political issue by their own choice.

We are group of about 50 activists, scientists, students, artists including our friends from Palestine Speaks and Jewish Voice- applied for the seminar under the title “The present position of the Bundestag fractions and the Federal Government on the BDS movement”. In the application attached we are not mincing words.

We want to challenge them: we want to sit face to face to them and find out for example, if this resolution still has still any legal meaning? Do they still support it? How do they justify to trample on Palestinian human rights?

We have an opinion poll running on our twitter account posing the question whether the Bundestag will accept or decline our application. The “Nay” fraction is ahead with 96%… do we share this assessment?

We are creating a lose-lose situation for the Bundestag politicians and a win-win situation for the movement: If they let us have the meeting, they will contradict their own resolution and we will speak truth to power inside the parliament. If they decline, we will dissect their arguments in public and deliver them the shame they deserve, plus: this will be useful to demonstrate in court that the Bundestag still silences human rights activism in Germany.

If people want to help with the seminar or support the BT3P, what can they do?

There are various ways to strengthen this cause. We thank all the people who have generously donated in the past and invite you to share some euros with us if you can. We are in for a legal battle that might last on for several years.

Supporters have also come to our first public hearing in Berlin, even though, unfortunately, they were denied to enter the court for reasons due to the pandemic. Hopefully this will be different next time! Others have helped with media work, photographs, videos. You know who you are – thank you!

We said it straight from the beginning: this is not solely a legal case, but it should be a call for unification of all activists and sympathisers. If you are sympathetic with human rights, if you are standing with the oppressed, then this is for you. So, we are open to your ideas on how to broaden this campaign. We are happy to speak at events or panels. The BT3P initiative is a powerful tool for all of us!

Contacts and donations can be made via our homepage, via the email address team@bt3p.org, and via our Twitter account. Next step: please amplify the political commotion regarding the seminar application that´s going to happen in the next few days!

Palestinians reach out to gender equality and LGBTIQ+ activist groups

Draft e-mails asking for support for a European Citizens Initiative against trade with the occupied territories


24/11/2022

Here we reproduce two draft e-mails which have been suggested by the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) coordination team of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP). ECCP is a network of 43 European organisations, NGOs, trade unions and solidarity groups from 18 European countries,  dedicated to the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and equality.

We find that this attempt to link different struggles – to show that Palestinian rights are indivisible from the rights of women and LGBTQI+ people – is an important development in building an international movement to support the Palestinians. We therefore urge you to support the ECI initiative and to send these mails to any relevant organisations with which you are in contact.

In particular, the mails ask for support for the ongoing ECI to #StopSettlements and stop EU complicity with the oppression of Palestinians. An ECI is more than just a “normal” petition. If the initiative receives one million validated signatures, the EU Commission is legally obliged to respond to the demand for a ban on illegal trading with the occupied territories.

You can sign the ECI here. Please contact us at team@theleftberlin.com if you have any success stories, and we will do our best to report them.

Phil Butland (commissioning editor, theleftberlin.com)

 

1. Draft e-mail to gender equality activist groups

SUBJECT- EU: No equality until everyone is free / Sign the ECI petition

‘No free homeland without women’s freedom’.

Dear XXX,

As Europeans fighting for gender equality, and against sexism and the patriarchal system in our countries, we bear a responsibility to support our sisters’ fights abroad. Including in Palestine where Palestinian women resists the Israeli apartheid regime and demand the fulfilment of Palestinian rights. Our Palestinian sisters are not only confronted with gender violence, femicide but also Israeli settler colonialism which constitutes a gender violence in itself. Israeli occupation and colonisation add another layer of oppression and contribute to gender-based violence within Palestinian communities.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

Join our call to action to tackle Israeli settler colonialism and SIGN the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to #StopSettlements and stop EU complicity with the oppression of Palestinians. More than 100 organisations joined the coalition, among them Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, FIDH.

Why it is important for you to support the ECI?

Israel economically profits from stolen Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. There, indigenous Palestinian communities are expelled from their land and live under a military system where every basic right is violated. There are more than 150 illegal settlements built in the West Bank, where approximately 600,000-700,000 illegal settlers live.

Illegal Israeli businesses profit from the suffering of the Palestinians in violation of international law, as pointed out by many international organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. The EU is one of the biggest business partners of companies profiting from the settlements! It is estimated that companies in the settlements earn $300 million a year selling their illegal products in Europe: it is part of the economic backbone of the Israeli military occupation. As Europeans, we must help the Palestinians to live in safety and to have their fundamental rights respected, and ensure that the EU is no longer complicit in war crimes.

This historic citizens’ initiative can ban the EU from trading with illegal settlements all around the world, ONLY if we reach one million signatures. Now more than ever, every signature counts.

Our global movement for justice has mobilised to end wars and hold war criminals accountable around the world, from Myanmar to Syria, from Israel/Palestine to Russia. Let’s unite now to stop the EU rewarding human rights violations with profits.

SIGN now and spread the initiative in your networks and social media to reach 1 million signatures before February 2023!

With hope and determination,

 

2. Draft e-mail to LGBTQI+ activist groups

SUBJECT- EU: No equality until everyone is free / Sign the ECI petition

Dear XXX,

Today we are calling you to join an important global fight for equality and against injustice.

The Palestinian struggle is deeply committed to addressing gender violence, feminicide, queerphobia and settler colonialism, which are co-constitutive of each other. The State of Israel and its supporters use Pinkwashing as a strategy to cynically exploit LGBTQIA+ rights in order to project a progressive image of Israel while concealing its occupation and apartheid policies oppressing Palestinians (also read here and here about pinkwashing).

Awareness that queer and trans-liberation cannot be separated from Palestinian liberation is growing. As Europeans fighting against sexism, patriarchy, queerphobia and all systems of oppression in our countries, we must support Palestinian people in their struggle for their rights and against the Israeli settler colonial system.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

Join our call to action to tackle Israeli settler colonialism and SIGN the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to #StopSettlements and stop EU complicity with the oppression of Palestinians. More than 100 organisations joined the coalition, among them Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, FIDH.

Why it is important for you to support the ECI?

Israel economically profits from stolen Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. There, indigenous Palestinian communities are expelled from their land and live under a military system where every basic right is violated. There are more than 150 illegal settlements built in the West Bank, where approximately 600,000-700,000 illegal settlers live.

Illegal Israeli businesses profit from the suffering of the Palestinians in violation of international law, as pointed out by many international organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. The EU is one of the biggest business partners of companies profiting from the settlements! It is estimated that companies in the settlements earn $300 million a year selling their illegal products in Europe: it is part of the economic backbone of the Israeli military occupation. As Europeans, we must help the Palestinians to live in safety and to have their fundamental rights respected, and ensure that the EU is no longer complicit in war crimes.

This historic citizens’ initiative can ban the EU from trading with illegal settlements all around the world, ONLY if we reach one million signatures. Now more than ever, every signature counts.

Our global movement for justice has mobilised to end wars and hold war criminals accountable around the world, from Myanmar to Syria, from Israel/Palestine to Russia. Let’s unite now to stop the EU rewarding human rights violations with profits.

SIGN now and spread the initiative in your networks and social media to reach 1 million signatures before February 2023!

With hope and determination,

 

 

 

Exclusion of People of Colour (PoC) Academics in Germany

Recent cases show that non-White, and particularly Palestinian, academics still face discrimination in Germany


20/11/2022

On September 29th, an anthology edited by philosopher Susan Neiman and historian Michael Wildt,Historiker Streiten: Violence and the Holocaust-The Debate‘ was published. It summarises the controversial roots of the Holocaust and how it differs-if it does- from other genocides. It addresses the pressing problem in Germany today: how can a culture of remembrance also include long-suppressed German colonial crimes? The book follows a symposium last October at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.

This ‘Historian’s Debate’ is a crucial conversation on how Germany should confront its violent history beyond the Third Reich. But it was overshadowed by the exclusion of the Zimbabwaen-American academic Zoé Samudzi. She presented a paper at the symposium but was the only speaker not invited to contribute to Historiker Streiten. Samudzi’s contribution “A German History of Namibia or a Namibian History of Germany?” dealt with the historiography of genocide from the perspective of the perpetrators –and resolving this through the recognition of colonial suffering.

Samudzi addressed what seemed to be her calculated exclusion on Twitter. Susan Neiman responded that Samudzi presented an “interesting literary analysis,” but her lecture was only “tangentially related to the subject.” Wildt also responded that the editors’ decided to exclude her because the “volume was intended to focus on the historians’ dispute.”

Neiman further said that the “the book is not focused on the horrors of German colonialism or the Holocaust but on these questions: how can one compare different historical crimes? What are the historical, political and moral aspects involved?”

“We would have loved to include an African thinker dealing with these topics” Neiman continued, “and were in conversation with a number of writers who for different reasons were not able to participate.” Neiman also stated that while there were not any Black authors included, she and Wildt had firm commitments from three other women and people of colour.  However, “In the end, they did not find time to write their contributions even though we extended the deadline for them by two months.”

No African scholar is included, but there are two PoC in the volume: Palestinian-German philosopher Sami Khatib and Indian historian Benjamin Zachariah.

Neiman: “The symposium was not meant to be a documentation, and most of the book’s authors were not present at the symposium. Zoe Samudzi gave a zoom-talk at the symposium concerning German colonial history in Namibia, which is available along with the other contributions. Most people who choose to listen will understand immediately that it was not the subject of the questions discussed in this volume.”

Other scholars regret Samudzi’s exclusion.

Australian scholar Dirk Moses ignited this historical controversy with his “The Catechism of the Germans” in May last year. His contribution is central to the anthology, but he did not know who the contributors were until shortly before publication.

“I can’t speak for other contributors, but I know some of us were dismayed by the omission of Dr. Samudzi, about which we learned on social media,” Moses said. “For a book on historians arguing about genocide in the German past there is, unfortunately, no contribution on the first German genocide and its relationship to the Holocaust.”  “If the purpose of the book was to mirror the racism, sexism, and backward-facing features of the current German debate, it has, unfortunately and unintentionally succeeded brilliantly,” Moses concluded.

Similarly,  anthology contributor Fabian Wolff was also disappointed. “I’ve learnt so much from Zoé Samudzi’s work, so I am personally sad that she wasn’t included not just because I’d have felt honoured to be in the same volume as her but because hers is the kind of scholarship and approach that should be centered in Germany”, Wolff said.

Samudzi said.“The editors’ belief that they’re committed to antiracism is disingenuous considering that the anthology was specifically about how we would now think about colonial crimes which was exactly what my presentation was about”. ““They are not interested in people writing about intergenerational memory for example… they’re only interested in this narrow and particular understanding of what citizenship is, what it means to be a German and what their political responsibility to the Holocaust is – even when they purport to be concerned or interested in the colonial question. The only interest in talking about the OvaHerero and Nama genocide is to relativize it to the Holocaust.”

Wolff added “German discourse culture is in dire need of pluralization, broadening and ultimately de-segregation. In valuable ways the anthology succeeds in doing that, so I’m glad it exists, and in other ways it’s maybe still part of the problem. It was never meant as the last word on anything, and this now just shows that it mustn’t be.”

Samudzi believes she is different from her German peers, because her work is in the US and her large social media following. “It is much harder to throw me under the bus in the same way Germany has sidelined Black German academics or other academics of colour” she said. “Oftentimes, you can’t have a career in German academia as a non-white person, unless you are a very particular kind of token or you tow a very particular political line.”

Many academics whom I spoke with agreed. Germany systematically excludes nonwhite academics, ignoring their scholarship, refuses to hire them for university positions, and sidelines them on conversations that they are experts in.

Anti-Palestinian racism

Anna-E. Younes is a German Palestinian critical race and postcolonial scholar who has faced exclusion from German academia for her outspoken work on race and how it relates to modern Antisemitism accusations.  Since completing her Ph.D, Younes had issues with applications, so she stopped applying for jobs in Germany or engaging with academia. One academic employer told Younes that if they hired her they would “lose funding, be torn apart in the media for hiring me, and their institutions would be destroyed.”

Most recently ‘Recherche- und Informationsstelle Antisemitismus‘ (RIAS), prepared a secret file on Younes to get her disinvited from an event where she was speaking. During the event the organizers publicly grouped Younes with a far-right shooter who targeted a synagogue in Halle, based on her having signed a letter along with hundred other (international) academics that critiqued the anti-BDS resolution of the Bundestag. Having been excluded from the event, Younes was unable to defend herself.

Younes states that she gave up on German debates and focuses on an international audience predominantly now. “And in the moment you express that you feel sidelined and invisible you’re almost immediately shamed for it and told this is how it is – academia is difficult” she said. “Instead of looking at my case as an example of systemic exclusion of different opinions and scholarship, people turn around and think there has to be something wrong with the person.”

Younes believes that there is something antagonistic in German academia against vocal Palestinians or Palestinian rights supporters.  Instead, Younes says that Palestinian identity in Germany has become conflated with Antisemitism and Islamist terrorism and is thus pushed out of any public debate.

Another instance is the story of an anthology, titled ‘Frenemies: Antisemitism, Racism and their Critics, edited by Meron Mendel, Saba Nur-Cheema and Sina Arnold. This was supposed to include Kerem Schamberger and Palestinian-German Ramsis Kilani. Their contribution was to be about excluding Palestinian perspectives from the current German Israel debate. But, after pressure from the other contributors, Schamberger and Kilani’s piece was omitted. Thus in an anthology dealing extensively with Israel-Palestine, there is not a single person with a Palestinian background involved.

“At some point all of these misinformation campaigns just cause us to become incredibly discouraged and simply broken because those having the power to frame public debates are not interested in what you actually said, wrote, or have to say – it remains within white hands predominantly” Younes said.

The pattern is not new. In 2017, Eleonora Roldán Mendívil, an academic teaching at the Free University of Berlin, suddenly found herself unemployed after she commented on a blogpost that Israel was “a colonial project” and an “apartheid state.” Pro-Israel groups in Germany targeted Roldán Mendívil, labeling her an antisemite. The university launched an investigation, headed by Wolfgang Benz, a nationally recognized researcher on antisemitism. Benz’s report exonerated her from all accusations of antisemitism, but the university refused to publish the findings, according to Roldán Mendívil. Instead, they wanted her to accept a non-disclosure agreement to forbid her from talking about the report publicly. She refused.

Germany’s commitment to fighting antisemitism quickly crosses into rejecting any criticism of the State of Israel with the endorsement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. This definition has been widely criticized by many activists and scholars as being so broad that it proscribes as antisemitic, criticisms of the Israeli state.

Nonetheless, The German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) — the association of public and government-recognized universities in Germany — publicly supported it, and adopted the IHRA’s working definition. Despite in 2019, having warned of the dangers to academic freedom in an age of “radically polarized opinions,” where the HRK stressed the “need to face up to attacks on academic freedom.”

Beyond pro-Palestinian academics 

Anna Nguyen is a Vietnamese American academic whose research focuses on the literary studies of science and food literature.  She pursues a Ph.D in Germany teaching as an adjunct. Nguyen left an academic program in Canada after facing professorial power, exclusion, and hostility from white academic supervisors, only to experience an identical situation in Germany. “[Canada] was my first taste of bullying and exclusion, and I am devastated that I now experience that here, even when I informed the program directors of my past experiences”, Nguyen said.

Filipina-German academic Karin Louise Hermes was forced to leave Berlin to return to her parents, unable to find a job. Living with her parents allowed her to focus on writing, yet her supervisor told her she was not ready to submit her dissertation after five years although making no comments on her chapter drafts. She believed she was a victim of “academic sabotage.”

“There was no real mechanism of complaint about a PhD supervisor, and… I was stuck with an individual who did not want to understand my work.. framed around decolonial thought. One German PhD supervisor was blocking international peer review feedback to my work. She even criticized my English skills. My supervisor never gave me constructive written feedback, but told me to wait for it, and then never communicated with me again for months until I needed a signature to submit, as if just waiting for me to give up” Hermes said.

When Nguyen similarly expressed concerns over her supervisor asking for a change, the responses stopped. “It’s been a year now and I still don’t understand what my status is at this institution- no one responds to my emails, and in fact the only emails I get are from the billing department” Nguyen said. “My international status is in jeopardy and this institution allowed me to fall through the cracks” she said.

Who remains?

Researchers working at the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) conducted a pilot study on racism within the fields of migration, integration and racism research. In announcing their project, these researchers, specifically researchers of colour with intersectional experiences of exclusion, titled their project “Who remains?” They believe these institutions were not for them as they are expected to either fit in or leave.

“At the center of this study are the professional pathways of Black and PoC academics. From the outside it might seem as if we consisted of a homogeneous mass. However, the opposite is true. We are radically heterogeneous and we demand the possibility for the same” reads their project description.

Researcher Ali Konyali, at the DeZIM Institute, spoke to me. Although this research in its preliminary steps, what Konyali observed in qualitative interviews was similar experiences of exclusion, marginalization efforts and similar ways these individuals have dealt with it.

“Individual estrangement from institutions is systemic,” Konyali said. “What I noticed when I moved through academia is that certain things are not expected to be conducted by certain people. There is this objectivity paradigm that is imposed as an obstacle towards academics of color.”

Konyali exampled this objectivity paradigm in the belief academics of colour studying racism are unable to remain objective. “There is this expectation that people without racism experiences can keep a critical distance to their research, while academics who experience racism are unable to remain neutral,” Konyali said. “They are told that they are too involved with their own data and their own material and that they are emotionally too intertwined with their own knowledge production,” he said.

Konyali’s analysis is echoed by “Dear German Academia: What is Your Role in African Knowledge Production?” by Lynda Chinenye Iroulo and Juliana Tappe Ortiz. They argue that German research practices on Africa are entangled in epistemic injustice from colonial power structures.

Iroulo and Ortiz take a closer look at the hiring pattern and practices in African Studies in Germany, but the only way they could determine scholars’ backgrounds is to check whether they studied at African universities. The authors show that the most cited publications on Africa are written by non-Africans.

In Germany, universities and research institutes do not collect data on ethnicity and race when hiring academics. Many researchers, activists and academics believe this is a fault.  “This is a very basic first step to prove that this problem exists, and unfortunately this is already a problem on its own,” Konyali said. “For people to believe that racism is a pervasive problem, you have to be open to conducting this very basic data collection.”

A 2018 report collected by the Royal Historical Society showed racial and ethnic inequality in history teaching in the UK. It claimed an underrepresentation of Black and Ethnic students and staff in university history programs led to substantial racial bias and discrimination. Among UK-national staff, 96.1% of university historians were White, a figure higher than in other subjects.

Historian Mirjam Brusius believes these numbers would be found amongst German historians and their diaspora communities if ethnicity-related data collection were used as a tool to fight discrimination.“We lack not just data, but also research and precise terminology to give a more accurate idea of the discrimination specific groups of Black Scholars and Scholars of Colour in German academia experience” she writes.“ The hashtag #BlackInTheIvory (a commentary on Black academics in higher education) may have gained little attention in Germany precisely because so few scholars there are Black or of Colour—but how would we be able to generate evidence?”

Many believe there seemed to be a shift after the murder of Black American, George Floyd, with the waves of protests that flooded Germany’s streets, but they believe conversations on race and inclusion are far behind in this country.

Ali Konyali points to the contradiction of Germany of suddenly wanting to be inclusive, ignited by an international case of racism- but largely silent on the one that took place at home. “Right before the murder of George Floyd was the mass shooting at Hanau where nine people were killed- yet the murder of Floyd did more to advance talking about prejudice and exclusion which shows that Germany externalizes racism” Konyali said.

“While there were people showing online solidarity, it was rare that Germany really confronted its own history partaking in colonialism and the effects that are still there – I haven’t witnessed real outrage over this in Germany yet” German-Ghanian academic, Anna Hankings-Evans said.

In an exam during her legal traineeship, Hankings-Evans had to take the position of defending a Nazi and believed there were not any options for her to opt out. “There are not enough safeguards for me to refuse to take part in such an exam as a Black woman” she said.

“Last year, when ‘Black Lives Matter statements’ filled websites of predominantly white history departments in the US and the UK, it did not escape colleagues abroad that historians in Germany chose not to speak out”, Mirjam Brusius said.

“Change — I think – can only come in Germany when we have accountability towards these institutions and structures, and I think that comes with really interrogating why things are taught the way they are”, Hankings-Evans said.

“I believe some white academics and even those involved in the Historian’s Debate, need to understand that Germany’s remembrance culture poses existential questions that are directly connected to real-life experiences today. What forms Germany’s memory is connected to the rise of the fascism in the present” Zoé Samudzi said.

“If our colleagues are the Nachwuchs of the Nazis”, Wendy Shaw, an internationally renowned expert in Islamic Art argued, it was not because of their “birth as Germans, but because many had not rethought the nature of authority and exclusion and replaced the white-patriarchal hierarchy at the heart of universities with a working system of diversity and inclusion”.

Conclusion

“At the current moment in Germany”, Samudzi continued, “there is no real interest in tackling anti-Blackness, or decoloniality as a whole.”

Life under perpetual violence. Travel report from Palestine

As part of an international delegation, Julia Kaiser took part in discussions and worked with the youth festival of the Palestinian People’s Party. In parallel she visited different locations and got an idea of life under the Israeli occupation.


16/11/2022

“We don’t actually count the injured after a demonstration, normally only the dead”. This was the reply from a comrade in his 40s when I asked whether there were any more injured besides the two youngsters with casts. We were making our way back from the demonstration. The person on the seat next to us shared with us that one youth was now in hospital. They needed to examine whether everything is fine with his head but it looks like everything is alright, no cause for alarm, he said – visibly troubled – to soothe me.

Our collective participation in a demonstration on the third day of the Farkha Festival, organized by the Palestinian People’s Party Youth, is an expression of living solidarity that is characteristic of the festival. We encounter such solidarity when the Palestinian families in the village prepare their rooms us, so that we international guests can sleep in the most comfortable beds, or when they conjure up the best food, enough for 300 people, for those of us from the women’s collective.

The living, vigorous solidarity extends throughout the program: every mid-morning we support the village, together with Palestinian youth, with the upkeep of the infrastructure. One group renovates the municipal school, the next one builds a cement wall and yet another works in the village’s eco-garden. In a flash we come in contact with other festival participants, learn a few words of Arabic, hear how complicated their daily lives are, chat together. In the afternoon, we learn about the living conditions, the struggles of women in Palestinian society, and about the apartheid system in which the Palestinians have been forced to live.

Israeli Settlements in the West Bank

Even before my journey, I found the concepts apartheid and settler-colonialism appropriate, based on my knowledge of the relationship between Palestine and Israel. But until now it was difficult to grasp. In Germany moral outrage is raised in a larger (if decreasing) part of my left political environment, accompanied by an extremely distorted reportage. Following the demonstration and our daily experience as “internationals” side by side with our Palestinian comrades, has caused any kind of insecurity and misgiving about the use of such terms to melt into the air.

What was the reason and course of a demonstration, from which three children with moderate injuries and approximately 30 further participants with tear gassed, red-eyed and sore eyes returned home? And how can it be explained, that all the injuries only surprised us German, Italian, Kurdish and Danish socialists, whereas all the people of the land viewed it as a daily outcome?

The reason for the demonstration in the village of Beit Dajan in the West Bank is the successive encroachments of the fields all around the village by a radical nationalist Israeli settlement. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are classified by the International Court of Justice and the United Nations as a violation of human rights. For the Palestinians settlements are accompanied with a loss of land or houses and an increasing Israeli military presence. For two years Palestinian residents have been protesting against the illegal expansion of a farm of one of the settlers, which may change the life of an entire village.

Machine guns aimed at us

Before the demo, our comrades assume that they will largely proceed freely, because the Israeli soldiers directly recognise us internationals through their cameras and drones. This will make them scale down their violence. However, they recommend us to place ourselves further back because we do not want to get hurt by tear gas which is fired at every demonstration.

When we get off the bus, I have to swallow. We are approximately 60 demonstrators, standing on a field road, with nothing around us but bushes, mounds, and soldiers positioned within them. They are directly in front of our procession and block the road, standing 30 metres away from us on the right and about 100 metres on the left. The machine guns are pointing towards us. The soldiers who are not pointing guns at us take photos of us. I feel fear for the first time in my life.

Ahead of the demonstration, the chants and speeches begin. I can barely make anything out, because I do not trust myself to go further ahead. Suddenly the people from the front rows begin to run. I hear shots – one, two, three tear gas grenades fall. I run as fast as I can, my knees wobble. “Rubber” bullet shots are added to the fray. These are metal bullets coated with rubber – “less lethal” but absolutely capable of inflicting deadly injuries.

When I turn around, all the demonstrators stand around a gas smoked ambulance that we had brought with us from the village. I see a stone flying in the direction of the soldiers. The shots, which have been documented on Youtube, go off again and land in the proximity of the ambulance. Our comrades come to us by the bus, one after the next. Some can barely walk or stand, slumped in front of the bus, disorientated by the teargas. The worst injured are transported away by a car.

Together in sorrow and frenzy

On the one hand, illegal machine gun and drone protected land theft, on the other chants and children throwing stones lifted off the ground. This could hardly be any further from the “Middle East conflict” and “Israel hate demonstrations” described by whitewashed German media reports.

While I sat shocked in the bus, the kids and the teenagers behind me begin to sing, to laugh, to go on with life. For them it was a normal demonstration. In the evening, the teenagers with the casts sit around and listen carefully to a talk. Like every evening, at some point everyone begins to sing, to chat; we dance a Palestinian dance with dozens of people.

The horrors of the day sink into oblivion. Suddenly I think I understand that the hospitality and the collectiveness that we experience here and the indescribable injustice that the people in Palestine experience are indeed two sides of the same coin. You suffer together, you give yourself over together into the exhilaration of the dancing and the singing.

Through the checkpoint to the mosque

The physical and psychic violence against the Palestinians that I encountered at the demonstration, extended from the first to the last day of our two and a half week weeks there. For example, during our day tour to al-Khalil (Hebron), where the oppression of Palestinians becomes visible as if under a magnifying glass. In al-Khalil 800 settlers under the protection of 2000 soldiers have ensconced themselves in the town centre.

We walk through a market street. At its end it becomes bustling. A queue of people begins to form because a checkpoint is located here. This is a turnstile, through which our travel group also must pass through in order to see another part of the city. Over and over, the turnstile pauses. Each time I am stuck for a few seconds until I can turn round. My heart beats faster when I am welcomed on the other side by soldiers with machine guns.

Here I realise that the people who had been pressured through the control like animals were all going to a mosque located right next to the soldiers’ station post. I stand on the small square, on which a few children want to sell us water. It is desolate and tears run down my eyes.

A feeling like imprisonment

The children gather near us and ask my travel companions why I am crying. Here once more, my reality collides with theirs. While I can barely endure the notion that the people here are cooped up by the Israeli military as if they were in prison, life between the soldiers is like a normality for the children of al-Khalil.

Here as well, stones are sometimes flung during disputes, causing the press to fall over itself with relish. Today it became clear in which moments this becomes frequent: the soldiers leave only the 100 metres of the street unblocked for Palestinians and guard the illegally occupied houses in the city centre. Sometimes they close an additional checkpoint without warning. This prevents some children from going to school. Waiting is an option, turning around is another. A third possibility, as rage grows, is picking up and throwing a stone.

Apartheid up close

In al-Khalil witnessed the following “conflict” situation: one side guards illegal settlements and fragments the city into a patchwork of checkpoints. Sometimes this side marches into mosques with boots and shoves the praying Muslims outside. The other side must go through an armed control checkpoint in order to pray. But they are denied access to some streets.

Today Israeli citizens live above Gold Street, and throw their garbage out of their windows. Old plastic chairs, diapers and food scraps are stacked a mete above the street below. Palestinians who can afford to, move away.

A Palestinian throwing a stone can be immediately taken into custody or shot. It is exceedingly uncommon for an Israeli soldier to be convicted for murdering a Palestinian. That is what apartheid means. I ask myself whether all journalists who write so bitterly against this definition have ever been here.

Hopeless in the Holy City

One of our last stations is Jerusalem. Against expectations it is rather calm. Only a day before our arrival hundreds of settlers forced themselves into the grounds of the al-Aqsa Mosque. After two weeks in Palestine our nerves are slowly reaching their limits. The hopelessness is setting in because we have experienced first-hand that anyone who goes on the streets against the illegitimate invasion of the mosque places their freedom or their life on the line.

Our friend leads us towards Sheikh Jarrah. the streets where the previous year an “anti-terror unit” of Israeli police forces and heavily armed soldiers forcibly evicted of a Palestinian family. This sparked off a mass movement to prevent it in Palestine and in the whole word.

Now we stand in front of the house, in which illegal Israeli settlers currently live. On the house is placed a Star of David, an Israeli flag, and about 10 cameras which are observing us. The Palestinian family that lived here sometimes sleeps in a car and at others with relatives. It is unlikely that they will be able to return to their house.

On the other side of the road, an even more drastic picture awaits us. Here, illegal settlers have taken up residence in the front garden of a small house belonging to a Palestinian family. I unsuccessfully try to imagine what it must be like to walk past my previous second house every morning, and not be able to do anything, although it has been illegally occupied for a year, there are no legal means to challenge this.

No religious conflict

An old gentleman walks along the street. Our friend introduces him to us as one of the neighbours. Like most people here, he has witnessed the protests against the forced evictions from start to finish. He explains that his grand-daughter has been sitting in prison for a year. She is accused of having used violence against an Israeli during the protests. She is 17 years old. He does not know when he will see her again.

I recall the speech of a Jewish comrade at the festival from a couple of days ago. He spoke about the difference between Judaism and the State of Israel, and of his solidarity towards Palestinian resistance. He described his anguish every time when Judaism and the Star of David that he wore on his wrist, are equated with Israel or with Zionism by German society. For him his identity is irreconcilable with the injustice that the State of Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians.

He received great applause for his speech. He felt no hint of scepticism based on his Jewish identity. Again and again it was explained to me at the festival that people have Jewish friends and neighbours with whom they live together.

Unending fury and a spark of hope

In the airplane I speculate that the thoughts of the checkpoints and machine guns will circle in my head every day back in Germany. Actually, it is the people who we met at the festival and on the field trips, that I think of the most: those who met us with so much warmth.

I think about the numerous grinning faces when we entered the festival grounds, about the girls and the boys who performed the dances, the collective cleaning of the school, which was interrupted every half hour with a dance, broom in hand. I think of all the families who brought us to the bus or organised for us to be picked up at the next stop by another family, so that nothing happened to us.

Despite the harrowing violence, I have returned with unending fury and a spark of hope. Because the majority of Palestinians radiate so much humanity and positivity that they will under no circumstances let themselves be expelled. One day, as it was repeatedly said to me, Palestine will be free.

This article originally appeared in German in critica. Translation Ali Khan. Reproduced with permission.

Julia will be talking about her experiences and showing film and photographs on Sunday, 20th November from 3pm in Bilgisaray, Oranienstraße 45.