By now, most people reading this are likely familiar with the police violence and general climate of repression of our civil liberties here in berlin. Many of us have already seen it with our own eyes or even experienced it firsthand.
Protests are being banned moments before they are due to start so that police have a pretext to brutalize and arrest those assembled. Every morning, new videos circulate on social media of police beating, choking, and pepper spraying people on Sonnenallee the night before. Signs of solidarity with Palestine are forbidden, and in a Neukölln school, a teacher physically attacked a student for wearing a Keffiyeh. All of this has been aided by the media who help to peddle a narrative that these measures are necessary due to the “imported antisemitism” infiltrated by Middle Eastern people, and expressions of support for Palestine are criminalized as such.
On this website, we’ve written about how the label of antisemitism is used as a carte blanche to revoke our democratic and constitutional rights, and how the police are able to operate with impunity as they racially profile, beat, and arrest Arab people by projecting this label onto them. We’ve also discussed how this justification barely holds up when even Jews and Israelis demanding an end to the genocide are labeled antisemitic or even detained for expressing the wrong opinion, as they are also brutalized and their constitutional rights are denied.
To those foreigners living in Berlin who were not raised in this culture of so-called German guilt, this all looks infuriatingly backward and disturbing. We’ve written about that too. And there’s surely a lot more to say about the kind of psychosis that German society appears to be experiencing with respect to their handling of their own genocidal past. Namely, how they’ve increasingly managed to disavow this guilt by outsourcing it onto Muslim and Arab people in alarmingly racist ways.
These are all important cultural questions, and there are certainly people more qualified than I am to unpack them. So here I would like to draw our attention to what is still veiled – albeit thinly – behind the scenes of our anger and frustration with Germany’s response to the genocide in Gaza. What I see is a growing consolidation of power in line with a rightwing, authoritarian agenda. Such is well encapsulated in the following anecdote:
This is something we should all be concerned about. I would even wager that this increasingly emboldened current of white supremacy represents the greatest threat to all minority groups, to civil society, and to the creative cultural enclave that is Berlin.
Beyond the above anecdote, we can also see this phenomenon expressed in the unprecedented alignment of Die Linke with AfD. Recently, they came together to vote unanimously in favor of Germany’s decision to back Israel in its collective punishment of Gazans. The relentless efforts to manufacture consent for the racist treatment and targeting of Muslim and Arab people should also be understood through this rapidly accelerating turn to the right. For example, the center left party SPD, lead by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is now openly putting forth the idea of mass deportations. This is all taking place as CDU suggests revoking dual citizenship for those who express support for Palestine, the consistent labeling of protesters as “Hamas sympathizers,” and I have already started to hear anecdotes of refugees having their asylum status threatened for the same.
What if we also look at the widespread and unchecked police violence that’s been occurring over the last days as a growing expression of rightwing authoritarianism, rather than an attempt to cleanse the city’s streets of so-called antisemites hailing from the Middle East? And by the way, statistically speaking, 93% of antisemitic attacks in Germany are committed by rightwing extremists. In light of this, it makes sense that in a recent letter co-signed by over 120 Jewish artists, writers, and scientists living in Germany, its authors explicitly state that rather than fearing their Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian neighbors, “What frightens us is the prevailing atmosphere of racism and xenophobia in Germany, hand in hand with a constraining and paternalistic philo-Semitism.”
While it seems much of the white German public is content to sit in silence or even turn their backs as the police violence and criminalization of Arabs and Muslims continues, our current state of affairs ought to come as a word of warning. The repression and suspension of civil liberties might not seem to directly affect those who are insulated by their German passports and their whiteness, and many may delude themselves into thinking that they can remain unaffected if they simply don’t step out of line.
Yet, if as I’ve argued we should, we frame all that’s happening as part of a larger trend towards rightwing authoritarianism that has been years in the making, it should scare us all. Not long ago, the AfD was merely a fringe party, and other politicians aimed to distance themselves from it. Now, polls indicate that 20% of Germans would vote for the AfD in the next election. I recently commented to a friend that the flagrant state repression and police violence we’ve been seeing here in German society since the 7th of October marks another step toward our descent into fascism, and he remarked that we are probably already wading in it.
As the powers that be – from our political and cultural institutions to the media to our labor unions – continue to try and pit Jews and Muslims against each other through racist fearmongering, we can easily become blinded to the real threat to our society. Now is a time to remain vigilant and to hold onto our outrage as our civil liberties are revoked at will. This moment calls upon us to push through our fears in the face of the very real institutional intimidation and state violence, which leave us feeling as if we might be punished next by the police or in our workplaces. Our chance to take a stand is now, and that window might be closing more rapidly than we think.
The good news is that every time we manage to do so, we get a small taste of the liberation that we are fighting for – in solidarity with Palestinians and in defense of our freedoms here in Berlin.