Gaza is a Health Workers’ Issue

Why the Syndikat is wrong to ban Palästina Spricht


I am a long-time supporter of the Syndikat, one of the few remaining left-wing spaces in Berlin. When gentrifiers tried, and ultimately succeeded, to evict the pub from its old building in Weisestraße, I was an active and proud supporter of the campaign Syndikat Bleibt.

For a long time, the Syndi has offered a welcome refuge to socialists, anarchists, and other Leftists fighting against neoliberalism and capitalism. After conducting meetings in the area, the groups I participated in regularly dropped by the bar, enjoying its tolerant atmosphere.

So you can understand my surprise when I learned that all are not equally welcome at Syndikat. Recently, they banned a meeting by Health Workers for Palestine planned for February 3rd. Syndikat justified the ban by saying that the meeting was supported by Palästina Spricht, a coalition fighting for Palestinian rights and against every form of racism. There is a translation of Syndikat’s full statement at the bottom of this text.

Palästina Spricht has been an essential part of the anti-colonial movement for years. Its mission statement says: “Our activism and our activities also extend to supporting other movements (e.g. Black Lives Matter), which also fight for rights and acknowledgement. We aspire towards a political community which stands as an example for the Palestine which we want to build: free, just, humanitarian and without any form of racism.”

Palästina Spricht is an organisation run by left-wing Palestinians fighting for equality in the face of the racist German state. Despite extensive state repression, Palästina Spricht has organised many demonstrations and supported demonstrators arrested by the notoriously racist Berlin police. I am proud to work alongside them.

There is much in the Syndikat statement which I can agree with. I, too, condemn the Israeli bombing of Gaza and the attempts by German politicians to whip up Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism. I believe that we need safe spaces where people can gather, free of any fear of racism, sexism or any other form of oppression.

But let us be clear about what the statement means. Firstly, it accuses a well-established Palestinian leftist organisation of relativising and glorifying Hamas terror. This reproduces right-wing racist stereotypes which claim that anyone who opposes the destruction of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine is a Hamas apologist. These are the same tropes which were used to accuse Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham and Palestinian film maker Basel Adra of antisemitism after their film No Other Land won an audience prize at the Berlinale.

Secondly, despite claiming to provide a space where there is “no room for exclusionary ideologies”, the Syndikat is excluding health workers trying to address the dire situation for the two million Gazans left without healthcare after all 32 hospitals on the strip were bombed to rubble. Although the Syndikat claims to support such meetings, their support hinges on the meeting not being endorsed by a Palestinian group.

Gaza is an issue for all health workers. Hundreds of health workers in Gaza have been killed. Last year, Medical Aid for Palestine announced that “the reported number of healthcare workers killed in ten weeks of Israel’s assault on Gaza has exceeded the total number killed in all countries in conflict globally in any single year since 2016.”

On January 9th, the International Middle East Media Center reported that Israel had bombarded the last functioning hospital in Gaza, stating that “the Israeli army gave doctors, patients and those displaced one hour to evacuate the establishment, according to medical sources, even though there were no ambulances or means to transfer them. The UN estimated 2,300 patients, staff, and displaced Palestinians were at Al-Shifa before the Israeli military stormed the medical compound.”

Last week, we saw Israeli troops open fire on starving Gazan civilians waiting for flour in a food queue. Over 100 people were killed and many more were injured. And yet the lack of any health infrastructure in Gaza means that the people hurt by this indefensible attack will not receive the treatment that they need. Surely this is an issue for health workers across the world, including in Germany.

After 5 months of Israel’s bombardment and decades of blockade, experts are now saying that we are just weeks away from full-blown famine in Gaza. In today’s Guardian (6th March), Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, reports a

“famine, which could come within weeks. That is, widespread severe shortages of food causing illness and death in a short time period. The UN has repeatedly said that a quarter of the population already faces starvation, while the entire population of 2.3 million lives with food shortages.”

Thirdly, I would like to point out the absurdity of the Syndikat statement that “Meetings which are organised or visited by such groups cannot take place here” (my italics). This is not just a ban on meetings organised by Palestinian organisations, but any meeting which might be visited by someone who “relativise or glorify the Hamas terror” (a description which, if it is seriously being used to refer to Palästina Spricht surely applies to any Palestinian or their supporters). 

At a time of shrinking spaces in Germany for Palestine solidarity, the Syndikat’s ban cannot go unchallenged. Left-wing venues must provide space for those impacted by racism and state repression, not excluding them. This is particularly necessary at a time when, as the Syndikat statement itself acknowledges, Gaza is suffering from a humanitarian emergency.

I urge Syndikat to educate themselves on Palästina Spricht and to lift the ban. Until then, I won’t be visiting the Syndikat as long as Palestinians and their supporters are not welcome there. The Berlin LINKE Internationals are contacting the Syndikat Collective to express our concerns. What happens next depends a lot on their response.

No-one is free until everyone is free.

Hoch die internationale Solidarität


Statement of the Syndikat Collective to a planned meeting on 3rd February in our premises

On 3rd February, a meeting of health workers should have taken place in our rooms. The room request said that the meeting was about organising these workers. Then a call on Instagram supporting the meeting appeared from “Palästina Spricht”. Their participation was not visible before then. As a result, we cancelled the meeting.

We want to say the following about this: we, as the Syndikat Collective want to provide space where there is no place for racism, antisemitism, sexism, hostility towards Queers or any other exclusionary ideologies.

We understand the attack by Hamas on Israel on 7th October 2023 not as legitimate resistance or an act of liberation, but as a terrorist attack on civilians. We condemn any attempt to relativise the act of terror and to instrumentalise it for antisemitic ends.

We also condemn the current Israeli conduct of war, which brings great suffering to Palestinian civil society and has resulted in a humanitarian emergency. We also stand against every attempt to instrumantalise the Israel/Palestine conflict for racists ends and to put all Muslims under suspicion.

Every death is one too many! Our sympathy goes to all civilian victims of violence.

A meeting which serves to organise health workers and to support the civil society in Gaza can of course be held here. Political groups, which relativise or glorify the Hamas Terror are not welcome. Meetings, which are organised or visited by such groups cannot take place here.

Your Syndikat Collective.