“You Poor Jew!”

Broken ribs and conspiracy theories at a municipal meeting


Statement by Palestine Speaks, Palastina Kampagne, and Judische Stimme

  1. Intimidation

On Wednesday, 13th September 2023, a supposedly open pro-Israel public meeting “The myth of Israel” took place in the well-known Szenebar Bajszel. It was sponsored by the Berliner Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (Berlin office for political education) and had Güner Balci, the integration commissioner for Neukölln, as one of the speakers. This meeting took place against an oppressive background – ID card checks, the limitation of press freedom and the filming of participants from close up without their permission intimidated criticism of the historical revisionism which was presented.

The meeting room – the back room of a bar with closed blinds – resembled more a private function than an open funded meeting. All these “security measures” were justified with the protection of Jewish people who have been exposed to antisemitic hostility at meetings on this subject. In fact, the only people in the public who openly identified themselves as Jewish were challenged by the meeting organisers and the audience.

  1. Physical Attacks

The Jewish-Israeli former soldier Yuval was removed from the meeting room after he expressed criticism of the meeting which offensively declared the apartheid status of Israel as a myth. He said that as a soldier he had seen apartheid with his own eyes. Although he did not put up a fight, Yuval was hit to the ground in the entrance area, and one of his ribs was broken.

People in the audience also joined in against people with a different opinion to theirs. The author Nicholas Potter tried to snatch away the notes of one of the participants. After she left the meeting room, the participant was detained by what can be presumed to be the security team. She could not free herself from their grip. Later she was followed by the security team, who continued to film her from behind.

  1. Verbal Attacks

Further Jewish voices came forward to criticise the lack of diversity of the podium, which contained neither Palestinian nor Jewish participants. This, at an event which announced itself as wanting to discuss “Israel-related antisemitism”. These contributions were instantly shouted down. People from the “antisemitism-critical” public shouted “You poor Jew!” and “Shut up!”

The Jewishness of Jews who spoke out against racism, historical revisionism and anti-scientific remarks was questioned. They and other critical voices were removed to derisive laughter from the audience, while their faces were filmed from close range.

  1. Anti-science

Rather than refuting myths, the meeting propagated them. The Nakba – one of the best documented crimes against humanity – was crudely played down by the podium. The legally proved apartheid status of the State of Israel was labelled a myth, while the credibility of international lawyers and UN human rights experts was questioned in an anti-scientific manner, as was the judicial consensus amongst the most recognised international human rights organisations. This is something recognisable from right-wing circles.

All this happened in the presence of Güner Balci, who sat on the podium as the integration commissioner for Neukölln.

How can the city of Berlin help to organise such anti-democratic, anti-scientific, escalatory meetings? We call on Frau Balci, the integration commissioner for Neukölln, to speak up and to pay compensation to those affected. Write to her at Guener.balci@bezirksamt-neukoelln.de or landeszentrale@senbjf.berlin.de and complain.

Translation from the German: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission.