Bourgeois newspapers are reporting about antisemitic threats at German universities. The Berliner Zeitung for example wrote that “Jewish students fear violence” at a rally for Gaza at the Free University. The only source quoted by that newspaper is a pro-Zionist NGO with no connection to FU. The author writes about “antisemitic incidents almost every day,” but has made no effort to document even a single such incident. We spoke to Jewish students at the Free University about what they’re afraid of. Here are their words.
Coming from the U.S., one of the most common negative responses to being a Jewish anti-Zionist is that I am somehow self-loathing. This blatantly false criticism is something that to this day has never stuck with or intimidated me. Coming to Germany, however, there is a lot more on the line. As someone without EU citizenship who is here on a student visa, supporting the right of the Palestinian people to live free from occupation has the potential for much greater consequences.
Especially during the first few weeks of the siege on Gaza, the threat of being arrested was extremely scary, as it was unclear what consequences would befall someone who was not a citizen. As time has gone on, while this threat is still there, I have found also found it extremely difficult to navigate this topic on campus. I am newly starting a thesis and being introduced to others in my research group. There is not a day that I do not think, read, and worry about this issue, but the climate at FU is such that silence is expected.
I will proudly be for this cause until we see a free Palestine, but that said, I couldn’t help but be looking over my shoulder at the student demonstration at Mensa II seeing if any of my colleagues were around. When FU sent out an email notifying students of the “mental health checkpoints” around campus because of the Hamas attack on Israel, with no context of the occupation and perpetuating the standard German rhetoric around this issue, I really felt like: “wow, this school isn’t here for me or anyone like me who is witnessing a genocide in front of their eyes and is calling it as such.”
I have been frustrated seeing German media claim Jewish students are scared to be on campus as a result of the protests in solidarity with Palestinians. It is especially frustrating seeing German media call these protests antisemitic and “Jew-hating.” I am an international student and an American Jew at the FU. What I have been scared of on university campuses since October 7 is the increasing repression and silencing of anti-Zionist Jewish voices, the huge police presence at campus demonstrations, the possibility of losing my residence permit should I be arrested at protests for being an anti-Zionist Jew in Germany, and the risk of not being able to continue studying here because calling for an end to genocide in Gaza can be seen as an act of antisemitism. After seeing the police arrest Jewish people at the Jewish-led „We Still Need to Talk“ rally on November 10, these fears have increased.
Scapegoating antisemitism onto students from the Middle East, who have accepted me with open arms and who ensure Jewish voices are heard at protests, is the real fear for me, not the supposed “antisemitism” I have not seen or felt while taking part in these on-campus protests. I am scared of the way police are reacting. I fear repression from the university is only increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism (by pushing the false idea that all “real” Jews are Zionists and Zionism is required to be Jewish). I fear the current German atmosphere, and the willing commitment to defending Israel despite the ongoing crimes against humanity by the Israeli government.
First published in German at Klasse Gegen Klasse. Reproduced with permission