On Saturday, 20th May 2023, there was a joint rally by Jewish and Palestinian participants. The Jüdische Stimme had called it in order to express solidarity with Palestine and to commemorate the Nakba after a strict ban of all other Nakba events, not least the large demonstration “#Nakba75”, planned for Hermannplatz on the same day. This was the only possibility for Palestinians to remember their past and their ongoing expropriation and oppression.
There were many stewards, and they cooperated fully with the police throughout the event. The police, however, were on the offensive from the start, and at one stage they kettled part of the rally. They then demanded that chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” be suppressed. We do not see any antisemitism in this slogan, and we support its message of equal rights without exception between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the police used this as a pretext to break up the demonstration.
It was narrowly possible to commemorate the Nakba in Berlin, but the police ultimately intervened in this one remaining event, leading to blatant police brutality and arrests. The message: in Berlin, no remembrance of the Nakba must take place.
On the following day, the campaign against the rally on social media began, under the banner of press freedom. There were various representatives of the press at the rally, who identified themselves and were treated politely and professionally by the demo organisers. However, activists were also present from state-funded political organisations that were opposed to the rally, and regularly monitor pro-Palestinian movements, filming and photographing participants. With the help of the police, they occasionally attempted to intimidate participants. They refused to answer polite questions about their work, although the Press Code guidelines 4.1 states: “journalists fundamentally identify themselves”. Stewards tried many times to respond to the provocative behaviour with de-escalation, but some participants still allowed themselves to be provoked.
It is clear that the provocative behaviour of these political activists around Jörg Reichel, who were given press accreditation through ver.di, followed a strategy: to provoke cases of “hostility to the press” that could be later used by the police as a basis for restrictions and bans. For this reason, we are also sending this statement to ver.di.
After the rally, false information from the police was also disseminated in the genuine press. The Berliner Zeitung wrote: “despite the ban of a planned Palestinian demonstration in Berlin, there were antisemitic attacks in Kreuzberg on Saturday afternoon. Between 80 and 100 Palestine supporters massively disrupted the rally registered by the organisation Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East) on Oranienplatz, declared a police spokesman.”
This implies that our rally was disrupted by people who were, in fact, a part of it. By referring to fictional antisemitic attacks, a picture was painted in which well-meaning Jewish activists were overrun by Palestinian Jew-haters. This perfectly portrays the racist discourse around antisemitism that currently exists in Germany.
In the online edition of the Berliner Zeitung report there was a photo in which Jewish activist Adam Broomberg was taken away from the police after they had violently arrested him. Who was really protecting whom, from whom, and who were the real disrupters?
The taz was little better. Below the headline: “Skirmishes despite ban: Palestinian assembly despite banned demo” they published an article whose title already aimed to delegitimise the rally. The Tagesspiegel went even further and made the assertion that “dozens gathered in Kreuzberg despite a ban”. To make this claim about an officially registered demonstration is false. The only balanced report, in which participants also had a chance to heard, was in rbb24. But even here, Palestinian voices were absent.
Conclusion: anyone who wants to show solidarity with Palestine in public can count neither on law-abiding behaviour by the police nor on objective reporting in the German press. We explicitly welcome media representatives to visit our meetings, talk to us and ask questions of us as well as other participants.
We will continue to criticise provocations by individual activists from pro-Israel organisations with press passes, who approach and harass vulnerable groups, such as participants without a secure residency status, with cameras in order to provoke emotional outbursts. This enables them to later construct a narrative of hostility to the press.
Board of Jüdische Stimme, 23rd May 2023
This statement appeared first in German on the Jüdische Stimme website. Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission.