Minutes of the meeting The Left Internationals, Die LINKE, and Palestine (6th November 2023)

On 6th November, around 35 people attended the open organising meeting of the Berlin LINKE Internationals. Before the main discussion, on die LINKE and Palestine, we made the following organisational announcements:

  • The meeting we had planned on the legacy of French colonialism in Africa had to be postponed because of speaker unavailability (one of the planned speakers was involved in a car crash). We hope to organise this meeting at a later date
  • On Saturday, 9th December, we have booked Bilgisaray, Oranienstraße 45, for a Christmas party. If anyone would like to help us plan the programme, please contact us either by e-mail or through our Telegram group (contact details at the bottom of this report).
    A separate Telegram channel has been set up to organise the party-
  • We will have our annual Summer Camp on 29-30 June in the Naturfreundehaus Hermsdorf. We are currently getting together a team to plan the programme. If you are interested in joining this time, please get in touch.
    A separate Telegram channel has been set up to organise the Summer Camp.

Following these announcements, Palestinian activist Ramsy Kilani led a productive debate about the current situation in Gaza and the repression of Palestine activity in Germany.

Ramsy’s introduction

Ramsy started by speaking about the escalation in Gaza being rooted in the history of occupation.

Many human rights orgs have called Israel an apartheid state 1 2 3

Gaza is an open air prison which is under siege by air, ground and water. Israel controls food supply which restricts to a very small amount. Electricity is limited, many families died from fires started by candlelight. Unemployment in Gaza over 50%, for over 2 million people. 95% of water is not fit for human consumption. The UN estimated by 2020 it would be unliveable but reached that by 2017.

Ramsy referred to October 7th as a new 9/11 for the West, which contained, atrocities both real and fabricated. When raising the question of the Israeli hostages he asks what about Palestinian hostages who are still in Israeli prisons, where there is proof of systematic torture, including children. 95% of kids in Israeli prisons have been tortured

There are over 9,000 deaths we know of so far in the latest attacks. Infrastructure has been completely destroyed and more than half of Gazans don’t have homes anymore.

Leaders in Israel are openly talking about genocide, referring to Palestinians as animals who need to be destroyed. 1 2 3

In the rest of the occupied territories, West Bank, Jenin etc Palestinians are being evicted, tortured and killed by the IDF and settlers armed and supported by the IDF. 1 2 3 4

Israel is facing a lot of resistance since they are targeting all Palestinians and not simply Hammas. There is an explosion of Palestinian solidarity around the world which gives a lot of hope.

Ramsey summarised by reiterating the root cause of all of the violence is settler colonialism. While that structure exists, the violence will continue. Equal rights for Palestinians are needed and dismantling the apartheid state is crucial to a peaceful future.

General Discussion

There was a disagreement at the beginning about how not all of the stories of what happened on Oct 7th is propaganda

A few people in the discussion responded to this redirecting the purpose away from individual attacks and towards a more focused understanding of settler colonialism.

  • There’s nothing that justifies the current situation so arguing about the facts of 7th October doesn’t help. Large oil companies are speculating over Gaza right now.

  • It’s crucial to look at the system which is creating this violence rather than the individual violent acts. Settler colonialism everywhere have always been very violent systems

  • This idea of pointing to the violent acts dovetails really nicely with very racist ideas about Arab and Muslim people

How do we begin to talk about the basics?

  • Everyone is coming at it from different position so we have to be mindful

  • Phil spoke about the conversations he’s been having in his Linke branch. He found starting by looking at Police repression before discussing Palestine explicitly helped a lot. Also going back to basics explaining what life is like for an average Palestinian living under occupation.

How do we approach Germans who might not have all of the information that we see?

  • Can we ignore the people who are resistant to change and reach out to the people on the demonstrations?

  • The potential for hope in the demonstrations is much stronger than the despair of arguing with people who don’t want to know. Where is the future of solidarity and are there worker’s movements and unions we can bolster to throw more power against German imperialism.

German unions are all very pro-Israel – is there a way to get over that?

Concerning the condemning Hamas discussion. To say that they are a Jewish hating terrorist group reduces them down to nothing but a one-dimensional racist depiction – this is an ongoing effort to delegitimize Palestinian resistance.

The protest on Saturday gave a lot of hope and reminded of the BLM demonstrations with young white Germans out in a positive way – how can we make the links to bring the two together and empower people

What are the next steps? How do we sustain a movement beyond the protests to lead to the change that we want? We need to capitalise on the power we have now before people become too tired.

Are the regional forces a real issue or is this a distraction?

  • Hossam was very depressed that there were no demonstrations in Egypt planned for Nakba – a historical importance in Egypt. El-SiSi called one to take control of it but it was out of his control, they went to Tahir square and he hasn’t called one since. The memory of the Arab Spring is still there and there is still power there.

The protest felt a bit nervous at the beginning – people were worried about chanting. How do we get those nervous people to keep coming?

The Antifa scene is Anti-Deutsch or compliant. We need to be confident enough to name names and stand up to them properly

Do we want to be a powerful block against them?

  • We need to be open to change – Antifa NordOst came out in solidarity with Palestine after being silent for a while.

  • We need a multi-pronged attack to it.

Ramsy’s Summing Up

The ratio of civilian deaths is around 65% according to Ha-aretz.I can’t find the HaAretz article but this speaks to it with lots of sources  It is difficult to distinguish between military and civilian in Israel because the settlers at the frontier are armed and supported by the IDF. Also Israeli citizens who are born there are forced to join service at 16.

He referenced other anti-colonial uprisings and how unfortunately there are always atrocities against unarmed civilians e.g. Haiti, Algeria and South Africa. Every death is a tragedy but every death is also because of settler colonialism.

German guilt cannot explain away anti-semitism in Germany. It is rooted in nationalism and imperialism. There are cold, calculated reasons behind this ideology in establishing Germany as a major power on the world stage.

Unfortunately the Palestinian working class is very disenfranchised, split up, killed etc

So does that mean we look to the settler society? No – due to Israel’s economic relationship to other  imperialist states, Israeli citizens benefit. In Israel there is a hierarchy of oppression in which the worst treated still side with the state.

Imperialism has a stranglehold on North Africa, connected via Israel. There is a growing conflict though between people and their regimes who are supporting Israel. Revolutionary uprisings in the region is the way forward to free Palestine.

In Germany we are not there- but there are changes. Germany cannot be separated from the rest of the world as it wants.

How do we win in the union context?

It is highly bureaucratic and not very good on many issues, not just Palestine. Class struggle is the way forward

The first step is to work as a broad front which tackles wider issues, with a harder core exposing the global exploitation and oppression.

Palestine and die LINKE

In the second part of the discussion, we talked about the role of die LINKE. On a national level, the party has issued statements, which at best have shown a “both-sideism” position which does not reflect the asymmetrical nature of the conflict. At worst, the party, alongside with the CDU and others, called a demonstration in solidarity with Israel.

On a local level, die LINKE has been slightly better. In Neukölln, the party issued a statement which, while not perfect, was better than those on a national level. In Mitte, the party supported the demonstration on 4th November, and sent a good delegation from the Wedding branch.

After the meeting we learned that the Volksbühne disinvited Jeremy Corbyn from a meeting organised by the rosa Luxemburg stiftung because of his position on Palestine. Corbyn was due to speak about the EU.

This is not good enough for us, and puts die LINKE, and the German Left as a whole, out of step with what the international Left is saying and doing. Following the discussion we made the following decisions:

  • We unanimously agreed to issue a statement expressing our dissatisfaction with the way die LINKE has reacted to the attacks on Gaza. If anyone would like to join the editorial group which is drafting this statement, please get in touch
  • In an indicative vote, a small majority (with many abstentions) supported staying in die LINKE and fighting for our positions. We also agreed to review our attitude. The next opportunity will be at our next open organising meeting (provisional title “Die LINKE – benefits, problems, and alternatives” on Monday, 4th December in Schierker Straße 26.

So what do we do?

In the final part of the discussion, we talked about how we can build international solidarity for Palestine in Berlin, including the following initiatives:

  • The presence of White internationals on Palestine demos has made it much easier to attract German Leftists who had reservations about attending a demo which was made up mostly of Arabs (we know, but it’s unfortunately true). We should continue to mobilise for and attend the demos. The next two big demos are on Friday at 6pm at Checkpoint Charlie and on Saturday at 2pm at Oranienplatz
  • To stay informed of demos and other events, we recommend that you subscribe to theleftberlin Newsletter and regularly visit the website’s Events page. The website also contains excellent coverage in English on the Palestine movement in Germany and beyond.
  • A group of Spanish activists in Berlin have written an Open Letter to the German Left on Palestine. Before they publish the letter, they are looking for first signatories, particularly international organisations based in Berlin or Germany. If you are a member of such an organisation or can help find signatories, you can contact them at solidaritypalestineberlin@gmail.com.
  • We have set up a group on Signal for internationals to exchange information on Palestine events, and to organise leafletting and stickering actions. Please contact us if you want to be added to this group.
  • We are planning a series of film screenings and fundraisers on Palestine. The first will be on Sunday, 12th November at 7.30pm in Bilgisaray, Oranienstraße 45. More information to follow.
  • The LINKE Internationals are discussing setting up a reading group on Palestine. Watch this space for more information.
  • If you are interested in writing about Palestine, you can contact theleftberlin editorial board on team@theleftberlin.com
  • There is a whole number of other individual Events which you can find on theleftberlin Events page.

Contact us

  • Email: lag.internationals@die-linke-berlin.de
  • Telegram