On 12th May 2022, the organizer of the Nakba commemoration events in Berlin received a letter from the Berlin police banning all events planned for 13th-15th May 2022. Beyond Palestinian protests, demonstrations for freedom of assembly, press and expression in Berlin were also banned by the police as “substitute events”. A demonstration by Jewish Voice for Peace in memory of murdered Palestinian journalist Shirin Abu Akleh was also prohibited by Berlin police.
Palestine Speaks is an anti-racist coalition in Germany that advocates for the rights of Palestinians. The Nakba events (“al Nakba”: catastrophe) were intended to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of more than 800,000 Palestinians and to create a space for collective mourning for Europe’s largest Palestinian community of approximately 80,000. At the same time, the events were intended to draw attention to the de facto apartheid system under which Palestinian people continue to live today.
“The Nakba commemoration events are an important way for us Palestinians in Germany to remember the injustice perpetrated agaist our ancestors and to take a stand for the human rights of Palestinians everywhere”, said a spokesperson for Palestine Speaks.
The international human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) also highlights the crime of apartheid against Palestinian people in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and against Palestinian refugees in other countries in its investigation-based report: “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity“. Characteristics of the clearly defined crime of apartheid under international law include expropriation of Palestinian lands and property, extrajudicial killings, forced transfers, drastic restriction of movement and withholding of nationality and citizenship for Palestinians. A leading human rights organization states that this systematic discrimination amounts to apartheid, which according to the Rome Statute is a crime against humanity. The UN Anti-Apartheid Convention also condemns such state action and calls for consequences. Other organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the largest Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Yesh Din also confirm these violations of international law as a crime of apartheid.
The Berlin police justifies their ban with two arguments: 1. the Palestinian diaspora as well as “Muslim communities, (…) presumably from among the Lebanese, Turkish as well as Syrian diasporas and (…) especially youths and young adults are considerably tense and emotionalized”, 2. the Nakba commemoration events could be a potential threat to public safety.
Palestine Speaks denies these accusations and has taken legal action to assert the right to freedom of expression and assembly.
The ban on the commemoration events by the Berlin police restricts Palestinians in Germany in their fundamental rights and is worrying on several levels according to the standards of a democratic constitutional state. The blanket designation of certain minoritized groups as “highly emotionalized”, serves a racist stereotype that devalues Palestinians, Muslims and people of the Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian diasporas as a collective and denies them their ability to act “rationally”. Palestine Speaks refutes the unjustified presumption that its events would endanger public safety. Palestine Speaks has organized more than fourty events in public spaces in the last two years, all of which were peaceful. The basic understanding of Palestine Speaks is an anti-racist one, i.e. Palestine Speaks as an organizer actively works publicly and in close cooperation with Jewish organizations to ensure that neither racist nor anti-Jewish statements or actions occur at events as well as in the society as a whole. This can also be read in press releases from Palestine Speaks on the Nakba demonstration in May 2021.
This new dimension of protest bans since April 29 in Berlin represents an alarming overall violation against the right to freedom of expression, which has already been and can further be extended to other areas of the right of assembly.
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