Police violence against Israeli – where does antisemitism begin?

The Israeli Berliner Yuval Carasso was injured by Berlin police, and now is supposed to pay a €2,000 fine


The letter is actually kind of cute. Last week, the Israeli Berliner Yuval Carasso got a letter from the Berlin District Court, with a legal document in German and a translation into Hebrew – except the Hebrew pages were upside down in the stapled packet, because apparently someone didn’t know that Hebrew is written from right to left. A German government agency tried to show sympathy for Jewish people, and ended up revealing its ignorance.

The content of the letter, however, was not amusing. Carasso is supposed to pay a fine of €2,000 or spend 25 days in jail. He is accused of »resisting arrest« on September 13 of last year. The Israeli artist was detained by two plainclothes cops in front of the Neukölln bar Bajszel – at an event about antisemitism, no less – and they claim he pushed back when they threw him to the ground and handcuffed him.

Carasso explains to »nd« that he complied with the cops’ instructions, even though it wasn’t immediately clear they were police. The next day, he was covered in bruises – an ultrasound showed that his ribs weren’t broken, but they still hurt for weeks. As critics of German police have long maintained, anyone who complains about experiencing police violence almost automatically gets a charge of “resisting arrest”. Berlin police declined to answer questions from »nd«, citing privacy laws, although they had previously told the English-language publication The New Arab that “In order to reduce the risk of injury for everyone involved, the officers brought the rioter to the ground, restrained him and handcuffed him.”

This is a highly political case. Carasso had been at a public event at Bajszel presenting the booklet Mythos#Israel1948. It has since faced widespread criticism for its claims that the massive displacement of Palestinians in 1948, called the Nakba, is in fact a myth. Carasso listened patiently for roughly half an hour, he says, until a security guard approached him. In a statement, the organizers wrote that a young man was filming without permission, while Carasso denies having filmed or taken photographs – the latter was confirmed by an eyewitness sitting right next to him.

Asked to leave, Carasso stood up to speak for about one minute about his own experiences in the Israeli military, and about his grandmother, who fled Nazi-occupied Europe and then saw Palestinians getting expelled from their villages. The organizers’ statement says, in contrast, that a young man “insulted us for about one minute, which is why he was banned from the establishment.” Both the bar Bajszel and the association Masiyot, the publishers of the pamphlet, denounce his “aggressive” behavior, while numerous eyewitnesses counter that he was completely peaceful. Versions differ sharply.

When Carasso left the bar, attempting to go home, he was violently detained by undercover cops. It is noteworthy that Carasso was accused of filming without permission, yet the organizers say they have a video “that a participant at the event recorded, clearly to document the aggressiveness of this gentleman.” So at least one other person in the room was filming, yet only a Jewish participant was told to leave for supposedly doing the same thing. Is this a case of antisemitism? Carasso thinks so. “I don’t feel safe,” he says to nd.

Let’s look at some analogies. Der Spiegel printed accusations of antisemitism against the cultural center Oyoun, also in Neukölln, because an Israeli was supposedly ejected from an event. They subsequently had to issue a correction that the person asked to leave Oyoun after disrupting an event was neither Israeli nor Jewish – yet they still list this as evidence of antisemitism. Similarly, when several pro-Israeli students were asked to leave a Palestine solidarity event at the Free University of Berlin because they were disrupting, this was reported across the German press as a case of antisemitism – even though numerous Jewish students had organized the event. So what do we call what happend to Yuval Carasso?

“The German establishment doesn’t count Yuval as a Jew because he doesn’t support Israel” notes Wieland Hoban of the group Jüdische Stimme (Jewish Voice). Carasso wanted to express a political opinion based on his experience as an Israeli, and ended up with weeks of pain and now a criminal penalty. The German government says it protects Jewish life in Germany. But this only applies to Jews who support the far-right Israeli government. Critical Jews have been beaten up, detained, arrested, spit on, fired, doxxed, and denounced in the press. As Emily Dische-Becker has calculated, 30 percent of cancellations in Germany due to alleged antisemitism have been against Jewish people.  Where are the Antisemitism Czars? Where are the solidarity rallies? Where are the newspaper reports?

German state officials need to learn not only that Hebrew is written from right to left – but also that the Jewish community is diverse, full of bitter arguments and Talmudic debate, including about Israel. Carasso plans to appeal the ruling.

This is a mirror of Nathaniel’s Neues Deutschland (nd) column Red Flag. Reproduced with permission