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Victory for the Humboldt 3!

The victory of the Humboldt 3 is another sign that the whitewashing of Israeli apartheid can no longer be legitimized in the face of the Palestinian movement’s moral rightness and humanistic message

by Majed Abusalama


"Es lebe die freiheit!" – long live freedom – is the cry of every Palestinian and all people longing for freedom from colonialism.They were also the last words of Hans Scholl, a member of the 'White Rose' anti-fascist resistance movement in Nazi Germany, before his execution on February 22 1945. The White Rose brought the Nazis’ crimes to public awareness, and demanded justice for their victims.

Over seventy years later we, the Humboldt 3, drew inspiration from the White Rose. Along with Israeli anti-Zionist activists Ronnie Barkan and Stavit Sinai, I disrupted a talk given at the Humboldt University of Berlin in June 2017 by a representative of the Israeli state, Aliza Lavie. We took this action because of her direct complicity in war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza. Lavie also played a fundamental role in Israel’s mission to censor, silence and smear Palestinian and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists in Europe.

For our peaceful action against Lavie, we were accused of trespassing, physically thrown out of the lecture hall, and wrongfully accused of anti-semitism by the German media. Yet in a Berlin courthouse on August 3, our three-year legal struggle came to an end with our victory over the Humboldt University and the Zionist lobby. Ronnie and I were acquitted of all charges, while Stavit received the minimum possible fine of 450 euros, probably to save face for the prosecution. The “attempted assault” of which she was found guilty was banging on the door of the lecture hall after we had been ejected, to find out the identity of an audience member who had punched her in the face. 

At every step, we turned the legal proceedings against us into an opportunity to raise the Palestinian cause by speaking about Israeli Apartheid reality, and its crimes against humanity. Our first call as the Humboldt 3 was to encourage people of conscience to speak up in times of apartheid. In our second statement, we called upon our supporters to confront Apartheid wherever it appears. We celebrated our comrades’ recent important victory against the French government. That state had violated the freedom of expression of pro-Palestinian activists who were convicted for campaigning for a boycott of Israeli goods. The European Court of Human Rights ordered France to pay 101,000 euros in damages to eleven activists. 

Germany has failed the Palestinians as a whole, and the Palestinian struggle for freedom since the Nakba ethnic cleansing of 1948. Today is no different. Germany stands at the forefront of fighting BDS in Europe - by censoring and threatening Palestinian and pro-Palestine voices that call for de-colonizing Germany and apartheid Israel.

The BDS movement’s call is in accordance with international law. It demands ending the occupation of 1967, ending the system of apartheid anywhere in historic Palestine, and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees who have been in enforced exile for over seven decades. BDS is about bringing the struggle back to its beginning and truthfulness. Yet calling for equality from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea - has been understood more and more as a political threat by the German state, as well as by apartheid Israel.

Growing up in a refugee camp in the open-air prison of the Gaza Strip forced me to witness the repression and ethnic cleansing of our lands in every detail. I cannot understand why calling for human rights in Palestine should be seen as radical, when it is a moral and logical solution which should be held across the political spectrum.

Palestinians’ demand for justice draws upon grassroots voices and United Nations resolutions alike. It has been the core of the Palestinian struggle for liberation for over a century. The Palestinian people have turned their repression into a tool of hope, including Gazans despite the miserable blockade and continuous assaults they have suffered. The dream of freedom will become reality one day soon: a revolution which will bring all Jews and Palestinians together to reject Israel’s ethnic supremacy.

Speaking against the tremendous oppression in colonized Palestine requires conscientious and courageous people willing to take on war criminals, and bring them to court. We know that the world - especially Germany - is not yet willing to listen to stories of Palestinian suffering or resistance to colonialism. The German state, and many others, currently do their best to kill the Palestinian struggle by maintaining silence on crimes against humanity and the continuous annexation of our lands. Some governments try to tell us and the world that our plight is a humanitarian one, not a political one. Therefore their plight - they say - requires more aid money, a hospital or two, a few token words, while trying to silence our call for freedom and equality.

We will not be silenced. Israel is no longer able to hide its inhumane treatment of Palestinians. The BDS movement’s victories come one after another, despite the repression the movement faces in most Western countries which shows Western governments’ neo-colonial support of Israeli Apartheid. The victory of the Humboldt 3 is another sign that the whitewashing of Israeli apartheid can no longer be legitimized in the face of the Palestinian movement’s moral rightness and humanistic message.

Palestine activists worldwide are united to raise the cause of Palestinian rights in the wider struggle against colonialism and imperialism. This was clearly seen in the overwhelming solidarity with the Humboldt 3 in Berlin. Over one hundred pro-BDS people from many countries demonstratrated outside the court, demanding respect for freedom of expression and human rights activism. The Humboldt 3 managed to reverse the narrative, fight back, and expose the systematic brutality of Israeli apartheid and German complicity.

Palestinians on the ground and activists worldwide will not stop centering the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination. Israel has two options: One, to continue its white-washing, pink-washing, and green-washing of its crimes against humanity, and attempt to silence opposition such as BDS, Palestinian solidarity organizations and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Or two, to relent in its attempts to maintain ethnic supremacy at all costs, and embrace our demand for a better future for all through justice and equality from the River to the Sea.

The latter option may be only a matter of time. When all is said and done, and justice rules in Palestine, Germany will have to ask itself whether it ever did right by Palestinian people, or failed them - as it once did with Hans Scholl and the White Rose.

This article first appeared in Mondoweiss. Reproduced with the author's permission


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