Thank you for the invitation. It is an honor for me to be on stage today with so many important voices for a just peace in the Middle East and to be able to speak here.
And I would like to emphasize that it is a scandal, a low point of democracy, that we always do not know until the last moment whether it is possible for us to gather in public in Berlin in the context of Israel/Palestine, whether the fundamental right to freedom of assembly for Palestinians, Israelis, Muslims, and Jews who are critical of the policies of the right-wing government of Israel and in favour of human rights will be allowed. Germany: Your fight against antisemitism is built on sand if you simultaneously forbid Jews to assemble, if you violently disperse Jewish protests like this year’s Nakba Day at Oranienplatz through the police, if you silence Jewish intellectuals, scientists and artists whose positions do not fit with German politics. What is happening in Germany right now is antisemitism.
And we are also here today to make it very plain and clear. We will not be divided. We will not allow our fight against antisemitism and racism to be divided.
But first, I would like to express my deepest sorrow, my sympathy and my solidarity. October 7 has left deep wounds in Israeli society. We mourn the loss of at least 1,400 civilians who were murdered by Hamas and call on all those involved to ensure the safe and speedy return of the civilian hostages. That is why we are also demanding here today: Release all hostages!
The terror and violence of October 7 did not arise in a vacuum. It is not a justification, because nothing can justify the terror of Hamas, but it is an explanation when we say that the decades-long occupation of the Gaza Strip, the construction of settlements in the West Bank and the systemic discrimination against Palestinians form the breeding ground for this escalation. An escalation that is now being continued by the Israeli government: 10,000 Palestinians have probably died so far [editor’s note: since this speech, that number has grown to 14,000] as a result of the indiscriminate bombardment by the Israeli military, among them many children. I mourn for them. And how abhorrent it is here, between the children murdered by the terror of Hamas and the children murdered by the bombing of the Israeli military. They are all children, they are all human beings. This killing must stop immediately and in so many countries the call is rightly going out: ceasefire now!
At this point I must mention the double standards of the German government. If the German government really wants to work for peace, if you really want to work for the release of the hostages, why don’t you put your economic partners, and Hamas supporters, Qatar and Turkey under political and economic pressure? Quite the opposite. Next week, Turkish President Erdogan is even due to pay a state visit, and the red carpet is being rolled out for him again while the NATO partner in northern Syria invades Rojava in violation of international law and bombs Kurdish villages. In this fucking capitalist system, nothing is above the economy, neither human rights nor the fight against antisemitism. Do you know who is still profiting from the war today? The German war industry. Rheinmetall’s shares have gone through the roof since October 7th. And regarding the German government’s priority in the fight against antisemitism: before October 7th, the German government was planning to save millions in the fight against antisemitism. That is a double standard.
Ceasefire now! The call for a ceasefire has also become ever stronger in Germany in recent days and, quite honestly, this has had to be fought for hard here. Even before October 7th, basic rights were restricted by the Berlin police and the Senator of the Interior. In 2022, a ban was imposed for the entire month of May to mark the Nakba, when Palestinians commemorate their expulsion. It was not a rare sight in Neukölln to see small groups of young people with migration backgrounds being stopped on the street by the police because they were wearing a so-called Pali scarf. A scarf that is worn by many peoples in the region. I recently experienced for myself how racist this behavior is when three young people wearing the scarf, Kurdish in this context, wanted to go to a Kurdish demonstration at Hermannplatz and were stopped and checked by the police. The low point for the time being came when the education administration recommended scarves with this pattern to schools as an example of clothing that should be banned. This is madness! School must be a place for communication, a place where understanding is sought, not a place of blanket bans!
The spaces for exchanging ideas about Israel and Palestine, the spaces for understanding and communication are becoming increasingly limited. As LINKE Neukölln, for example, we have protested massively in recent days against the fact that the Senate is going to withdraw funding from the “Oyoun” cultural center in North Neukölln. Oyoun is a valuable center and place of migrant self-organization. It is one of the few places where it is still possible to discuss Palestine and Israel at all, because otherwise everyone is afraid of repression and state harassment. And that is precisely what is a thorn in the side of the Senate. It even went so far as to accuse a mourning event organized by the “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” of antisemitism and question Oyoun as a result. It is another case of Germans being quick to blame antisemitism on migrants, even on Jews, while German antisemitism is kept quiet.
Or can anyone remember if anyone called for bans like those that have taken place in recent weeks on the Querdenkers, or the Corona Nazis, who clearly reproduced the antisemitism from the time of German fascism, and relativized the Holocaust.
Nazis are marching through Germany again, terrorizing and murdering people. How many Almans have openly distanced themselves from this? All Almans who have not distanced themselves are now Nazis. Have we, victims of Nazi terror, ever demanded that the democratic Alman society distance itself from the NSU terror, from the terror in Hanau or the attack on the synagogue in Halle? We have not. Because it’s damn clear that democrats and anti-fascists condemn Nazi terror in this country and therefore don’t have to distance themselves. But why am I asked to distance myself from every shit that happens in the Muslim world? Just because I look like one. I’m not even Muslim. That’s nothing other than racism! And we are also protesting against this racism in German society today.
We are in the country where Hubertus Aiwanger won a direct mandate just a few weeks ago. Hubertus Aiwanger, who very, very probably wrote a leaflet whose blatantly antisemitic content I do not want to repeat here. We are in a country where, according to the latest poll, 41% of the population of Thuringia can imagine Björn Höcke as prime minister. We are in the country where the AfD is achieving record results and the overwhelming majority of antisemitic crimes are committed by the right.
But instead, being discussed or decided are: stricter deportation laws, attitude tests for foreigners or, most recently, a “migration cap” for city districts by the FDP. It is convenient for German politicians to blame their own racism on people with migration backgrounds.
Dear friends, we are standing here together against antisemitism and racism, for human rights and democracy. Every restriction of fundamental rights can potentially affect every other left-wing or progressive group tomorrow and it is clear to me: We will not remain silent! We will not allow our fight for international solidarity to be banned! With this in mind, let’s raise international solidarity!
This speech was originally given in German. Translator: Negro Matapacos. Reproduced with permission.