“Humboldt 3” head to court, challenging Israeli apartheid while confronting silencing attempts

Three activists in Berlin are facing criminal charges of “trespassing” and “assault” for speaking out against Israeli apartheid and war crimes at a speech by Knesset member Aliza Lavie in the German capital in 2017. Majed Abusalama, a Palestinian from Gaza who has lived through multiple bombardments and seen friends and loved ones killed by repeated Israeli attacks, and Israeli activists Ronnie Barkan and Stavit Sinai, have pledged to challenge Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in court as well.

“We are, however, determined to use our relative privilege in order to turn the tables against Israel and take it to court. We do not concern ourselves with the consequences, but rather with the opportunity of challenging Israel along with Germany’s complicity in crimes against humanity,” they wrote in a statement.

While they faced a media attack and criminalization in Germany, the three activists were recently honored in Copenhagen, Denmark, with an award for their courage in challenging apartheid by the Municipality. Prof. Richard Falk, himself frequently targeted for scurrilous allegations by supporters of Israeli apartheid and Zionist racism, came to Berlin to speak in support of the Humboldt 3:

The attempt to silence these three activists echoes other cases around the world of people criminally prosecuted for interrupting Israeli war criminals or representatives of the Israeli apartheid state, including the “Irvine 11” in California.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its support and solidarity with the Humboldt 3 and all people around the world who face criminalization and persecution to speak up for Palestinian rights. There are nearly 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails locked behind bars because of their struggle for the liberation of their land and people. The struggle to free the prisoners and free Palestine includes the struggle against repression of Palestine activism internationally – it is because this activism is so important that the Israeli state and its supporters in imperialist states and reactionary regimes work so hard to criminalize and suppress it. We urge all to participate in the solidarity protest at Moabit criminal court on 4 March and upcoming actions in support of these activists.

Their statement is reprinted below:

By Ronnie Barkan, Stavit Sinai & Majed Abusalama

We are three human rights activists, two Jewish-Israeli dissidents and a Palestinian survivor of several Israeli onslaughts on Gaza, who will soon be facing trial in Berlin for disrupting a representative of the Israeli state and challenging her responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity. We are charged with two counts of criminal offenses: trespassing and assault.

Our protest, for which we were charged, took place in June 2017 in front of MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), member of the Israeli apartheid parliament as well as Chair of the anti-BDS lobby and Head of the Israeli mission to the European Council, who was hosted by the Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft at the Humboldt University in Berlin. MK Lavie herself is personally accountable for her role as a coalition member during the 2014 attack on the besieged Gaza Strip, where over 2,200 people have been killed, including 89 entire families that were obliterated.

Aliza Lavie furthermore sees herself as fighting the “delegitimization” of Israel.

From her Knesset page:

“Lavie also focuses on hasbara (efforts to improve Israel’s image abroad) and fighting the delegitimization of Israel, strengthening the status of the IDF…”

The backlash we experienced soon after was overwhelming as a media frenzy broke out throughout Germany and Israel, which included slander, lies and the outrageous claim of anti-Semitism against us, even though two of us are descendants of Holocaust-surviving families.

Having criminal allegations leveled against activists is a common and standard practice in Germany. We are, however, determined to use our relative privilege in order to turn the tables against Israel and take it to court. We do not concern ourselves with the consequences, but rather with the opportunity of challenging Israel along with Germany’s complicity in crimes against humanity.

In spite of the character assassination and certain restrictions against us, our trial signals to the neutralized and pacified German civil society that it cannot choose its criminals based on its history – as Prof. Richard Falk recently pointed out in a joint event concerning our upcoming trial. While endorsing our actions, the renowned legal scholar and co-author of the UN report which squarely blames Israel of practicing The Crime of Apartheid had also stressed the urgency of global solidarity today more than ever. This is especially so as the West is increasingly trying to force Palestinians into surrender.

Richard Falk emphasized that,

“It seems to me important to present yourselves as actually engaged in German patriotism in a certain way. That you’re liberating Germany from its own dark past, because that’s what it really is. It really comes down to the understanding that if you want to get rid of antisemitism, you’ve got to begin to take criminality seriously wherever it occurs, and you can’t choose your criminals because of your history.”

The Crime of Apartheid is not a subjective reflection or a question of opinion but a legal matter. Israel has maintained an apartheid system since its inception, and we will continue to resist it by calling for equality, freedom and justice in Palestine – from the river to the see – until apartheid has been abolished. Opposition to supremacy may be the moral imperative of our time.

The “special relationship” between Israel and Germany apparently also means the coordinated slander campaign by German and Israeli media. Thus, they parroted the lies even though there is video evidence to the contrary, as if we were 20 activists, as if we attacked a Holocaust survivor, as if we referred to them as “Nazis”, while we were physically attacked and we were referred to as such. The rabid Simon Wiesenthal Center had also tried to bully the Berlin Mayor, Michael Müller, by threatening to place the mayor on a list of the top ten antisemites in the world, simply for “not doing enough against BDS” in the city.

At the same time that we are being taken to court by the German state, we are embraced by Danish lawmakers. Copenhagen’s Mayor for Technical and Environmental Affairs, Ninna Hedeager Olsen, has awarded us The Courage Award at a ceremony in Copenhagen’s City Hall on Feb 7th (full statement in English) for speaking up against Israeli apartheid.

We choose to challenge German complicity in Israeli criminal policies in Berlin of all places. Where, if not in Berlin, should we be able to speak up against such immoral and criminal practices? This is not only our duty as conscientious citizens of that land – privileged and underprivileged residents who are struggling together to bring about a better future – but it is also incumbent on us as humanists and as Berliners to do so.

The trial is on March 4, 2019, and we are ready to take Israel to court in Berlin.

– Ronnie Barkan is an Israeli dissident, a BDS activist and serial disrupter to apartheid representatives. (@ronnie_barkan)

– Stavit Sinai is Jewish Israeli dissident and anti-apartheid activist. She holds a doctoral degree in sociology. (@stav_si)

– Majed Abusalama is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, born in Jabalia, Gaza. (@majedabusalama)

(They contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle)