The repression of Palestinian rights advocacy in Germany continued last night, Saturday, 22 June, as Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat was banned by the Berlin authorities from delivering a speech on the so-called “deal of the century” spearheaded by Donald Trump and the Arab and Palestinian response. He was also banned from engaging in all political activities and events in Germany until 31 July, whether directly (in-person) or “indirectly” (over video.) This outrageous attack on freedom of expression is only the latest assault on Palestinian rights carried out by the German government.
The event was originally scheduled to take place on Friday, 21 June, organized by an Arab community discussion group that regularly hosts speakers on important events in the Arab world. The city-owned venue reportedly received complaints about the event from pro-Zionist and pro-Israeli apartheid organizations, and informed the hosts that they could not hold the event. The event was instead relocated to a Sudanese community center on Saturday, 22 June. With the Bahrain conference to promote so-called “economic peace” at the expense of Palestinian rights expected in the coming days, the talk was of particular importance.
However, without notice or explanation, there were large numbers of police stretching from the closest U-Bahn station to the venue and blocking the street. When Barakat approached with Samidoun international coordinator Charlotte Kates, they were stopped by police and told the event would not take place tonight because it had been prohibited. They were then taken in a police van to a larger police station, where they were met by a German-Arabic translator, more police and two representatives of the Foreigners’ Office of Berlin.
Barakat was presented with an 8-page document and told that he was not allowed to give speeches in person or over video, participate in political meetings or events or even attend social gatherings of over 10 people; he was told that violations were punishable by up to a year in prison. Under German law, non-citizens can be barred from political activity if it could harm the “security or stability” of Germany. The accusations, which purport to show that his political activity is “dangerous,” do not do so; instead, there is mainly a list of speeches and events as well as a 2014 interview with Rote Fahne News, the publication of the MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany.) Despite claiming that Barakat’s speech could increase tensions or “political conflict” between Jews and Palestinians and Arabs in Germany, the document points to absolutely no negative repercussions whatsoever of all of his previous speeches in the country.
The document also accuses Barakat of being a member of the Palestinian leftist party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Despite noting that the PFLP is, in fact, not banned in Germany, it notes that it is listed on the EU terrorist list and thus presents a danger, even though none of the listed allegations indicate any danger at all. It could not be more clear that this is the latest attempt on Palestinian expression and advocacy and the further restriction of freedom of speech, expression and association in Germany.
Barakat and Kates were also told that their residency in Germany would not be renewed and would “come to an end,” although they were not presented with that decision.
This incident comes amid an ongoing campaign by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the so-called “anti-BDS ministry,” to attack Palestinian and solidarity organizations, especially leftists. Barakat has been singled out by this ministry on multiple occasions, as has Samidoun and its work. It also comes following a series of attacks on Palestinian rights and freedom of speech in Germany, including:
- the political ban and stripping of the Schengen visitor visa targeting Rasmea Odeh, former Palestinian political prisoner and community leader
- the anti-BDS resolution passed by the German Bundestag (parliament) denouncing BDS as “anti-Semitic”
- the criminal prosecution of activists for interrupting an Israeli official speaker involved in the war on Gaza at Humboldt University
- the cancellation of performance invitations to American rapper Talib Kweli and Scottish rappers Young Fathers for their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement
- the forced resignation of the director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin for tweeting a link to a statement against the Bundestag’s anti-BDS resolution written by Jewish scholars
It should be noted that this repression comes hand in hand with political attacks on the Arab and Muslim communities in Germany spearheaded by the far-right rhetoric of the AfD and other parties, but with the active complicity of the official “left,” which continues to support the suppression of Palestinian community organizing and Palestine solidarity in defense of a colonial, apartheid, racist system. It also comes amid ongoing criminalization of popular movements in Europe, including trials of trade union leaders and refugee solidarity organizers in various countries.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses our deepest outrage at the political ban against Khaled Barakat. We believe that it indicates a serious danger that outright bans, police repression and residency revocation are becoming a police state norm for suppressing unwanted Palestinian political speech that defends rights, justice and liberation.
On Friday, 28 June, a protest is being organized against the Bundestag’s anti-BDS resolution under the slogan Palästina Spricht (Palestine Speaks), and we urge all to attend and participate. Internationally, your statements and voices of solidarity are critical in helping to fight back against this intensified repression. These attacks will not silence Khaled Barakat or the Palestinian people – but it is critical that we build our international movement to defend Palestine, especially as it is targeted for liquidation.
Please send your solidarity statements to email@example.com.