Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat visited the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, 10 July to challenge the political ban imposed on him by Germany in an attempt to prevent him from speaking about Palestine. He was invited by Manu Pineda, Member of European Parliament representing the Izquierda Unida (United Left) of the Spanish state. He was accompanied by Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and Mohammed Khatib, European coordinator of Samidoun.
Barakat noted that it was critical to fight the ongoing attacks on Palestinian rights and Palestinian advocacy at the European Parliament. In Germany in particular, there have been a series of repressive attacks against the Palestinian movement for liberation, including the anti-BDS resolution passed by the Bundestag; the deportation of former prisoner Rasmea Odeh; the criminal prosecution of activists who interrupted a member of the Knesset; raids on antifascist youth activists who confronted Zionists and neo-Nazis; the closure of the bank account of Jewish Voices for a Just Peace; the forced resignation of the director of the Jewish Museum; and, of course, the political ban imposed on Khaled Barakat, the Palestinian leftist, activist and writer.
On 22 June, Barakat was stopped as he went to deliver a speech on the so-called “deal of the century” and the U.S. attack on Palestinian rights in Berlin. He was taken to a police station, where he was given an eight-page document prohibiting him from taking part in any type of political activity until 31 July, including meetings, events and gatherings. He was threatened with up to one year in prison if he failed to comply. The document listed many speeches delivered by Barakat in Berlin and warned that his speech could lead to “tension” between Jews and Palestinians and Arabs in Berlin, despite no evidence that such a thing had ever occurred. It further attempted to equate anti-Semitism with opposition to the Israeli state. People in Germany and around the world are expressing growing solidarity against the political ban, noting the severe danger that this poses not only to Barakat’s human rights and freedom of expression, but that it could also set a precedent for the ongoing suppression of Palestinians in Germany.
In his remarks at the European Parliament, Barakat emphasized that Palestinians have been fighting colonization for over 100 years – and that resisting these types of attacks is also a critical part of resisting colonization. He also noted that the Israeli government has heavily funded its “Ministry of Strategic Affairs” to take the repression of Palestinian activism to a global level. He also noted that Gilad Erdan, the Minister of Strategic Affairs, is also the minister of internal security, responsible for the repression targeting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Therefore, Palestinians and solidarity organizations working to support the freedom and justice of Palestinian prisoners have been particularly targeted.
In her presentation, Kates noted that the repression targeting Palestinian writers and activists also reflects the rise of the extreme right in Europe. She noted that the Bundestag’s anti-BDS resolution was initially prompted by a proposal from the AfD, the far-right party in Germany. In addition, she also linked these repressive attacks to anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism. She noted that pro-fascist forces are escaping responsibility for actual anti-Semitism, while the term is instead being used to smear activists working for justice and liberation in Palestine. Instead, Israel and the European extreme right are developing a stronger alliance than ever.
Manu Pineda noted that “For several years now some European governments, pushed by the Israeli state, have begun to try to drown any kind of initiative and movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Khaled’s case, which is not the first of its kind in Germany, is very worrying because of what it means for freedom of expression in an EU country and because it also coincides with the decision of the German Parliament to classify the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign as anti-Semitic.” He condemned this resolution, calling it “reprehensible for equating anti-Semitism with the legitimate demand that the Israeli government must be compelled to comply with international law.”
“We show our full solidarity with organizations and activists like Khaled Barakat, who, despite repression and persecution, continue to lead and press forward the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people to live in peace and freedom,” Pineda said.
Commenting on EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini’s comments emphasizing that the EU views BDS advocacy as part of freedom of expression, Pineda said that “it is clear that Mogherini’s words are not enough, because at the moment of truth, Israel, with which the EU continues to maintain a privileged trade relationship, is able to pressure member states to repress BDS or solidarity activists and movements that demand the end of violence against the Palestinian people.”
The visit to the European Parliament came one day after Diether Dehm, Member of Bundestag for DIE LINKE (The Left Party) expressed his support for Barakat’s right to speak. “The arrest of Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat and the conditions imposed on him by the immigration office are a blatant restriction on freedom of expression,” Dehm said.”The accusation that Barakat’s talks could aggravate tensions between Jews and Palestinians in Germany is absurd in view of the topic he wanted to speak about….criticisms of the policies of the Israeli government are covered by the right to freedom of expression. That people should be silenced with pressure on their residence permit is scandalous,” Dehm said, noting that the political ban confirmed fears that the Bundestag’s anti-BDS motion would lead to further political silencing.
Around the world, people of conscience are raising their voices in solidarity with Khaled Barakat and against the ongoing racist violations of Palestinian human rights both in Europe and in occupied Palestine. Please join the support campaign! Send your statements of solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org or take a solidarity photo featuring the campaign posters to post online or share with us!