Germany escalates attack on Khaled Barakat, Palestinian rights with four-year ban: Fight back against repression!

Khaled Barakat speaks in Berlin on 17 August 2019 after the end of the political ban (with Mohammed Khatib, Europe coordinator of Samidoun).

The German state has once again escalated its harassment and repression directed against Palestinian speech and advocacy. In the latest order issued by the Berlin immigration office, received yesterday, 9 March, German officials escalated their attacks on Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat, ordering him officially expelled from Germany (even though he has not been living in Germany since August 2019) and banning him from entering the country for four years. Barakat and his lawyer are challenging the order in an appeal.

In addition to the political ban, residency denial and now exclusion imposed on Barakat, recent repressive attacks by the German state on Palestinian rights have included the deportation of Rasmea Odeh, the passing of an anti-BDS resolution in the Bundestag, the criminal prosecution of Palestinian and Israeli Jewish activists for interrupting a speech by a member of the Knesset, the forced resignation of the director of the Jewish Museum, the closing of the bank account of Jewish Voices for a Just Peace and the disinvitation of international artists who have taken a stand to support Palestinian rights. This continued targeting of Palestinian community organizing, Palestine solidarity and progressive activism comes even as the very real threat of far-right violence continues to threaten the lives of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and people of color throughout Germany, as reflected in the horrific racist attack in Hanau. 

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network calls on all who stand for justice in Palestine to confront the repression that is taking place in Germany, in Europe and internationally. As Trump and Netanyahu attempt to impose their “deal of the century” and liquidate the Palestinian cause, these efforts to criminalize, silence and repress Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organizing are part and parcel of that comprehensive attack.

At the same time, they also indicate the real fear of these forces – not of a “threat to security” from Palestinian organizing, but of the power of organized communities to make real change and struggle for the liberation of Palestine – and to fight for justice in their countries of exile as well. Here, they attempt to silence a progressive vision of a liberated, democratic Palestine. 

Watch the 17 August speech German officials are trying to silence here:

This is not an attack on Khaled Barakat alone, an attack on one person or even on one political trend in the Palestinian movement. Indeed, the order itself openly declares that it intends to deter all foreign nationals from advocating for the boycott of Israel! The only response to such a shameless attack on the rights of the Palestinian people, oppressed communities and all who stand for justice and liberation is to escalate our organizing and make clear that such attempts at silencing, repression and liquidation are unacceptable. We stand with Khaled Barakat – and we stand together, for the liberation of Palestine and against racism, Zionism and imperialism.

Germany Aims to Silence Palestinians

The political nature of the order is overt and unconcealed throughout the 23-page document. It is based entirely on public political speeches, writings and YouTube videos and does not allege criminal activity; indeed, the order notes that criteria relating to criminal convictions do not apply in this case. This comes after a political ban of over one month was ordered against Barakat in June 2019 in order to prevent him from giving a speech on U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” and the attack on Palestinian rights, and then, the denial of the renewal of his residency visa.

The nature of this attack is clear throughout the document. “The so-called two-state solution is dead. The Palestinian people have no choice but to continue their struggle until the liberation of all of Palestine and the construction of a democratic society in Palestine,” Barakat said in a meeting with the South African ambassador to Germany. This progressive vision of a liberated, democratic Palestine is cited twice in the document as evidence of an “extremist” perspective that is “unacceptable” in Germany.

It further classifies opposition to the Oslo process, the so-called “peace process” that has been a lengthy process of attempted liquidation of Palestine, as another element of unacceptable “extremism,” alongside rejection of the “two-state solution.” (Of course, this criterion is not considered relevant when it is Zionists who want to colonize all of Palestine who reject Oslo or two states; it is only “extremism” for Palestinians and their supporters who want to liberate all of Palestine.) It emphasizes, “Your expulsion is intended to make it clear to other third-country nationals that such agitations against the State of Israel…in the Federal Republic of Germany…can also lead to consequences under residence law.”

Legal document provided to Khaled Barakat by German immigration officials, ordering him barred from the country for four years.

Perhaps most disturbing is the stated purpose of the denial of Khaled Barakat’s rights – not solely to attempt to silence him as an individual, but to terrorize the Palestinian and Arab community in Berlin and more broadly, throughout Germany and Europe. This order comes as part and parcel of an attempt to suppress the potential organizing of thousands of Palestinian and Arab youth in Berlin, in Germany and throughout Europe, and more broadly, the power of organized communities to fight racism, oppression and colonialism.

An Attack on Communities

As Barakat said, this order is actually aimed not only against him as a writer, journalist and political activist, but at “thousands of Palestinian youth in the cafes on the Arab street in central Berlin. These forces are afraid of the organized power of impoverished youth from the popular neighborhoods and European city centers, of the possibility that they will become fully aware of their potential strength and power and unite and organize to take up the project of return and liberation. All of Europe’s officialdom expresses its ‘fear’ of the refugee masses at its shores. Germany wants to suppress, police and silence the Palestinian, Arab, Kurdish, Turkish, Iranian, African communities and impose upon them the burden of the terrible massacres that the German state committed against peoples, especially the massacre of Jews. This report makes clear that repressive state security structures want to stop the coming renaissance of the Palestinian people in diaspora.”

Mohammed Khatib, Europe coordinator of Samidoun, said: “Their real fear is the mobilization of tens of thousands of Palestinian youth, hundreds of thousands of young Arabs, millions of migrants, people of color, and all oppressed groups that together demand the liberation of Palestine and fight for rights, justice, freedom and equality.”

Redfish report on the political ban:

Parroting Israeli Propaganda, Negating Palestinian Rights

The order repeatedly attacks movements and organizations struggling for Palestinian rights, including the BDS campaign, Hirak – a movement of Palestinian youth in Berlin – and Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, uncritically parroting claims of the Israeli “anti-BDS ministry,” the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, whose payments to the Jerusalem Post to run its anti-Palestinian propaganda campaigns sparked a scandal.

It even attempts to use Barakat’s speech at the European Parliament of 10 July 2019 – about the political ban on him and the repression of Palestinian advocacy in Germany – against him, claiming that being invited to the European Parliament is somehow proof that he is a leader of the PFLP. It unquestioningly reiterates German right-wing media and Israeli propaganda claims against his speech while neglecting to report that the smear campaign was decisively repudiated by the European Parliament itself in August 2019: “Mr Barakat and Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, are not amongst the persons or groups and entities covered by these provisions. Further, Mr Barakat did not enter Parliament’s premises as a representative of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), nor did he speak on behalf of this group. The PFLP was not mentioned nor promoted during the event. “The primary purpose of the visit was to offer Mr Barakat the opportunity to address a meeting in Parliament on Palestine-related matters, and oppose the speaking ban imposed upon Mr Barakat by German authorities in June 2019.”

The document declares, “your expulsion is also considered necessary to deter other foreigners…your expulsion must also make other foreign nationals aware that the state does not tolerate anti-Semitic statements approving the use of force and boycotts against sovereign states.” This reflects the Israeli state’s global campaign against growing international support for the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and the attempt to distort the meaning of anti-Semitism for an anti-Palestinian smear campaign.

It must be emphasized that the definition of “anti-Semitism” used here is not one that refers to any form of hatred against Jewish people or Judaism as a faith; instead, the document has redefined anti-Semitism to mean, variously: “opposing the existence of the State of Israel,” “talking about the ‘racist project of Israel,'” “calling into question the right to exist of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel and its legitimate right of national defense,” and supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Therefore, this order is clearly meant as a threat to other non-German and non-European citizens in Germany that they may face severe repression, up to and including deportation, for supporting the boycott of Israel, or for expressing that the Palestinian people have the right to resist occupation and oppression. This kind of attack on freedom of expression should shock the conscience of all who claim to uphold human rights, particularly civil and political rights.

Redefinition of “Anti-Semitism” to Attack Palestinians, Whitewash the Far Right

While it is not referenced by name in the document, it apparently draws inspiration from the so-called IHRA definition and examples that Israel lobby organizations have been attempting to have adopted in parliaments, councils and other institutions around the world. The IHRA’s “examples” include stating that “Israel is a racist endeavour” may be anti-Semitic, while here, “the racist project of Israel” is labeled anti-Semitic as well.

All of this is shameless propaganda for an Israeli state in cahoots with the most extreme right-wing and fascist forces around the world, while people of color and Jews remain facing actual threats from neo-Nazis and far-right forces in Germany. Instead, the German state throws its repressive weight to attempt to silence a leftist Palestinian writer and activist. This attempt to redefine anti-Semitism and focus on Palestinians and Arabs also serves the purpose of whitewashing far right and fascist forces throughout Europe, both those serving in government positions and those engaging in street violence against Jews and people of color.

Indeed, while labeling it anti-Semitic to “call into question….Israel’s legitimate right to national defense” -i.e., to perpetrate colonial warfare on indigenous people, the document repeatedly affirms that it is unacceptable to recognize Palestinians’ right to resist. Saying that Palestinians “have the right to exercise all forms of resistance, including armed revolutionary violence, until the Palestinian people have achieved all their national aspirations” is labeled “extremist.” At the same time, it is declared equally, or perhaps even more unacceptable in the same document to simply advocate for the peaceful boycott of Israeli goods and corporations.

No Right to Reject Israel’s “Right to Exist”?

While the document repeatedly refers to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist Palestinian political party and resistance movement, in an attempt to justify repressing Barakat’s speeches and writing, let alone expelling him from the country – despite the fact that the PFLP is not illegal in Germany – it also states that, in the end, it does not matter whether or not he is a member of the PFLP, because he adheres to its political goals. Specifically, these political goals are defined as “overcoming the state of Israel and establishing the state of Palestine,” “negating Israel’s right to exist,” and “the liberation of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” certainly the political goals of vast numbers of not only Palestinians and Arabs, but all who stand for justice in Palestine.

The document repeatedly notes that Barakat refuses to “recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Of course, states do not have a “right to exist,” people do – and it is human rights, people’s rights, that are under attack by the Israeli state and its imperialist partners and allies around the world, including the German state. For Palestinians, this demand to recognize the “right to exist” of an occupying power on their land is a demand to accept the legitimacy of the Nakba and to approve of the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian refugees from their homes and lands and the continuing denial of the right of return of millions of Palestinians today.

It is to demand indigenous people praise the “legitimacy” and “right” of their colonizer and occupier to steal their land, imprison their leaders, demolish their homes and confiscate their resources. Not only should this be unacceptable to Palestinians, the demand to recognize “Israel’s right to exist” is one of colonial domination that should be repellent to all who stand for justice and human dignity. It is notable that the order is repeatedly appalled by Barakat’s advocacy of an inclusive, democratic Palestine that embraces people of all religions, demanding instead support for an exclusivist colonial state built on the dispossession and subjugation of the Palestinian people and their land.

Anti-BDS Resolution Threatening Freedom of Expression

It must further be noted that, when the German Bundestag passed its notorious anti-BDS resolution in May 2019, over the objection of Palestine justice advocates, Jewish supporters of justice and opponents of apartheid, and defenders of freedom of expression, it claimed that it was a “non-legally-binding resolution.” Nevertheless, that very text is used multiple times within this document to justify barring a Palestinian writer from returning to Germany for four years, making clear that it is being allowed to present a real, legal threat to Palestinians, Arabs and members of communities and political movements targeted by the German state for repression and silencing.

The document reflects such hatred toward the growing BDS movement that it exceeds even typical Israeli state propaganda, claiming that “your public advocacy of the aims of BDS and support for a ‘comprehensive boycott call’ against Israeli goods and services constitutes an arbitrary measure” that allegedly violates the rights of “Israeli citizens and persons of Jewish faith in Berlin.”

Of course, this makes no mention of the many Jewish people in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany, including Israeli citizens, who have faced various levels of state persecution and repression for their support for BDS and Palestinian rights. Jewish Voices for a Just Peace had its bank account shut down, while two Israeli activists and a Palestinian activist face criminal charges for interrupting a speech by a Knesset member in Berlin. This attempt to shamelessly instrumentalize Jews and equate Jewish people with Zionism and the state of Israel – a truly anti-Semitic framework, unlike support for the liberation of Palestine – comes hand in hand with the repression of actual Jewish people who stand for justice in Palestine.

The Demand to Depoliticize

The document concludes by ordering that Barakat be excluded from the country for four years. Barakat and his lawyer are appealing immediately, of course, but the conclusion contains other disturbing assertions. Not only does it attempt to justify this four-year ban solely on the basis of political activity, articles and speeches, it further declares openly that there is a “risk of the behavior being repeated,” namely: “since the year 2014 at the latest, you have repeatedly expressed your views on the Palestinian question during your stay in the Federal Republic of Germany and, in doing so, you have returned to the Palestinian population’s alleged right to resist and welcomed this in your speeches.

It is therefore to be expected that you will also do so in further statements in the Federal Republic,” as a justification for his expulsion. It argues that Barakat must show that he has changed his “internal attitude” in order to be exempt from the ban, including “admitting or at least no longer denying that his actions in the past cause a danger,” despite the fact that those actions are, in this case, giving speeches and writing articles about Palestine. In essence, there is a demand that not only Khaled Barakat, but all Palestinians, must depoliticize and silence themselves in order to be welcome or even to exist in Germany, a fundamentally racist and colonialist premise.

Stand Together Against Repression, Struggle Together for Liberation

There is much more to be said about this egregious order and how it fits into the overall framework of the attempt to silence Palestinian organizing and Palestine solidarity in Berlin. It must be noted that, despite these ongoing attacks, that organizing and activism continue to thrive and grow, with hundreds and thousands taking the streets and constant events and discussions about Palestine taking place on a daily and weekly basis. While such efforts may be destined to fail, it is all of our responsibility to fight back, to defend Palestinian rights everywhere in exile and diaspora, as well as throughout all of historic Palestine. This means building the boycott movement and the BDS campaign, defending Palestinians’ right to resist occupation and oppression and organizing together to confront Zionism, reaction and imperialism. We stand with Khaled Barakat! From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!