On Friday, 11 March, Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat‘s appeal against the political ban imposed upon him by Berlin immigration authorities in June 2019 was brought before a German court. Barakat is fighting back against the Berlin immigration office’s imposition of a political ban on him, barring him from participating in political and social events and activities, and their order that he be expelled from the country for four years. The political ban was followed by a four-year expulsion order, even after he had already left Germany, and based entirely on his public political activities, speeches and writings.
In a recent interview with Robert Inlakesh at Almayadeen English, Barakat notes:
“This is part and parcel of a state-sponsored campaign against Palestinians organizing to defend their rights and seek their freedom. The political ban against me came when I was going to give a lecture about Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” in Arabic to Arab community organizations in Berlin. Then, this was shortly followed by the denial of our visa and then, even after we left the country, an exclusion order was instantly issued. This is an attempt to make an example of a Palestinian writer challenging Zionism, imperialism, and Germany’s own destructive role. This is why it’s important to fight back because we know they will continue to do this and target others….
When Germany practices racist and discriminatory measures against the Arab community in Germany, we cannot be silent. We must fight back. That includes fighting against these measures in the legal system, which is another arena of voicing our narrative and defending our rights. I know that Palestinians will be victorious in our struggle for liberation, despite the forces arrayed against us by “Israel” and its allies and the ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.”
Barakat’s lawyer presented a range of arguments highlighting the illegitimate nature of the political ban imposed upon him and the danger it presents to freedom of expression and opinion in Germany. She also presented a letter he addressed to the court, as follows:
To the members of the Court:
I am writing this letter to the court that is convening now in order to hear my case, the appeal of the political ban imposed upon me. The purpose of my message to you today, 11 March 2022 through my lawyer . . . is an attempt to seek justice and fairness. I have been subjected to racist attacks, constantly, because of my political views and because of my principles. Fighting racism, colonization and the mistreatment of the Palestinian people — my people — has been and will always be the cause of my life.
I have been a dedicated voice against homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and fascism. These values, I know, are cherished by the vast majority of the people in Germany.
Charlotte, my wife, and I lived in Germany on and off from 2015 until I was wrongfully silenced and later deported. Throughout this time, I have acted in accordance with the law. In these four years, I was introduced to great histories and cultural experiences, and at the same time, I have also witnessed a systematic oppression directed against refugees, migrants and those classified as foreigners, at the hands of the state.
On the day I was stopped by the police, taken to a police station, and presented with a political ban, I was on my way to a community center, where I was going to deliver a talk hosted by Arab and African organizations about the impact of U.S. policy in the Middle East. For me, it seemed that this police action in Berlin was taken at the behest of the U.S. and Israel, rather than that of the public in Berlin and Germany more broadly, who can only benefit from a diverse conversation about these important issues.
My writings and my political activities are not secret. In fact, it is important for me that it is public and known to all, visible under the sun and in the open, because it is, I believe, a responsibility upon me to tell the world a clear message: The recognition and implementation of the full rights of my people, the Palestinian people, must be achieved. This means ending apartheid and colonialism, and it also means the full implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their original homes and lands, a right guaranteed under international law. And if my calling to the liberation of Palestine and the Palestinians is a crime, then this would be contrary not only to my principles and to reality itself, but even the very international law that Germany purports to uphold.
I understand the burden and the complexity of history, particularly the history of Nazi Germany, and the brutality and massacres carried out against millions of people at the hands of Hitler and the Nazi regime. My question is, however, why must Palestinians carry the responsibility of such atrocities and be labeled as anti-Semitic for seeking our rights and our freedom?
I want the new generations in Germany to be free to criticize the racist and colonialist behavior of the state of Israel, without fear of persecution, repression or slander. It is also important for the young Jewish generations to be free to express their own positions and views on Zionism and Israel and to say that Israel’s policies do not represent the Jewish people.
I have received widespread support and many messages of solidarity from Palestinian, Arab, German, Jewish and international organizations and individuals. This support has not been about one individual, myself. Instead, this support is for a cause: of freedom, equality, liberation and true peace in Palestine, from the river to the sea.
As Palestinians, we have the right to a politics, a civic and civil life, and to expression that is diverse and creative in its character and tone. Rather than receiving recognition of this, our full humanity, we are asked to account for or mitigate all of our statements, when we are struggling to rectify a great injustice and live free of colonialism, apartheid and racism. My full humanity, and the full humanity of the Palestinian people as a whole, must be respected as worthy of the same rights and protections as all others under any just standard of law.
Finally, as I hope that you guarantee me the right to speak and protect my freedom of expression, that fundamental human right that is cherished in your constitution, and put an end to this manifest injustice.
11 March 2022
Before the hearing, members of Samidoun Deutschland and supporters of Palestinian rights delivered a statement of solidarity, emphasizing the importance of protecting Palestinian rights, under attack in Germany and internationally:
Since Barakat’s expulsion, multiple Palestinians in Germany have been subjected to similar actions by the immigration office, targeting public or even private political expression in support of Palestinian rights. Palestinian and pro-Palestinian academics continue to face systematic attempts to silence them and strip them of access to public space. Most recently, Deutsche Welle – the German state broadcasting agency – has fired Palestinian and Arab journalists based on their social media posts about Palestine or opposition to the threats to freedom of expression in Europe.
In Vancouver, Canada, where Barakat is based, activists with Samidoun Vancouver, the Canada Palestine Association and BDS Vancouver – Coast Salish visited the German and French consulates on 9 March to deliver letters of protest against the repression targeting Palestinian rights organizing. The letter delivered to the German consulate called on the Berlin immigration authorities to withdraw their political ban and expulsion order against Barakat and for the German government to change its position on Palestine and end its support for the Israeli occupation.
The letter delivered to the French consulate condemned France’s recent dissolution or banning of two pro-Palestinian organizations, including the Collectif Palestine Vaincra. The delegation met briefly with the Vice Consuls of both countries, delivering a strong message of support for justice in Palestine and placing their letters of protest in the hands of German and French officials.
Khaled Barakat’s case is not only an individual case of repression. It is part of the systematic attack on Palestinian organizing, political expression and thought in Germany. Germany is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities in Europe, but its official policies not only provide support to the Israeli colonization of Palestine but also harshly target Palestinian and pro-Palestinian expression inside Germany. Barakat, his lawyers, and advocates of Palestinian rights are awaiting a decision on this case and pledge to continue to struggle to uphold not only the right of freedom of expression for Palestinians, but the rights of the Palestinian people to liberate themselves and obtain their freedom from colonialism, occupation and apartheid.