Shameful Attack by the German State: Palestinian Prisoners’ Day Demonstrations in Berlin Banned by Police

On 13 April 2023, the Berlin police banned two demonstrations marking the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day on 15 and 16 April, including the 16 April demonstration organized by Samidoun Deutschland. This heinous attack by the German state against Palestinian rights, freedoms, expression and existence, is in accordance with Germany’s support for and admiration of the ethnostate model that the zionist occupation presents. It is also important to note, that this attack follows the 2022 ban on Nakba Day demonstrations, which was met with widespread condemnation in Germany and around the world. Now, the German state — through the Berlin police — is attacking the over 4,800 Palestinians imprisoned by the zionist occupation and are struggling for justice and liberation by targeting Palestinian Prisoners’ Day for repression and silencing.

We commemorate Palestinian Prisoners’ Day annually on 17 April to stand with those Palestinians at the core of our cause and the center of our resistance, the Palestinian prisoners locked behind bars by the colonial occupation. On this day, we raise our voices against torture, the imprisonment of children, and the colonial use of imprisonment as a weapon against Palestinian liberation and self-determination. This is an international day marked in all the cities of the world, when we raise the names and stories of the prisoners who continue to lead and struggle behind prison bars, from Khader Adnan — on hunger strike for the 68th day — to Walid Daqqah, in intensive care with a rare cancer after years of medical neglect. We salute Israa Jaabis, Ahmad Sa’adat, Marwan Barghouthi, Nael Barghouthi, Abdullah Barghouthi, Ahmad Manasra and all of the 4,800 Palestinian prisoners behind bars, as well as Georges Abdallah, jailed in France for 38 years, and the Palestinian activists jailed in the United States. This action by the Berlin police is an attack on the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, and must urge all of us to act even more strongly for their immediate release.

Germany is clearly not a neutral party or observer in the ongoing colonization and occupation of Palestine. It provides weaponry and unlimited political support for the occupation of our people in Palestine, while violating Palestinian human rights not only in Palestine but also here in Germany and particularly in the capital of the Palestinian diaspora, Berlin, the home of the largest Palestinian community in Europe. 

This raises an important question: why? Why is the German government repressing the voices of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and residents that support the Palestinian struggle for liberation, as we saw so vividly in the demonstrations that took place in Germany during “Saif Al Quds” uprising, in order to protect the interests of a foreign colonial occupation? Why is the German state following the U.S. blindly into a deadly war in Ukraine, creating an economic disaster that crushed its own population? And why is Germany quiet about the U.S. bombing its own strategic gas pipeline, costing the German people hundreds of billions of euros in economic damages and pushing the state towards a confrontation with a nuclear power? Why does a foreign power, the U.S., station 29,000 of its troops and maintain 40 military installations on German soil? And why is there a CIA base in Frankfurt that was allowed to operate freely as revealed in WikiLeaks? And why was the German state quiet about its former head of state, chancellor Angela Merkel, being hacked by U.S. intelligence? All these unanswered questions reveal Germany’s lack of sovereignty and the extent at which the German state routinely acts against the interests of its residents to serve its imperialist interests in alignment with U.S. imperialism. 

It is also clear that the demonstration ban today is being carried out as a form of collective punishment and silencing targeting the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs in Germany and their supporters. It is a manufactured crisis that aims to create a pretext  for the ongoing banning of demonstrations for Palestine and the free expression of the Palestinian community and supporters of Palestine. The document issued by the Berlin Police reads as if it were written by an Israeli security or intelligence agency, as it offers an array of political analyses that solely reflect a Zionist approach to Palestine and entirely disregard Palestinian rights and even humanity. 

We warn against another attempt to ban the commemoration of al-Nakba day in Berlin, as we saw in 2022. We also view this collective targeting of the Palestinian community as an attempt to criminalize Palestinian expression and identity as well as to pressure our movement into competition and division into “good” and “bad” Palestinians. We make clear today: We and our collective movement will not allow such tactics to succeed. The voice of the Palestinian people — including the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian community in Berlin, who are Palestinian refugees denied their right to return to their occupied and colonized homeland for over 75 years — will be heard, along with the voice of our people and our resistance, for the liberation of our prisoners and our land, from the river to the sea.

We call upon all supporters of justice in Palestine, in Germany and internationally, to hold the German government accountable for the ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights taking place here on the streets of Berlin, and specifically the ban on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day commemorations. These attacks are part and parcel of the same system of oppression and alliance of imperialism, Zionism and reaction that targets our people inside and outside occupied Palestine. We will not be silent!

The 12 page document by the Berlin Police purporting to justify this ban follows a series of political attacks, including interventions by the Israeli ambassador, demanding the silencing of the Palestinian community. Like previous documents of this nature, it is littered with anti-Palestinian racism and gratuitous and highly politicized commentary that fully adopts a Zionist narrative to an extreme and even offensive level. 

This comes after the police identified no incidents at the demonstration last Saturday, 8 April, and after a manufactured media and political outrage scandal sparked by a suspicious video produced by a Zionist organization with a lone, unidentifiable voice shouting an anti-Jewish slogan. It is clear that this is the result of political pressure and not the reflection of any real concern about “public safety” or “fighting antisemitism”. It is also clear that the safety and security of the Palestinian and Arab community is of no value at all to the Berlin and German federal governments and can be cast aside or endangered at any moment for political expediency. 

  • The police document adopts an offensive Zionist narrative in describing the attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, attacks which were even condemned by many pro-Zionist Western governments. It portrays the Israeli occupation forces drawing their weapons on worshipers and beating Palestinians inside the mosque as defenders of the Muslims praying there, while disregarding entirely the experience of those same Palestinian Muslims:

“According to reports, groups of young Palestinians threw firecrackers and stones at police officers late in the evening and tried to barricade themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Furthermore, these groups of young Palestinians are said to have prevented believers from leaving the mosque, so that the police had to clear the way for the believers to leave the mosque and in this connection expelled the Palestinians from the complex. According to Palestinian sources, another six people were injured.”

  • It once again engages in anti-Palestinian racism and stereotyping while declaring that Palestinians and Arabs should apparently be emotionless about the violent attacks and dispossession of themselves and their people: warning of “emotionalization among local sections of the population with a Palestinian background.”
  • It engages in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism and criminalization: “The gathering had a distinctly militant appearance to outsiders, with aggressive chants of “Allahu Akbar”.”
  • It describes the participation of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims as a justification for banning the action: “The assembly participants will therefore largely be made up of people from the Arab diaspora, particularly those with a Palestinian background. In addition, other Muslim groups, preferably from the Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian diaspora, will take part in the demonstration. In addition, a large number of young people and young adults can be expected.”
  • Further, the police also declare that Palestinians referencing their capital Jerusalem and its occupation is a reason to ban the demonstration: 

“It must be considered that the demonstration is developing into a replacement event for the canceled annual “al-Quds demonstration”. This is also supported by flyers published on the Internet, which make a reference to Jerusalem (Arabic: al-Quds) in words and pictures.”

  • Once again, the German government is using the allegedly “non-legally-binding” IHRA definition to trample on the legal rights of Palestinians, Arabs and supporters of Palestine, and equating Jews and Zionism in the crudest of terms (therefore promoting anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish animus, in reality):

“Propagating the non-existence and destruction of the State of Israel in words and pictures is to be seen as the most succinct expression of anti-Semitism according to all common definitions of anti-Semitism…This applies both to the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Germany in 2017 from the “International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance” (IHRA) as well as the scientific anti-Semitism definition of the report of the second “Independent Expert Group Anti-Semitism” from 2017.”

  • Further, the statement once again affirms the German government’s repeated statement that Zionist colonialism in Palestine is a “reason of state” for the country, justifying the ban on th basis that: “Its assembly participants are recruited from a circle of people who are critical of the State of Israel, the Israeli people and people of the Jewish faith.” What “people of the Jewish faith” are referred to here? Zionist settlers and occupying soldiers and war criminals? Once again, anti-Zionist Jews are rendered invisible while Jewishness is yoked to the actions of a settler colonial, imperialist project. The deception could not be clearer.

It is Europe, and Germany in particular, its ruling class and its systems of oppression, that are responsible for anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish hatred, Nazism and fascism. This is only the latest attempt to shed responsibility for these crimes and the threat of the extreme right in Germany and instead target Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims — the same groups who are themselves a primary target of fascists in Germany and throughout Europe. We do not accept that the responsibility for Nazi crimes will be displaced onto Palestinians and Arabs struggling for our liberation from colonialism. Our liberation struggle is anti-colonialist and anti-racist, and our struggle will not be silenced by smear campaigns or state repression. 

We commemorate the struggle of the Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people, and the International Day of Palestinian Prisoners lives on as an immortal day. We urge all who support us not only to speak out against the ban but to attend and organize events for Palestinian Prisoners’ Day in your community and city, particularly the events in Köln and Hamburg on 15 April.

We will not stand by as our people are targeted for criminalization and repression. Now is the time when it is more urgent than ever: We must continue to organize and escalate all of our efforts to free all Palestinian prisoners, to stand with the Palestinian people and their brave resistance, for the liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.