Berlin rally for Palestine confronts police repression: From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

German police again demonstrated their dedication to repressing Palestinian organizing in the city — home to the largest Palestinian community in Europe — on Saturday, 30 September 2023, when over 200 Berlin police surrounded a rally in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and against anti-Palestinian repression. 

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In a move clearly aimed at intimidating the community from attending the event, a massive police presence surrounded Sonnenallee near Hermannplatz.

Samidoun members and fellow Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists gathered to speak out about the case of Kayed Fasfous, on hunger strike for 60 days, and about the #StandWithZaid campaign, in support of Zaid Abdulnasser, Samidoun coordinator in Germany, who is being threatened with the withdrawal of his residency in Germany as a Palestinian refugee from Syria because of his political activities for Palestine. 

Police began inspecting every image and text, employing a translator to translate Arabic text, including decorative calligraphy on attendees’ bags or shirts. They demanded that Samidoun flags not be raised, keeping in mind that the event itself is organised by Samidoun Network. They then attempted to demand that flags and signs featuring the image of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, the Lebanese struggler for Palestine jailed in France for the past 39 years, be taken down. The rally participants refused these arbitrary restrictions, insisting on raising Samidoun and Georges Abdallah flags until the police backed down with their demands.

After speeches in support of Kayed Fasfous’ hunger strike, about the repression in Germany and the campaign against it, the demonstrators chanted repeatedly in support of the prisoners, the resistance, and for the liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

The police then threatened to cancel the rally if the participants chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” claiming that “this chant denies Israel’s right to exist” and is therefore “not allowed in this country”. The demonstrators expressed their absolute refusal of these demands and declared clearly and repeatedly “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, with the clear understanding that this is the most central principal in the Palestinian struggle for liberation and return, and that they will not be silenced, even if the police attack and ban the rally. After multiple chants, the police disbanded the rally and arrested 6 demonstrators, issuing them fines and releasing them shortly after, solely for chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. 

The overwhelming police presence is clearly designed to intimidate the Palestinian and Arab community in Berlin, especially given the attack on Zaid and on other members of Samidoun and Palestinians more broadly. This is an attempt by the German state to make it risky and dangerous to express opinions in public, particularly for the liberation of Palestine and Palestinian prisoners. It comes after the Israeli ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, demanded that Palestinian posters be stripped from the streets of Berlin, which he declared “looked like the streets of Gaza,” and demanded that Samidoun be banned in Germany.

In the past several years, all demonstrations commemorating the Nakba day have been banned in Berlin, as have demonstrations for Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. This year, when Jewish groups organized a rally to commemorate the Nakba after multiple rallies and demonstrations by diverse groups were banned, Berlin police attacked the demonstrators, including physically assaulting participants in the gathering, and then attempted to label the Palestinian participants in the demonstration — welcomed by the organizers — as interlopers “invading” the gathering. This follows the massive police violence and repression directed against Al-Nakba demonstrations in May 2021, as well as the deportation of Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat and feminist, torture survivor and former prisoner Rasmea Odeh. 

This latest attack illustrates the point made in the statement of the International Campaign Against Anti-Palestinian Repression in Germany, now endorsed by over 230 organizations: “We view this as an attack first and foremost on the Palestinian community in Germany and an expression of state-sponsored anti-Palestinian rhetoric and full identification with Israeli colonisation of occupied Palestine. This is particularly important as the vast majority of the Palestinian community in Berlin are refugees denied their right to return to their cities and villages since 1948. Their engagement in the liberation of their land and return to their homes is their natural right and the state’s attempt at repressing them will fail as they have failed for the past 100 years of unyielding Palestinian struggle.”

We declare now, and will always affirm: From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! 

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