Little known to the left in the U.S., an escalating war of repression is being waged in Europe against Palestinians, those who take action in support of migrants and refugees, and other leftists fighting for a better world for all workers and oppressed people. Today, imperialist Germany is at the center of this war, and its acts of state repression are being closely coordinated with the U.S. and Israeli governments and far-right groups.
On June 22, Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat was banned from speaking under threat of imprisonment. Barakat, who heads the international campaign to free political prisoner Ahmed Sa’adat, was stopped by police outside a Berlin community center where he was scheduled to speak about a U.S.-sponsored conference in Bahrain dubbed the “deal of the century.” As concocted by the Trump administration, Palestinians were supposed to be bribed into exchanging their right to return to their homeland and other fundamental rights for aid money and bogus promises of “peace” under Israeli occupation.
Police stopped Barakat and Charlotte Kates of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and told them the pro-Palestinian event had been banned. As Samidoun explained: “Barakat was presented with an 8-page document and told that he was not allowed to give speeches in person or over video, participate in political meetings or events or even attend social gatherings of over 10 people; he was told that violations were punishable by up to a year in prison.” Barakat and Kates were also told that their residency in Germany would not be renewed.
When fascists charge ‘anti-Semitism’
The censorship and threats against Barakat come just months after another internationally known Palestinian activist, former U.S. and Israeli political prisoner Rasmea Odeh, was banned from speaking in Berlin about the role of women in Palestine’s liberation struggle. Odeh’s visa was repealed and she was assaulted by racist cops, members of the fascist anti-immigrant party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), and Zionist supporters of Israeli apartheid. U.S. and Israeli diplomats were directly involved in organizing the attack on Odeh.
On June 29, hundreds protested outside the Bundestag (parliament) in Berlin in defiance of these repressive acts and a recent resolution attacking the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid. The Bundestag resolution “falsely equated this Palestinian movement with anti-Semitism,” says a Samidoun photo report from the demonstration. A series of anti-Palestinian resolutions were proposed by the various political parties in the Bundestag after the extreme-right AfD with the ultra-capitalist Free Democratic Party kicked off this particular attack on Palestinians with a proposal to ban the BDS movement.
“However, the anti-BDS resolution is not an outlier, but reflects an ongoing and escalating campaign to criminalize Palestinians and Palestine organizing in Germany.”
This reactionary offensive has had a chilling effect on much of the German left. Some groups, especially those that are oriented toward reform rather than revolution, have even joined in the false rhetoric equating Palestine solidarity with anti-Semitism in hopes of shielding themselves. Not only is this a betrayal of solidarity—it also aids imperialism in spreading the lie that the reactionary, U.S. armed and funded Israeli state is the same as the Jewish people.
Samidoun has drawn attention to related cases of repression happening across Europe, coordinated by the same anti-people alliance of imperialist officials, fascist parties and pro-apartheid Zionists. This includes the case of Sea Watch Captain Carola Rackete, who was arrested in Italy after saving refugees on the open sea and docking at an Italian port. Rackete was freed from house arrest on July 3, when a judge ruled that she was “doing her duty saving human lives.” But Rackete could still face prosecution for “assisting illegal immigration.”
Hamburg anti-fascists take action
In the German city of Hamburg, members of the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist collective No Pasarán Hamburg plan a protest on July 13 “against home raids, repression and political trials.”
They will highlight Barakat’s case, along with recent police raids against members of the leftist, pro-Palestinian Jugendwiderstand (Youth Resistance) organization, and what the group calls the “show trial” of Turkish activist Erdal Gökoglu for his alleged membership in the communist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). On June 27 Gökoglu was sentenced to five years in prison.
Struggle-La Lucha spoke with members of No Pasarán Hamburg to get their views on the repression and its impact on the left in Germany. (For security reasons, their replies are attributed to the group, not to individuals.)
“In Hamburg, a gradual conquest of all democratic, left ‘alternative,’ and student spaces has been led by pro-Zionist forces. It goes without saying that all left-wing cultural centers and larger demonstrations—such as those for sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean or political prisoners—are to be kept ‘Palestine-free’ if you don’t want to be spat on, insulted, attacked, or photographed and vilified as a Nazi on social media. The university students’ parliament (Studierendenausschuss) is dominated by these forces.
“Anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist perspectives are being driven out, delegitimized, insulted. If you are a woman known for your solidarity with Palestine, you can’t even save yourself from the attacks and insults of pro-Zionist men in the women’s restroom.
“For about a year there has been a smear campaign against the comrades from the Jugendwiderstand [a Maoist organization that formally dissolved in June]. For months, the city has been covered in stickers accusing the Jugendwiderstand of being ‘racist, sexist anti-Semites.’ This was the central theme on May 1 during an ‘anti-authoritarian’ demonstration, with slogans denouncing the Jugendwiderstand on the lead banner. By our experience and estimations, we see no basis for any of the vilification made against this group.
“The aggression is massive against anyone who stands for Palestine. Because we are anti-imperialists and internationalists, our posters calling for solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela or the Catalonian Estelada have been attacked or destroyed.
“During our commemoration of the Nakba this year, we were filmed, including the children among us, by the pro-Zionists. On Twitter, people begged that a World War II era British bomb, which was uncovered during construction work that day, be used on us.
“There is an atmosphere of fear and terror built up. If you show solidarity with Palestine, then you are accused of being a Nazi, you are targeted, you can never feel safe. On top of that, there is of course the possibility you will be criminalized by the state.
“For us, as internationalist anti-fascists who live in an imperialist country, this is the watershed moment: Are you actually interested in change, or are you content with imperialism and willing to justify it?”
Hands off Khaled Barakat and the Palestinian solidarity movement! From the belly of U.S. imperialism, Struggle-La Lucha sends solidarity to all comrades fighting courageously in Germany and Europe against imperialism, fascism and Zionist apartheid.
We urge our readers and supporters to help inform the U.S. left about the situation and send messages of solidarity for Khaled Barakat to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video: Message from Samidoun’s Charlotte Kates on German repression