Speaking up in times of apartheid, in Berlin

Israel/Palestine

On June 20 in Berlin, activists disrupted a speech by an Israeli legislator at Humboldt University. The protest generated mischaracterizations in the press, including an effort to smear the protest as a “Hezbollah rally.” This is an open letter regarding the protest, published two days ago. –Editor.

On June 20th 2017, we, three human-rights activists, engaged an act of political protest, which was directed at an official Israeli state representative, Member of Knesset Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid political party). The aim of action was twofold: first, to protest Lavie’s “Hasbara” event, which was hosted by Humboldt University, and second, to raise public awareness to Israel’s criminal responsibility in perpetuating an apartheid regime.

MK Lavie herself is personally accountable for her role as a coalition member during the 2014 onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip, where over 2,200 people have been killed, including 89 entire families that were obliterated. Furthermore, the protesters began by emphasizing that Lavie appears in Humboldt University as a representative of a criminal apartheid state. Given that under international law the Crime of Apartheid is classified as a crime against humanity, we, as people of conscience, were morally obligated to perform our civil responsibility and speak up against those very horrendous crimes that were, and still are, being carried out in our name.

Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, p.7

 ❝ The report concludes that the weight of the evidence supports beyond a reasonable doubt the proposition that Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity, the prohibition of which is considered jus cogens in international customary law. The international community, especially the United Nations and its agencies, and Member States, have a legal obligation to act within the limits of their capabilities to prevent and punish instances of apartheid that are responsibly brought to their attention. More specifically, States have a collective duty: (a) not to recognize an apartheid regime as lawful; (b) not to aid or assist a State in maintaining an apartheid regime; and (c) to cooperate with the United Nations and other States in bringing apartheid regimes to an end. Civil society institutions and individuals also have a moral and political duty to use the instruments at their disposal to raise awareness of this ongoing criminal enterprise, and to exert pressure on Israel in order to persuade it to dismantle apartheid structures in compliance with international law. The report ends with general and specific recommendations to the United Nations, national Governments, and civil society and private actors on actions they should take in view of the finding that Israel maintains a regime of apartheid in its exercise of control over the Palestinian people. ❞

Our non-violent act of resistance, of speaking truth to power, corresponds to our constitutional right of free speech, a right which is not afforded by the Israeli regime and its heavy use of state censorship. Notwithstanding, the German media’s covering of the event, not only inaccurate but also substandard in terms of journalistic writing, has fully aligned itself with Zionist media and Israel’s state ideology to depict our civil duty as an illegitimate expression of antisemitism. Such an outrageous claim joins a much more disturbing and broader tendency seen over the past years, which includes DIE LINKE and SPD decisions to de-legitimize and oppress a peaceful civil society movement calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the State of Israel — a state which doesn’t abide by international law.

Civil courage, we maintain, is the answer to the ongoing attempt to narrow down Germany’s discursive sphere in which critically thinking individuals fear of being blacklisted and tagged as antisemites, thereby preempting the chance of any meaningful protest against abuse of state power, settler colonialism, and violation of international law. The lack of analytical capability of distinguishing racism against Jews from critique of Israeli policies is persistently being used to fend off any criticism of Israel’s illegal and immoral practices.

These smearing attempts are all the more futile considering that two of the activists are Israeli citizens and descendants of Jews who survived the holocaust, the death-trains, the death-marches and the concentration camps. While Yesh Atid political party abuses the memory of the holocaust for political gain, the slander against us and false accusations of antisemitism are all the more reprehensible considering the century-long Jewish opposition to Zionism, including the legacy of holocaust survivors who oppose the crimes of Zionism.

We write here in the name of Marek Edelman, a staunch anti-Zionist who was deputy commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a Polish hero (awarded the Order of the White Eagle) and a world-renowned cardiologist. Yet, the State of Israel actively works to erase his existence from Israeli history books and has gone to great lengths to deny his legacy of anti-Nazi and anti-Zionist resistance. When the Polish government held the 50-year commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising it was the Israeli government which demanded that Edelman, the Polish icon who commanded the uprising and was one of its sole survivors, would be dis-invited from the ceremony.

We write here in the name of Hajo Meyer, the survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, director of A Different Jewish Voice (EAJG) and member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN). Meyer died in August 2014 on the very day that an open letter signed by 44 holocaust survivors and over 300 descendants of survivors had been published on the NY Times. The letter with Meyer being the first on its list of signatories, accuses Israel of committing no less than genocide in Gaza and calls on the world to endorse the BDS campaign in order to hold Israel accountable for its actions. We also write here in the name of Hannah Arendt, Hedy Epstein, Victor Klemperer, and many others.

While one of the Israeli activists reminded MK Lavie of her complicity in the 2014 Gaza massacre, it was the Palestinian Majed Abusalama, first-hand witness and survivor of at least three Israeli onslaughts on Gaza in 2008, 2009 and 2012, who sat quietly throughout the meeting. During the Q&A session Abusalama raised his grievances concerning the talk as well as the physical violence that some of the organizers engaged in against the demonstrators, after which he was removed from the hall.

Following Yesh Atid’s false claims, the ensuing media reports audaciously accused the demonstrators of violence and of antisemitism, toeing the Israeli propaganda line of accusing the victim, as follows:

  1. We, demonstrators, consisted of only three individuals rather than the twenty people as reported throughout the German media. [1],[2],[3],[4]
  2. Our action was not directed at the Yesh Atid political representative Ms. Dvorah Weinstein. In fact, MK Lavie was the only person to have spoken in the event up to the time of our intervention. We have also directly addressed MK Lavie by name as can be seen in the detailed video. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5]
  3. Once our protest has ended, all three of us have left campus. Therefore, the alleged security concerns are fictitious by their very nature, let alone the fact that the University’s security personnel were not at all bothered by our presence. [1],[2],[3]
  4. While there was no violence on our part, the incident was clearly a violent one and we are issuing a complaint with the Humboldt University on this matter. The female demonstrator was assaulted by one of the event organizers who had punched her in the face. The lead-up to the violence can be seen in the video (see min 5:15), where the demonstrator is being grabbed and pushed as she was fending off the attacker. An audience member can be heard in the video, shouting: “Don’t beat her!” and “No violence!”.

It is unfortunately not at all surprising that violating our bodily autonomy by the use of unauthorized violent means to oppress political dissidence did not receive equal coverage, nor was it addressed by Humboldt University and the Berlin Senate. Moreover, we denounce the shameful position taken by Humboldt University regarding the event. As a public academic institution of higher education that places human values at its core, it is a dark moment when the perpetrators of a crime against humanity are embraced within its premises.

We see value in dialogue even with those who hold diametrically opposed views to ours and therefore would not have interrupted the other speakers at the event. At the same time, backed by the tenets of international law, we maintain that an official representative of a state that systematically violates the law and does so as a matter of policy, a state whose modus operandi is the practice of crimes against humanity, must not be given legitimacy for its illegitimate practices. Certainly, it should not be embraced within the halls of academia that claims to draw its raison d’etre from our shared human and humanistic values. This also holds true to the legal obligations of any state and the German state in particular.

Given the attempts to silence freedom of expression in Germany concerning these issues, we find this disposition to be dangerous for the future of Germany’s civil sphere as a whole. We urge all those of you who hold dear the values of a free civil society to take a stand against state oppression and demand the end of German complicity in the violations of international law – also with regard to the Israeli case. We call upon you to voice your position, to stand on the right side of history, and to join us in the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice in Israel-Palestine.

Onwards,

Stavit Sinai, Majed Abusalama, Ronnie Barkan

About Stavit Sinai, Majed Abusalama, and Ronnie Barkan

Stavit Sinai, Majed Abusalama, and Ronnie Barkan are human rights activists.

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11 Responses

  1. Citizen
    July 2, 2017, 3:20 pm

    I can’t resist: “The Germans, they are either at your neck, or at your feet.”–Churchill. Now what?

    • amigo
      July 2, 2017, 5:46 pm

      Total respect for these brave souls .

      Anytime one of Israel,s criminals attempts to push zionist hasbara down people,s throats , they should be at least made uncomfortable in the effort.

  2. Marnie
    July 3, 2017, 12:04 am

    It’s just beautiful to see truth speak to break the zionist bubble and challenge their lies and propaganda!

  3. Paranam Kid
    July 3, 2017, 6:29 am

    Ever since 1948 israel has had Germany & the Germans by the short & curlies. And that situation is likely to last for quite a while to come yet. But Germany is 1 country among a group of 26 others. It is still more worrisome that even the EU lacks the courage & the honesty to stand up to israel; instead the EU is getting ever closer to, ever more tolerant of the “country”, its system, and its policies.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    July 3, 2017, 7:38 am

    RE: “Notwithstanding, the German media’s covering of the event, not only inaccurate but also substandard in terms of journalistic writing, has fully aligned itself with Zionist media and Israel’s state ideology to depict our civil duty as an illegitimate expression of antisemitism. Such an outrageous claim joins a much more disturbing and broader tendency seen over the past years, which includes DIE LINKE and SPD decisions to de-legitimize and oppress a peaceful civil society movement calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the State of Israel — a state which doesn’t abide by international law.” ~ Sinai, Abusalama & Barkan

    ■ SEE: “Israeli diplomat in Berlin: Maintaining German guilt about Holocaust helps Israel” | By Nir Gontarz | Haaretz.com | Jun. 25, 2015

    [EXCERPT] A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in Berlin recently told Israeli journalists it was in the country’s interest to maintain German guilt about the Holocaust, and that it isn’t seeking full normalization of relations between the governments.

    Embassy spokeswoman Adi Farjon made the comments in a closed briefing session with journalists at the embassy.

    “We were all in shock,” said a female journalist present at the briefing. “The spokeswoman clearly said it was an Israeli interest to maintain German guilt feelings. She even said that without them, we’d be just another country as far as they’re concerned.”

    Others present at the event confirmed the journalist’s account.

    Some added that the Israeli ambassador himself, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, was present for some of the briefing, as were other embassy workers who don’t speak Hebrew. Another journalist commented, “It was so awkward. We couldn’t believe our ears. We’re sitting there eating peanuts, and behind the spokeswoman there are two German women sitting there who don’t understand a word of Hebrew – and the embassy staff is telling us they’re working to preserve the German guilt feelings and that Israel has no interest in normalization of relations between the two countries.”

    “I don’t remember saying that,” Farjon told Haaretz in response. “I can’t vouch for any particular quote, she added. “It was an off-the-record conversation, a briefing talk. The way I speak with Israeli journalists is a little different. These things aren’t intended to get out. I can’t reveal the principles I work by. For example, I don’t say who I go to in order to get good stories out here, or who I pay for things like that.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.662962

    ■ AND SEE – “Study: People Express Moral Outrage to Compensate for Their Own Guilt” | By Heat Street Staff | March 2, 2017

    [EXCERPT] A new study into the psychology of expressing moral outrage has revealed what some already suspected – it is significantly motivated by personal guilt.

    Academics at the University of Southern Mississippi investigated people’s thought processes when they were told about different types of injustice.

    They found that participants’ tendencies to express outrage changed significantly depending on whether or not they felt culpable for a particular wrong.

    The more directly they felt implicated in a given wrong, the more likely they were to displace the blame onto an external agency.

    The study also showed that sounding off about an issue – aka virtue signalling – helped people’s self-esteem by letting them feel like good people…

    CONTINUED AT – https://heatst.com/world/study-people-express-moral-outrage-to-compensate-for-their-own-guilt/

    A MORE THOROUGH EXPLANATION OF THE STUDY –
    http://reason.com/blog/2017/03/01/moral-outrage-is-self-serving

    • Tuyzentfloot
      July 3, 2017, 8:53 am

      Study: People Express Moral Outrage to Compensate for Their Own Guilt”

      Hm, such an artificially limited perspective. How about expressing moral outrage because of a perceived benefit. Then that benefit can be to divert attention of something else, something else on occasion being some form of guilt. The benefit can also be in being viewed as some kind of moral leader. Newspapers like to do that.

      Of course moral outrage can be very real while the expression can still be strategic.

      • JLewisDickerson
        July 4, 2017, 11:17 am

        Yes, the concept of “virtue signalling”* is also included in the study (and was found to be quite considerably implicated), but I made the decision to only mention the part(s) of the study most relevant to Israel’s apparent interest in fostering/maintaining German guilt over the Holocaust.

        In countries other than Germany (and perhaps some of its WWII allies) ‘virtue signalling’ might well be more highly implicated than the tendency to (over?)compensate for feelings of guilt regarding the Holocaust.

        * The study also showed that sounding off about an issue – aka virtue signalling – helped people’s self-esteem by letting them feel like good people.
        Its results suggest murkier motivations for social activism than those often claimed by its proponents.

        A MORE THOROUGH EXAMINATION OF THE STUDY – http://reason.com/blog/2017/03/01/moral-outrage-is-self-serving

        P.S. A MUCH-NEEDED PALLIATIVE FOR “TTS” (TRUMP TEDIOSITY SYNDROME):

      • Mooser
        July 4, 2017, 1:29 pm

        “Yes, the concept of “virtue signalling” is also included.”

        Sure, like saying “I’ve never really done this kind of thing before, have you”?

    • JLewisDickerson
      July 4, 2017, 12:10 pm

      P.S. RE: “Israeli diplomat in Berlin: Maintaining German guilt about Holocaust helps Israel” ~ Haaretz article (excerpted above)

      SEE: “Gunter the Terrible”, By Uri Avnery, The Palestine Chronicle, 4/13/12

      [EXCERPT] Stop me if I have told you this joke before:

      Somewhere in the US, a demonstration takes place. The police arrive and beat the protesters mercilessly.
      “Don’t hit me,” someone shouts, “I am an anti-communist!”
      “I couldn’t give a damn what kind of a communist you are!” a policeman answers as he raises his baton.

      The first time I told this joke was when a German group visited the Knesset and met with German-born members, including me.

      They went out of their way to praise Israel, lauding everything we had been doing, condemning every bit of criticism, however harmless it might be. It became downright embarrassing, since some of us in the Knesset were very critical of our government’s policy in the occupied territories.

      For me, this extreme kind of pro-Semitism is just disguised anti-Semitism. Both have a basic belief in common: that Jews – and therefore Israel – are something apart, not to be measured by the standards applied to everybody else. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.palestinechronicle.com/gunter-the-terrible/#.UpTfHMSsh8E

      • Mooser
        July 4, 2017, 1:26 pm

        ” that Jews – and therefore Israel – are something apart, not to be measured by the standards applied to everybody else. . .”

        You have won a free “Jews sui generis” button. Oh, here, have a case of them. Wasn’t a big seller, I’ve got lots.

  5. Lillian Rosengarten
    July 3, 2017, 9:52 pm

    Marvelous!

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