Monday, three activists for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel faced a first trial hearing in Berlin for disrupting a talk by Israeli lawmaker Aliza Lavie at Humboldt Wniversity in Berlin (in 2017). The three were pointing out her complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The three are Ronnie Barkan, Stavit Sinai (both Jewish-Israeli) and Majed Abusalama (Palestinian), known as the “Humboldt 3”.
Although they were recently awarded for their courage by a Copenhagen Mayor, they were regarded as criminals in Berlin. A protest outside the court ahead of the trial featured placards saying “Put Israeli war crimes on trial. NOT those who speak against them”.
Ronnie Barkan’s speech, which he held at the opening, was breathtaking:
I stand here today with a sense of pride.
Not the pride of vanity, but pride in knowing that what I did was fundamentally right and done for the greater good.
I also stand here today as the accuser, not the accused.
If there is any wrongdoing on my part then it is of not doing enough to end the grave crimes that the State of Israel is responsible for. The accused today, your honor, are the criminal State of Israel and its accomplices who will be mentioned in this courtroom for aiding and abetting in Israeli crimes against humanity.
I also stand here as a privileged Israeli-Jew who works to dismantle apartheid.
“A privileged Israeli-Jew”, just like the term “apartheid”, is not a matter of personal opinion but strictly a matter of legal definition. You see, your honor, I don’t define myself as being Israeli or Jewish, but that is the way that the State of Israel defines me – that is my legal status under Israeli apartheid.
My citizenship is “Israeli”. But I don’t carry an Israeli nationality because there is no such thing. My nationality according to the state is “Jewish”. My fellow citizens who come from other racial-ethnic backgrounds carry a different nationality. They are also citizens of the state but subjugated second-class citizens – having the same citizenship but a different nationality – it could be “Arab”, “Circassian” or “Druze”. This 2-tier system claims to give the same rights to all its citizens but its whole purpose is to selectively afford the most important rights to one select group while denying it from all the others.
However, my passport which I’m also holding in my hand claims that my nationality is “Israeli”. But that is a lie! Making my passport and every other Israeli passport a fraudulent document. The Israeli Supreme Court already rejected the notion of an “Israeli” nationality – saying it would undermine the very character of the State of Israel! That is very true. Having an “Israeli” nationality – having the same nationality for all the citizens of the state would mean that there would be SOME basis for equality – and that would undermine EVERYTHING that the State of Israel is about. Their internal papers in Hebrew can say whatever they want, but my English speaking paper needs to be a fraudulent document – just imagine what it would look like if it had actually stated the truth!
Today, more than 70 years after the colonization and occupation of Palestine, there is one regime that controls the lives of roughly 19 million people. Only a third of them, about 7 million, are afforded basic human and collective rights. Those are the privileged group that I belong to.
The remaining 12 million live under different forms of oppression:
6 million live in forced exile for the past 7 decades. Many of them are stateless to this day – denied the right to go back home for the sole purpose of maintaining ethnic-purity in that land.
An additional 4 million people suffer under a brutal and barbaric military occupation for the past 5 decades, an occupation that denies their every right, including in many cases their right to life.
Finally, there are the 2 million Israeli citizens who are, at best, subjugated 2nd-class citizens. They are forbidden, by law, from demanding equality, multiculturalism and the rights of minorities – they are forbidden from turning Israel into a democracy.
Given all of that, it is hardly surprising that the UN report on Israeli apartheid by renowned scholars Tilley and Falk, concludes that the State of Israel practices The Crime of Apartheid – one of a few crimes that are classified as a crime against humanity.
The report concludes that all 12 million Palestinians are directly affected by Israeli practices of apartheid. This also includes the millions of Palestinian refugees, some of them are residents of this city and should receive the protection as persecuted people.
But why are they still refugees 70 years later?
For one and only one reason – so that I may be a privileged Israeli-Jew at their expense – they are being punished for the crime of wrong ethnicity.
If the State of Israel is indeed an apartheid state, then everyone in this room would have the moral and possibly the legal obligation to oppose such grave crimes which are carried out on a daily and hourly basis. This is exactly why the Nuremberg principles have been drafted – to urge people like us into action.
When apartheid representative, Member of Knesset Aliza Lavie, arrived at Humboldt University, she arrived on an explicit mission to go after the BDS campaign that challenges Israeli criminal policies which Lavie tries hard to protect and promote. Lavie is not only Chair of the anti-BDS lobby in the parliament, she was also a member of the Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee which decided and oversaw the massacre of 2200 people in Gaza in July 2014, including the murder of 551 babies and children. Ironically, she was also the Head of Mission to the European Council – where she appeared on several occasions in order to defend Israeli violations – from defending the systemic mass incarceration and torture of Palestinian children, to defending the massacre of unarmed demonstrators along the fence of the Gaza ghetto – demonstrators whose simple and basic demand is to go back to their homes.
When I confronted Lavie at Humboldt University, I did not only oppose her criminal presence there but also went above and beyond to explain the UN report which I was holding in my hand, trying to educate her on her own crimes. As I was leaving I actually handed her the report and asked her to read it.
The fact that we are standing here today only comes to show that she has yet to read the report and has yet to express remorse for her actions. We also know that she has yet to be put on trial.
That is until today – since this court is in a position to change all of that. I therefore expect your honor to take the legal considerations surrounding The Crime of Apartheid seriously.
Because after all, where, if not in Berlin, should I be able to speak up against the clearest expressions of human depravity?
Where, if not in Berlin, should we be able to stand up to a barbaric system that differentiates between the ubermenschen and the untermenschen – based on racial and ethnic characteristics?
Where, if not in Berlin, as a grandson of those survivors who only needed the world to speak up – should we voice out loud our message that We Will Not Be Silent and call on others to never be silent again?
And if this court will choose to look the other way, I would like to remind it that I have a track record of disrupting official apartheid representatives and that there is no suitable punishment that will stop me from doing so in the future – until Israeli crimes against humanity had been abolished.
That would be my legacy in that case.
I only wonder what would be this court’s legacy?
The four-hour hearing was not sufficient in order to conclude the case, and the next hearing will take place on Monday, March 11th, at 9:00 am, also at the Moabit Court in Berlin.
I have spoken with Ronnie, who says that they hope for a large crowd next time too. This time, the small hall which could hold about 25 people, meant that about 40 people were outside the hall, sometimes rotating with each other. Just about all of them were in solidarity with the Humboldt 3. Ronnie said that the judge was generally patient, and allowed for political expression, with little comment – but that she also expressed a sense of impatience with this case, where the formal charges are that of “trespassing and assault”, although there was no actual trespassing nor assault by the defendants. “I have more important cases to deal with”, the judge said as the time neared the 4-hour limit, Ronnie tells me – as she saw that this would obviously require a further hearing. The defendants are certainly interested in this continuing – they want to invite witnesses and present evidence, and they pointed out that it was not them who called for these charges to be put against them. So the Humboldt 3 are happy to be continuing next week, in what for them is a trial against the real criminals – Israel and its apologists, who have decided to put them on trial for calling out Israeli crimes.