Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
The Trouble with Germany, Part II
Duration
0:00 / 40:51
Published
March 9, 2023

In recent years, German state officials and media outlets have cracked down on Palestinian speech and activism. In 2019, the German parliament passed a nonbinding resolution declaring the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement antisemitic, and comparing it to Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses. Early last year, a state-funded news outlet fired seven Arab and Muslim journalists for “antisemitism” that mostly amounted to criticism of Israel. And last May, Berlin banned several protests planned to mark Nakba Day, which commemorates the 1947–1949 expulsion of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians at the hands of Zionist militias. To discuss Palestine solidarity in Germany, the state’s intensifying assault on Palestinian speech, and the connections between the country’s targeting of Palestine activism and its post-Holocaust “memory culture,” contributing editor Joshua Leifer talks to Germany-based Palestinian American journalist Hebh Jamal and Palestinian German lawyer Nadija Samour.

This episode is part two of a two-part series on Germany. Listen to the first episode here.

Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”


Articles, Books and Lectures Mentioned

How Palestine became a ‘forbidden word’ in German high schools,” Hebh Jamal, +972 Magazine

Deutsche Welle Firings Set Chilling Precedent for Free Speech in Germany,” Alex Kane, Jewish Currents

The Moral Triangle: Germans, Israelis, Palestinians, by Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor

Desiring Victimhood: German Self-Formation and the Figure of the Jew,” Hannah Tzuberi, lecture given at the Hijacking Memory Conference in Berlin

Berlin Bans Nakba Day Demonstrations,” Human Rights Watch


Transcript

Joshua Leifer: Hello, and welcome to the Jewish Currents podcast, On the Nose. My name is Joshua Leifer, and I’m a Contributing Editor at Jewish Currents, and I’ll be your host for today’s episode. Our topic for this episode is the recent crackdown by German state officials, media outlets, and civil society groups on Palestinian speech, activism, and identity in Germany. This is a story that, for our purposes, starts in 2019 when the Bundestag–the German Federal Parliament–passed a non-binding resolution declaring the global Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, known as BDS, to be antisemitic. While the resolution carried no practicable or punitive measures, it has been used to legitimate the repression of any Palestinian in Germany who dares to speak about Palestine and Israel’s occupation. Palestinian German journalists had been fired from major news outlets and denied jobs. Last May, the Berlin police banned several protests to mark Nakba Day, which commemorates the expulsion of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians at the hands of Zionist militias in 1948. In this episode, I talk with two fantastic guests. Hebh Jamal is a Palestinian American journalist and an advocate currently based in Germany, and Nadija Samour is a German Palestinian lawyer. Welcome to the podcast.

Hebh Jamal: Thank you for having us.

Nadija Samour: Thank you.

JL: So I wanted to ask if either of you would want to give a quick introduction to the Palestinian community in Germany, to try to give our listeners a sense of how many people roughly are part of it, and what the political and communal organizations that are active in the community are like, and what they do?

HJ: Right. So this is a very difficult question because in Germany, I think there’s something you have to consider, is that they don’t consider Palestinians as an actual people. They consider them stateless. So if you come to Germany as a refugee, you are literally categorized as a stateless person. So in fact, we don’t know how many Palestinians are in Germany. There are numbers from, 10,000 15,000, to even 80,000 was the most recent number I’ve seen. But those numbers are actually skewed. So there are many Palestinians that migrated to Germany. Some came in the 60s to study, but a lot also came in the 80s as refugees, stemming from the civil war in Lebanon. And when they did come to Germany, Germany initially did not even want them. They wanted to deport them back. There was even reports of individuals knowing that they were going to be deported, so you had Palestinians having suitcases in their homes, packed in the corner of their rooms, waiting for that phone call from German authorities to say, “Okay, now you have to leave.” The problem is Lebanon also did not want them back. So you had so many Palestinians in Berlin, specifically in the new Neukölln area in Berlin, in the middle of being deported but not having anywhere to go. So Germany essentially gave them toleration status, saying that “We’ll just tolerate you being here for the time being.” And the reason also why this number is so skewed is that you have people, within this original census of Palestinians living in Germany, you have people like Kurds and other refugees that specifically said, “Oh, we’re Palestinians,” because they realized they’ll just get toleration status. So even this number, the 80,000, is just also misrepresented and needs a lot of research. The reason why we don’t have that research, however, is because Germany is not willing to see them as a people.

JL: I’m kind of curious as a follow-up, like, how does this lack of formal status and unrecognized quality affect Palestinians’ ability to organize, to seek redress for things that happen? Is it the case that there are broader charities or communal organizations that function under different names? Do you have a sense of how things work there?

NS: Yeah, you could definitely look at this question from the point of view of the newly arrived Palestinians. Especially these days, Palestinians from Syria are arriving to Germany, and they have a different status, much more like quote unquote, stable refugee status, because they are recognized as refugees. Not as Palestinian refugees, but as refugees from Syria. And so those people, but also the people that came before, and the few people that managed to, quote-unquote, integrate, they were able to establish themselves and open up community centers to, for instance, learn and teach the German language. This is key, of course, the language skills. But also community organizations–small ones, you know, but state-funded ones, so not independent ones. State-funded community organizations serving this integration discourse, which I would call a form of containing, or a form of controlling the communities, to not give space to politicize the community or to develop political demands, but rather learning the German language, or dealing with poverty. As Hebh was mentioning, a lot of people who came from Lebanon during the Civil War, they have toleration status, they don’t have work permissions. They are stuck in poverty, and this community organizations, they kind of manage that poverty. When you have problems with the job center or problems with the immigration authority, that’s what they address. But recently, I think the younger, more political organizations, those are what I would call the second- and third-generation Palestinians, who have more self-confidence than their parents, who were really like precarious in their status here. And I think this is also worth looking at. Some of them have a more liberal stance, like adapting human rights discourse, some of them are more radical stance. So there’s something happening, there’s something developing from a political point of view, but still quite precarious. Also, of course, because of the repression that is happening.

HJ: Sorry, just to add on. A lot of that confusion with identity really boils down also to post-9/11 and the criminalization of the Muslim identity in particular. And in Germany, really, the Palestinian body and the Muslim body has kind of converged into one, and post-9/11, you have this criminalization of Palestinians in particular. During the Soviet Union and East and West Berlin, Palestinians were this like, terrorist leftists, but they then emerged to become terrorist Muslims, right? So essentially, this kind of tabooization of the Palestinian experience that Nadija specifically touched upon, where the younger generation is a little bit more confident, where the older generation is more concerned about their livelihood, is also because of this crackdown. I personally know Palestinians that were here since the 60s that were very vocal. They were vocal on Jenin, and they were vocal in the 80s and 90s. And after 9/11, it became very, very difficult to organize and very, very difficult to convene, and to strategize, and to actually have a political voice. These communities are still being criminalized. You have the criminalization of protests literally just last year, where they just banned Nakba Day demonstrations in Berlin. So this phenomenon is very much still impacting the Palestinian identity, which is why you might see the younger generation is more confident, whereas the older generation is a little bit more conservative in trying to express that identity.

JL: I think that’s a great segue into my next question, which was about the criminalization and some of what we’ve seen here in the US. The stories that have tended to cross over into US media have generally focused on the way this has played out in German media. So there was, for instance, the firing of the Palestinian journalists at Deutsche Welle, a German news outlet, and then there was also the firing of Nemi El-Hassan, and then there were also, as Hebh you mentioned, crackdowns on protests, protests on Nakba Day, protests marking the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. For people who maybe have seen the headlines but don’t know the story behind all of this, what is going on in Germany? Why is this happening in the way that it’s happening, and also, why is this happening now?

NS: You know, in 2019, there was this infamous BDS motion of the German Bundestag, saying that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign is an antisemitic campaign, and therefore, it should not be supported by public or state institutions. Now, this is not a binding motion, and yet, it has been dealt with as if this means that BDS is banned in Germany. Of course, it’s not banned. It’s not legally banned. But it gives the impression, you know? It gives this chilling effect. And I believe that this BDS motion was a crucial moment in systematizing the legal backlash against Palestinians and those who are in solidarity with Palestine in Germany. But it was not, of course, the first one, or the only event, or the first event even. Just two years earlier, in 2017, the IHRA definition was adopted by the German Bundestag as well, and then by the German government, and it has been handed down to German state institutions to be used as the one and only definition of antisemitism. Of course, this is also not binding, but yet, it’s portrayed as if it’s binding, and it has created this one hegemonic understanding of the definition of antisemitism. So I think this has helped to systematize the backlash and the repression against Palestinians. And ever since, we see all these cases of banning on political activities. For example, Rasmea Odeh, she was here three years ago, she was supposed to give a speech on the occasion of the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day, she was banned from doing so. Then later on, there was another Palestinian journalist who was banned to speak on political issues, and this is a very severe violation of fundamental rights. This is something that even the German institutions, they understand they cannot do this on an everyday basis. And yet they have done this, because the kind of atmosphere that has been created by the BDS motion and by also other bans that have helped the state institutions to do that, and to do that, quote, unquote, legitimately.

NS: Before that, before the adoption of the IHRA definition, before the BDS motion in the Bundestag,= I think what we were dealing mostly with is a very fierce and defamatory media campaign, a slandering campaign, basically, against Palestinian activists and those who are in solidarity with Palestine, mainly by the outlets of the Springer publishing house, one of the worst, disinforming tabloids in Germany. And they were basically adopting this discourse that state institutions and politicians easily could pick up, basically equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism and also using Israel and Palestine as a projection screen to carry out debates on racism, and law and order, national security, anti-terror, but also restriction on migration, and generally, just what I would describe as Germany’s substitute nationalism towards Israel. Placing themselves in the shoes of Israeli policymakers. And so it is a concentrated campaign in those media outlets that then served, basically, as the basis, as the fundament for these policies to be based on and to be adopted.

JL: I just want to put in two background things for our listeners who maybe don’t know. One is that the Springer Press, which owns, as Nadija mentioned, some of the most well-read or most-read tabloids in Germany, also recently bought Politico, United States, the news giant, and that gave American audiences a glimpse into the right-wing ideology of the organization, which makes its journalists sign ideological commitments which include a commitment to the integrity of NATO, basically, the free market, and then one of them is Israel and Zionism, which also, of course, has a political corollary in that German politicians treat Israel security as a central reason of state, I guess, would be the translation. And so, as German mainstream politicians understand it, part of the pursuit of Germany’s interests, or Germany’s geopolitical interests, is the defense of Israel.

HJ: You know, bringing up Springer, Axel Springer, is a very important point, but also taking into consideration that it really isn’t just the right-wing media. I mean, just last year, you had Deutsche Welle, one of the biggest publicly-owned German broadcasting news media, which essentially fired seven Arab, mostly Palestinian journalists just because they decided to post their own opinions on their social media or expressed some support for Palestine in various different ways. I mean, one of the justifications was posting a map of Palestine on their social media as a photo. That was one of the findings of this specific investigation. And this is a very common trend that happens in Germany. You have a small reporter, that’s kind of unknown, that sees that Palestinians or Arabs are involved in some sort of major news media or major art institution, like Documenta 15. And essentially, what you have is them going on their little blogs or writing to their own publication saying, “So and so is Palestinian. They’ve expressed support for Palestine. They go against the IHRA definition. They’re antisemitic by German definition, German standards.” And then, these big institutions like Deutsche Welle, like those Documenta, take these absurd claims and are so terrified of being accused of antisemitism, and in essence, they put their Arab or Palestinian workers under the rug. That’s the trend that we’ve seen. And specifically, the Deutsche Welle firings, what was so interesting about that case in particular, they brought a self-proclaimed Arab Israeli by the name of Ahmad Mansour, who is a known Islamophobe–I mean, I believe George Washington University specifically announced that this man is an Islamophobe, that we should be wary of his work–and Deutsche Welle brought him to do the investigation, specifically investigating Deutsche Welle workers. And lo and behold, these people are now antisemitic and deserve to be fired. And then, again, you had the crackdown on protests, like you mentioned, during the Nakba Day demonstrations last year. You had Berlin state specifically say that Nakba Day demonstrations are banned, and they literally targeted the German version of Jewish Voices for Peace, like Jewish activists, from not doing a vigil for Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist who was killed in cold blood and caught on camera for the world to see. And this is the extent of Germany, the so-called democratic state, they are unwilling to be self-critical in the slightest because of their history, because of them trying to move on from the Holocaust. And in order for them to move on from the Holocaust, they have to redefine what their democracy means. And within that democracy, Palestinians are not allowed a freedom of expression and the ability to exist within their society.

NS: Let me just mention, for example, the Nakba demonstration, the commemoration of the Nakba on the 15th of May, this has been banned in Berlin last year. And not only this demonstration has been banned, but all other demonstrations, starting from the 29th of April to basically the 15th, like there was a timeframe where no demonstrations on Palestine, which is a very vague way of expressing it, were allowed in Berlin. And whoever partakes in that demonstration, or in attempting to demonstrate, faces criminal charges. Their notice itself, the way it has been formulated, is very telling. So first of all, it’s really an unprecedented violation of fundamental constitutional rights–freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, all of that, apparently does not apply to the Palestinians. But especially worrying is all these defamatory news reports that we just talked about, like Springer Presse, but also, as Hebh has mentioned, beyond that, like liberal newspapers, all of them, it’s a hegemonic discourse. They were quoted in that ban notice to prove that demonstrations related to Palestine are violent, and they escalate regularly. And you know, there were a couple of incidents where police was attacked–or I as a lawyer, as a defense lawyer would say, people were defending themselves against police attacks–but of course, we know how this is portrayed. So of course, there were these incidents, and there were also incidents where journalists were asked to get away because people know these journalists and know what kind of reports they will produce afterwards. So these incidents, this happened, and then they are being taken and generalized and portrayed as if the entire demonstration was a violent one, and basically, an uncivilized, barbarian, mass of people taking down the entire city of Berlin. The police took these reports as reference to say that, “In the past this happened, and therefore, we expect this to happen again. And therefore, you are not allowed to demonstrate.” Plus–this is an actual quote from the ban–“Arabs and Turks are known to be very emotional.” Basically, they say this kind of emotional state leads them to become very aggressive, and therefore, they pose a danger to the public order. Now, not only is this a very racist idea of the uncivilized Arabs and Turks, but also, most interesting, is that the way the ban notice is being formulated, you have one paragraph where it says, “What’s going on in Israel/Palestine?” So they give like a German narrative on what is happening there, namely, that Israel has to suppress terrorist attacks and so on. And then, in the next paragraph, they talk about how Germany has to suppress antisemitism here, which in my eyes, purports the idea that Israel and Germany are fighting the same fight, here and there, against the same enemy. So I believe that this is yet another idea of what I call Ersatz nationalism, or substitute nationalism–putting Germany in Israel’s shoes, if you want to say it like that.

JL: Nadija, you are a lawyer, and you work on cases that are related to this. I was wondering if you could talk about what that’s like. I imagine it’s certainly not easy.

NS: It is really not easy, because there’s just so many cases, and they are piling up. And there are not a lot of lawyers who are willing to take these cases, especially because of what Hebh has mentioned–being just somewhere near a Palestinian case related to the Palestinian struggle turns you into a persona non grata. What has happened to the Deutsche Welle being afraid of the accusation of antisemitism goes for individuals as well, you know? So, unfortunately, back to the ban, it was challenged, of course, in the interlocutory proceedings, and we lost these cases. Of course, we’re now continuing to fight this ban. Perhaps one day the Constitutional Court will say that we were right, but this, of course, takes time and also gives the authorities, in the meantime, the time and the space to base their further actions against the Palestinians on that.

JL: What was the reasoning, at least initially, in this case? How did they justify sustaining the ban? Was it along the lines of what you said, basically public order?

NS: Exactly. So they said, “There is an escalation in Israel, and Israel has to combat terrorism there. And these people that are supporting these kinds of terrorist attacks over there are here. And in the past, they have been violent. In the past, they have been attacking the police, and also attacking journalists, and also uttering racist and antisemitic slurs. And therefore, we expect this to happen in the future as well.” When not differentiating that, as we were saying in the beginning, there is a huge Palestinian community in Berlin, there are several different organizations and different demonstrations, but they were all put into the same box, and one incident that happened at that one demonstration was then also projected onto the other demonstration. And also, and this is legally an issue, violations by ordinary protesters, if they committed anything, like attacked by a police officer or something, then this incident was referred to the person who has registered the demonstration. So the person who has registered their demonstration suddenly became responsible for every single thing that has happened at that demonstration, which is a new legal reasoning. We have seen this starting during the lockdown because of the COVID pandemic, where we accepted certain things because of the exceptional state of what was happening during the lockdowns. But now we see that state of exception is being normalized to suppress marginalized voices and dissenting voices.

JL: I mean, the crackdown isn’t just, of course, in the streets and in the media. Hebh, you’ve written a number of articles for +972 that illuminate the extent to which Palestinian identity is being essentially banned by German state institutions. In particular, there was one article that you wrote that has stuck with me about German school curricula, and the way that pro-Israel talking points, Zionist politics more generally, and the erasure of Palestinians has become almost an industry within Germany and part of the educational system. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that piece, which we’ll link in the podcast show notes, about the process of writing it, what you learned, and what you see the political implications of that are.

HJ: I have to say, honestly, being a writer on such a niche issue, on specifically anti-Palestinian racism in Germany, it’s a very easy job, unfortunately. You don’t need any sort of insider information to just show what is happening. It’s all there. It’s all public, and they flaunt it publicly. I mean, how I came across this piece in particular, I had a number of students contact me of an anti-Palestinian racist incident that happened in their school, of students who are specifically told that they can’t say that they are Palestinian. I mean, that is incredible to me. And so, after multiple students got in contact with me, I realized that this is an entrenched issue, and what I did specifically was I did a Google search. I just did “state school, Israel,” and the number of articles and the number of stuff that have come up is phenomenal. Each state even has their own teaching guides on how to talk about Israel within the classroom.

HJ: Just in January, after I had published this article, the Ministry of Education of the state of Schleswig-Holstein published a guide that provides suggestions for secondary education teachers and how to tackle Israel-related antisemitism. So they had a literal brochure that not only reiterated Germany’s commitment to Israel, specifically said the German state has a commitment to Israel, but they showed teachers how to counteract the BDS movement within the classroom. So in this guide that they handed out to teachers all across the state, you had a diagram that specifically stated that when Palestinians asked for the right of return, that is antisemitic because it’s non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist. This is exact quotes. I think you can find that every single Education Minister within Germany has had some sort of relationship with the Israel Education Minister there, and they cooperate on various issues. You have Israel Day in Germany. For students, you have exchange programs where they go to Israel, and they learn about Israel. But you know, they don’t go to the West Bank. They don’t go to any Palestinian school, they are not taught to talk about the Palestinian side. It is seen through this historical perspective and how Israel is this flourishing state of today. right? It isn’t, you know, “Let’s talk about Palestinian repression. Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about it.” No, it’s really one sided.

HJ: There has even been a change to German textbooks because they depicted some Israeli soldiers as hostile within some secondary education textbooks. So you asked what I took from it afterwards. Honestly, it’s mostly being distraught in how pervasive this issue is. I think it’s very different than other places like the United States, where I have lived the majority of my life. There is a lot of pro-Israel bias in the States, but in Germany, it’s on a whole other level because it is entrenched in every single education institution. And in my opinion, what I got from it is that there’s a crisis in civic education, where you can’t be critical of a country within a classroom. It’s terrifying to me, and it shows the direction that this country is willing to take in order to protect their ally. It’s very scary, and there isn’t much research about it now, either. I mean, we don’t know the extent of this problem because, once again, there are very little institutions that are willing to look into it because of this fear that they will be labeled antisemitic for questioning this commitment to Israel’s security in the classroom.

JL: One of the striking things, I think for an American to see, is–I think one of you use the word hegemonic–it’s to see really how hegemonic this anti-Palestinian politics is in Germany. So much so that I was in Germany last summer for a conference that brought together Israeli Jewish, anti-Zionist, and left antioccupation activists, and Palestinian advocates in Germany, and I remember asking a question to some of the Palestinian activists in Germany about who they thought was funding these initiatives, who they thought were the other side. Because in America, we have this sense of “Oh, we know that there’s a really clear, strong, pro-Israel infrastructure. It’s organizational. It’s the American Jewish communal organizations, groups like AIPAC, like we know who they are.” And I remember being very struck when one of the Palestinian German journalists said to me, like, “People just do it themselves.” Like that’s how hegemonic it is. It’s a kind of cultural self-policing that’s happening. Now, obviously, there are also state institutions. We know, for instance, that the Israeli Foreign Ministry lobbied very hard for the IHRA and that the American Jewish community, the AJC, has also been involved in Europe in trying to get countries to adopt the IHRA.

JL: But I think what my next question for both of you is, is about what people have called the German memory culture around the Holocaust and the place that Palestinians find themselves in. Because, just to give a little bit of background for our listeners, part of the German myth about Germany’s reentry into the democratic world has been to place working through the past of the Holocaust at the center of the national identity. Now, this creates a kind of relational dynamic, which scholars like Sa’ed Atshan have written about, called the moral triangle. It puts Germans, Israelis, and Palestinians in relation to each other but also not within positions of equality. So I’m curious to how you both understand the place of Palestinians, both within the memory culture of post-unification Germany but also this relational structure between Germans, Israelis, and Palestinians.

HJ: Yeah, I mean Germans, specifically within the various institutions, take it upon themselves to combat any sort of Israel-related antisemitism. When you asked that question, what immediately came to mind specifically was students within university, student organization groups that restrict funding for Palestinian clubs. I mean, you have the student unions restricting clubs for Palestinian students. This isn’t necessarily administrations, these are students themselves. And so, when I specifically think about memory culture in Germany, which is directly correlated to the Holocaust, I believe, within the German mindset, it’s this very linear logic. It’s that “We did something very bad. And in order to come back on the world stage, even in order to be kind of nationalistic, again, to be Germans again, we essentially have to find a way to mitigate what we did in the past.” And what Germany has come to the conclusion of is complete support for Israel. And Palestinians are this little annoying detail that they have to figure out, because in order to be unwavering within their support for Jewish people in Israel, they have to put Palestinians on the back burner. They have to disregard them, they have to do as much as they can to get rid of this little annoyance so they can once again rebuild their image as a German state. So I don’t want anyone listening to this to have this assumption that Germany has dealt with their past. Because postcolonialism in Germany is very weak, the mindset of trying to come back and deal with their colonial past, not just with what they did with the Holocaust, which they believe is just this rare occurrence, but it’s also that they have not dealt with their colonial crimes in Africa, either. They think that it’s different. It’s a separate conversation. Whereas, postcolonial scholars believe “No, it’s a very similar conversation. How we dealt with minorities during the 40s is how we dealt with them throughout history, and it’s all connected.” But to Germans, and to mainstream German society in particular, that’s just not the case. The Holocaust is something separate, antisemitism is not racism. And so, it’s a very linear line of thinking, and Palestinians are this disturbance within that line of thinking.

NS: I 100% agree with you Hebh. Palestinians are like a thorn in the side of Germany’s memory culture. They’re like this great nation that has come to terms with their past, but there are these unwelcome subjects that keep on interfering with this magical image of being civilized members of the international community again. Because everything that happened after 1945, there’s like historical caesura. Like, these 12 years of fascism was an exceptional nightmare, and we woke up from that, and now we are this democratic, rule-of-law nation-state in the European Union. I also think sometimes of this kind of dialectical relationship between looking at Palestinians as disposable but also as crucial at the same time. They’re crucial for the German identity because this is where, if you really want to prove how civilized you are, and how philosemitic or pro-Israel you are, you get the chance to prove that by throwing Palestinians under the bus. So this is also this kind of performance, that they act to show how civilized they are, to show what good allies they are.

JL: Yeah, and there’s a quote that stuck out for me, from this conference in Germany last summer, by the Berlin-based scholar of Jewish and Islamic Studies, Hannah Tzuberi. She said, “The birth of a morally-improved German polity, made of citizens who have learned their lesson and now wish to protect what their ancestors failed to protect, goes along with an inscription of Palestinians as perpetrators and of Jews as their victims.” And Nadija, I thought what you were saying is so true and super sharp, that in reality, the German not-working-through of the past requires the constant projection of those crimes onto the Palestinians. And so, Germans identify the Palestinians as the real antisemites and then don’t have to work through what they haven’t worked through, whether it’s the truncated process of denazification in certain ways or the colonial legacy of German violence in Africa and elsewhere/

HJ: You know, evidence for not really working through the Holocaust, not working through their past, is that you have a Christian Antisemitism Commissioner, and they call Jewish people antisemites for their political opinions on Israel.

JL: No, I think that’s a that’s very sharp. And for Americans who don’t know this, there is a federal government commissioner, who’s the Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism, who is not himself Jewish, who is the arbiter of what gets counted as antisemitic and what doesn’t. So I think this is a great transition into our last question, which is about the politics of solidarity and cooperation between these Israeli and Jewish anti-Zionists in Germany and Palestinian activists. One of the things that I was also struck by, and have been struck by in my conversations with the German activists, is the way that the landscape looks a little bit different than it does in the United States, where there’s a little bit more hesitancy, sometimes, to work together between Israeli anti-Zionist and Palestinian organizations. In Germany, at least in certain parts of the activist ecosystem, there’s less hesitancy there. I was wondering if both of you could spell out a little bit what that looks like, and also point our listeners to groups or initiatives that are doing important work that they should keep an eye on, as these issues certainly won’t go away.

NS: I think, especially in the last couple of years, the notion of solidarity and the notion of being together in this has grown. Anti-Zionist, Jewish, former Israelis, or other Jewish non-Israelis, and Palestinians in Germany, likewise feel alienated by this discourse. The ones for being something in between disposable and crucial, and the other is for being instrumentalized, depending on the political position that is put forward. I think that this is a newer phenomenon, because you have to understand, the first-generation Palestinians, they don’t have that kind of political culture, let’s say, or this kind of political experience, because they came from places like Lebanon, where it’s impossible to meet an anti-Zionist Jew or an anti-Zionist Israeli. Coming here, they were either busy with their status, with work permission, with those kinds of things, or coming with this kind of political culture where anti-Zionist Jews don’t exist on the political landscape. But in the last couple of years, there are organizations like Palestine Speaks together with the Jewish Voices for Peace in Germany, along with The Jewish Bund, that have worked together organizing demonstrations, organizing talks, going to each other’s events, supporting each other’s legal cases, putting out statements together/ And I think this is a very important step, because this isn’t merely like a performance in front of the white gaze in order to say, “Hey, look at us, we’re civilized. We love each other, there’s nothing between us.” It’s not a normalizing action. It’s more a really fierce statement of resistance against Zionism as part of an imperialist and colonialist global policy. And I don’t want to reduce it to a number, but people with common history, with common experiences of oppression and resistance coming together and understanding that they need each other.

HJ: Yeah. The political climate in Germany is evolving, and I really think it’s evolving rather quickly, especially with the latest developments in Germany’s continuous, relentless effort to specifically target Palestinians. I do think though, I can’t highlight enough how Germany’s commitment to anti-Palestinian repression is really important in imagining how a political Palestinian people looks like in Germany. I know multiple people that have specifically told me that they’d really rather not put themselves out there and be involved in protests, or be as political as they should be, because they are afraid of their livelihood, and being labeled antisemitic, and so on, and so forth. And so, in my opinion, I do believe that some political actions might require anti-Zionist Jewish activists to be on the forefront, and other fights might require Palestinian activists to be on the forefront. But I do believe that in due time, it will get more apparent and more clear. And with more groups popping up and being active, I mean, after the anti-BDS resolution, as Nadija pointed out, you had four or five pro-Palestinian groups pop up and be way more active than they were in recent years. And I do think that this will continue in the upcoming years. In 2020, during Israel’s assault in Gaza, you had thousands of people on the street in Berlin. And I think the German populace is finally beginning to understand that the people that are in their country have a completely different political ideology that is starting to be more mainstream. I really do believe that.

NS: I just want to mention that there are so many other non-Palestinian and non-Jewish groups who are in solidarity and who are really, in the last couple of years, have understood that if they want to fight against racism, they need to include the Palestinians. For example, there is the Queer Internationalist Pride in Berlin happening every year, where Palestine is in the forefront. There is Migrantifa, several organizations calling themselves Migrantifa, that formed after the racist terrorist attack in Hanau three years ago that left nine persons of color dead, murdered in cold blood. There are other antiracist, pro-refugee organizations that conversation is happening there as well. And I really want to underline this because I want us to understand that Palestine is not a single issue. Let’s call it a spectrum for liberation, and Palestinians as part of this, and I’m really happy to see that there are so many organizations and groups in Germany that have started to understand this, and implement this, and live this.

JL: I’m inclined to end it on that optimistic note, which is very rare on the Jewish Currents podcast. Nadija, Hebh, thank you so much for joining us on On the Nose. It’s been a really great conversation. I learned a lot. I hope our listeners will learn a lot too. I can’t thank you enough for coming out.

NS: Thank you.

HJ: Thank you so much for having me.

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