Berlin’s month of anti-Palestinian repression
This May, Palestine solidarity in the German capital was once again made to feel the full force of the pro-Zionist police state.
Juxtaposed against what had occurred in central London two days earlier, it was a sad state of affairs: while around 10,000 people had marched through the heart of the British capital in solidarity with the Palestinian people on May 13 in order to commemorate 75 years of an ongoing Nakba, only small clusters of protesters found their way to Berlin’s Hermannplatz in the city’s Neukölln district on May 15, Nakba Day’s traditional date of observance, in defiance of a ban on Palestinian-led rallies.
Yet this negligible number of people was grounds enough for Berlin’s overbearing police force to clamp down on them: the street-level enforcers of the German state’s raison d’état of unconditional support for Apartheid "Israel" quickly broke up this peaceful congregation of conscience by doing what they do best: manhandling unarmed civilians.
In one of the photos from that day posted by local advocacy group Palästina Spricht (Palestine Speaks) on their social media, a young woman of colour can be seen pressed against the wall of the historic Karstadt department store building by a white police officer wearing riot gear and a dangerously mundane facial expression of blind obedience.
This aggression occurred only two days after police disrupted a Palestinian cultural event, also in Neukölln, a traditionally over-policed district. In a statement published on its website, the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC), an independent organisation which provides free legal assistance to those advocating for Palestine, described Orwellian scenes of police “banning any political public speech, attempting to stop the distribution of books on Palestine on a discretionary basis, and preventing attendees from dancing the traditional Dabka, claiming that it was a form of political expression.”
Seriously, a ban on dancing? Who would have thought that the German police and the Afghan Taliban had so much in common?
Following the death of Sheikh Khader Adnan, a prominent activist affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement, after 86 days of hunger strike in an occupation prison on May 2, the German chapter of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, honoured him in Berlin through their signature political guerrilla marketing.
Palestinian flags and posters with Adnan’s image could be seen flying over the Western half of the cross-town Sonnenallee avenue, which begins at Hermannplatz and constitutes the heart and soul of the city’s Arab and Palestinian community. The pièce de résistance was a poster mural honouring the martyred freedom fighter, whose death the group has called an “Israeli assassination”, plastered to an abandoned storefront.
While Samidoun’s agitprop flyposting is a common feature of Sonnenallee’s urban landscape, and police usually don’t bother taking the posters down, the approaching Nakba Day put an end to the group’s direct action remembrance: on May 14, a hit squad of law-enforcement officers-turned- iconoclasts went to work performing the tedious task of removing the wheatpasted paper depicting Adnan's smiling and amicable face from the glass building facade.
It was a tragicomical sight to behold, seeing these armed minions of the city-state’s newly constituted pro-police executive, threatened by the likeness of a deceased man and ridiculously overdressed in their bulletproof vests, arduously ripping paper off a windowpane.
While two of them were doing the grunt work, one of their colleagues, the Tom Sawyer of the group, stood idly by as another officer tried to build a one-man cordon around the cops-turned-cleaners, his intimidating body language oozing toxic masculinity and needless menace while passing pedestrians were met with his antagonistic white gaze.
There was something hauntingly reminiscent about the scene and it took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of: the gangs of uniformed SA and SS men plastering Jewish-owned storefronts during the Third Reich with boycott posters reading “Deutsche wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!” (Germans defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews!).
Officers of the peace or stormtroopers?
As the planned May 20 demonstration registered by Palestine Speaks was preemptively prohibited by police and the ban upheld by Berlin’s Higher Administrative Court, the group had no choice but to call on its followers to attend the protest organised by the anti-Zionist group Jüdische Stimme (Jewish Voice).
What happened on that day at Oranienplatz square in the heart of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, home to the majority of the city’s 200,000-strong Turkish community and once a vibrant left-wing bastion before gentrification killed off its revolutionary spirit, was not only a graphic lesson in why policing needs to be reformed or even abolished altogether, but also a glaring example of how Germany’s anti-Palestinian state repression has never been about fighting anti-Semitism, but rather about protecting "Israel’s" right to settler colonialism and Apartheid.
Widely shared videos on social media showed chaotic scenes of an army of police soldiers clad in heavy riot gear (which made them look more like malignant stormtroopers from the autocratic Galactic Empire in Star Wars than benign officers of the peace in a liberal-democratic society) brutalising Palestinian and Jewish protesters alike, pushing them to the ground and kneeling on their bodies in a haunting nod to how US and Israeli police routinely subdue Black people and Palestinians, respectively.
Among those violently arrested in Kreuzberg, on the same square where half a year ago Black liberation icon and pro-Palestine activist Angela Davis had given a speech on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of a local refugee protest movement, was South African-born Jewish artist Adam Broomberg, a thorn in the eye of Germany’s Zionist lobby because of his outspoken support for BDS, the Palestinian-led global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
Broomberg shared the harrowing experience of his arrest on his social media, saying that “the police moved in like pitbulls intent on breaking up the calm” and that officers pounced on him as soon as he turned his back on them.
Not only is the veracity of Broomberg's allegations well documented by multiple videos taken by those on the scene, they are also perfectly in keeping with the Berlin police force’s history of excessive force against marginalised racial groups: the Berlin-based Campaign for the Victims of Police Violence (KOP) has compiled a 432-page long document chronologically detailing every incident of recorded racist police brutality in the city between 2000 and 2022, and it makes for a truly disturbing read.
It is also worth mentioning that Berlin police had banned all other Nakba 75 protests under the pretext of there being “an immediate danger” of “glorification of violence” and “acts of violence.” Yet once again, the only group that was glorifying violence and engaging in violent acts that day were, to use a term by investigative journalist and author Radley Balko, the “warrior cops” of Berlin’s military-style police force.
Attacking Jewish-Palestinian solidarity by weaponising anti-Semitism
According to organisers of the Oranienplatz protest, “false information from the police” was then fed to the press about what had transpired that day, resulting in the centre-left Berliner Zeitung newspaper writing of “anti-Semitic attacks” by “between 80 and 100 Palestine supporters” who “massively disrupted the rally.”
In a public statement, Jüdische Stimme vehemently refuted the claims: “By referring to fictional antisemitic attacks, a picture was painted in which well-meaning Jewish activists were overrun by Palestinian Jew-haters. This perfectly portrays the racist discourse around antisemitism that currently exists in Germany,” the organisers said.
Berlin’s month of unprecedented state repression might be nearing an end, but Palestine solidarity in the German capital continues to face an uphill battle: with "Israel" indiscriminately killing Palestinians at an ever-increasing rate and the current fascist government in "Tel Aviv" making no pretence of their intention to further Judaize what is left of an already heavily bantustanized occupied West Bank, Berlin’s estimated 40,000 Palestinians and their allies will not hold back.
Sadly, neither will the anti-Palestinian repression of the German state, which to this day believes that the best way to atone for victimising Jews in Europe is by letting them victimise Palestinians in the Middle East, something "Israel" has been doing with reckless abandon for the last 75 years, with no foreseeable end in sight.