Germany is grappling with pro-Palestinian protests and critics say it is banning free speech in the country in its effort to atone for its Holocaust atrocities against Jews during WWII. 

The New York Times reported that Berlin has allowed schools to ban the kaffiyeh or the Palestinian flag or its colors and has barred Gaza solidarity protests across the country out of fear that these gatherings would “emotionalize” Palestinians who are now living in Germany. 

Wafa Mustafa, a Syrian refugee who has spoken out against authoritarian rule in Iran and her home country, told the paper that she stood on the sidelines of a pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin while dressed in the ubiquitous black and white Palestinian scarf. She said German officers pushed her and her friend to the ground. They were arrested. 

“What I saw in their eyes is similar to what I saw in the eyes of Assad regime forces,” she told the paper. “I know it’s not the same but that is how I felt. When you look into their eyes, there is nothing. You cannot talk with them, you cannot discuss with them. You cannot ask them, ‘What how are you doing?’”

A pro-Palestinian protest broke out in Berlin on Saturday that was attended by about 10,000 demonstrators and 1,000 police who were on hand to make sure there were no anti-Israeli speeches or signage, Al Jazeera reported. 

One protester, who held a sign that read, “Israel is a Terrorist State,” was pulled out by police to chants of “shame, shame,” Al Jazeera reported. 

“I am really starting to question whether we actually have freedom of speech in Germany,” Monika Kalinowska, the protester holding the sign, told the outlet.

Al Jazeera reported that she was frisked and was told she was allowed to leave without arrest. Police told her that she could pick up the sign the next day. Another sign that called German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “assassins” was confiscated. 

The Times noted that countries like Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland tried to prohibit pro-Palestinian protests. (See “DEADLY RAID IN WEST BANK SPARKS ‘DAY OF RAGE’ PROTESTS” 24 Oct 2023, “SURGE IN ANTISEMITISM SEEN IN EUROPE AFTER HAMAS ATTACK, REVENGE BOMBING BY ISRAEL” 7 Nov 2023 and “TOP TREND 2023, MIDDLE EAST MELTDOWN: MIDEAST WAR SPILLS INTO EUROPE’S ECONOMY” 24 Oct 2023.)

Germany has reported what it said has been a rise of anti-Semitic attacks in the country since the 7 October Hamas attack in Israel and the subsequent carpet-bombing in Gaza that has killed over 11,000—40 percent children.

One incident in Germany involved two petrol bombs that were lobbed towards a Berlin synagogue. The country said there had already been a jump in anti-Semitic attacks before the Hamas raid, and blamed the incidents on the rise of the “far-right.”

Scholz has been a full-throated supporter of Israel and rejected calls for a ceasefire. He visited Israel and said, “In such difficult times there is only one place we can be: at Israel’s side.”

TRENDPOST: DW, the German news outlet, noted that, “For Germany, the past is always present,” which has impacted its foreign policy for decades. After killing six million Jews in death camps during WWII, Germany sees a “special responsibility” towards Israel. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel told Israel’s Knesset in 2008 that Israel’s security and existence is Germany’s “Staatsräson.”

The BBC reported that Germany’s state doctrine is being challenged in the streets.

“Your staatsräson sucks!” one poster at a recent protest read. 

Nadim Jarrar, who is half-German, and half-Palestinian, told the BBC that people must be able “to show we are in pain about what’s happening in Gaza.”

“What’s been done to the Palestinians since 1948… We’ve all seen the videos of what they’re doing to our children,” he said.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s vice-chancellor, brushed off criticism that Germany is opposed to free speech, but he said, “Israel’s security is our obligation.”

The crackdown in Germany has even drawn criticism from progressive Jews in the country. The Times noted that one protester last month was detained after she refused to put down a sign that read, “As a Jew and Israeli, Stop the genocide in Gaza.”

The paper noted that over 100 Jewish writers and academics signed a letter criticizing Germany’s efforts to bar pro-Palestinian protests. It read, in part, “If this is an attempt to atone for German history, its effect is to risk repeating it.”

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