On 14 October, Iris Hefets, a 56-year-old psychoanalyst, stood alone in a public square in Berlin and held up a sign. On it, she had written: “As an Israeli and Jew, stop the genocide in Gaza” – on one side in English, and on the other in German.
Very quickly, police officers stationed nearby arrived. They told Hefets that she was not allowed to do this and that she must take the sign down. A crowd formed and started filming. Hefets, who’s lived in Germany for the past 20 years, politely argued with authorities, saying that she just wants to stand alone with her sign, that she’s not causing any trouble.
This was happening on Hermannplatz, in Neukölln, a neighbourhood in the south of Berlin with a big Middle Eastern and Arab community, Palestinians in particular. It was one week after the 7 October attack by Hamas that subsequently launched Israel’s war on Gaza. In Germany, like in the past two years, authorities reacted by banning all public gatherings that might be considered pro-Palestinian.
The reason that Hefets had insisted on standing alone on Hermannplatz was because law professionals told her that the German constitution states that being alone does not constitute a gathering – it only becomes potentially illegal if several people gather.
"Over 850 arrests were made by Berlin police in the first three weeks following 7 October, mostly of people with presumed pro-Palestinian sympathies"
The Berlin police’s justification for banning pro-Palestinian demonstrations was that such gatherings would bring “an imminent danger” of “seditious, anti-Semitic exclamations” and “violent activities”.
Over 850 arrests were made by Berlin police in the first three weeks following 7 October, mostly of people with presumed pro-Palestinian sympathies. This does not include people who were detained at protests, which is estimated to be in the hundreds, according to legal experts.
In response, Jewish artists, writers, and scholars warned that Germany’s “disturbing crackdown on civic life”, including the ban on public gatherings, has been used to scapegoat its large Arab and Muslim community and restrict freedom of speech, including legitimately criticising Israel or expressing solidarity with Palestinians.
How pro-Palestine Jews are resisting Germany's 'McCarthyism' (www.newarab.com)
this post was submitted on 08 Dec 2023
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