Palestinians, are You the price of Germany’s guilt for the Holocaust?


Germany’s involvement in the issue of Palestinian apartheid is primarily seen through the perspectives of various individuals and organizations within Germany. While there is no official stance from the German government on this matter, there are differing opinions among German academics, public figures, and human rights organizations.

Israel accused of being an apartheid regime

Some individuals and groups in Germany have accused Israel of maintaining an apartheid regime in its treatment of Palestinians. For example, a petition titled “The Elephant in the Room”, co-initiated by Israeli-born historian Omer Bartov and signed by over 2,000 academics, clergy, and public figures, states that there can be no democracy for Jews in Israel while Palestinians live under an apartheid regime.

Human Rights Watch released a report titled “A Threshold Crossed“, in which they concluded that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. This report has been referenced by various individuals, including former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa, current Knesset members, the ex-UN Secretary General, and the French foreign minister.

German Authorities reject the term “Apartheid”

However, it is important to note that not everyone in Germany agrees with applying the label of apartheid to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Germany’s antisemitism commissioner, Dr. Felix Klein, has stated that calling Israel an apartheid state is not appropriate. The German Foreign Ministry has also rejected the term “apartheid” in response to an Amnesty International report on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The issue of Palestinian apartheid remains complex and contentious in Germany, with varying opinions among individuals and organizations. Advocacy groups within the Palestinian diaspora in Germany call for condemnation of perceived crimes against humanity, while others criticize the rejection of the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel’s actions.

How Germany threatens pro-Palestinian activists

The Frankfurt Book Fair has faced criticism for canceling an award ceremony for Palestinian author Adania Shibli’s novel “Minor Detail” due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Over 350 authors have signed an open letter expressing their disappointment and accusing the fair of “shutting down” Palestinian voices.

Adania Shibli, Palestine-born novelist and essayist.

Adania Shibli is a Palestinian author and essayist. She was born in Palestine in 1974 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of East London in Media and Cultural Studies. Shibli has published three novels in Arabic and has been recognized with awards such as the Qattan Young Writer’s Award-Palestine for her novels “Masaas” and “Kulluna Baid bethat al Miqdar aan el-Hub”. She splits her time between Berlin and Jerusalem.

Berlin-based lawyer Nadija Samour and her colleagues fight against the suppression of Palestinian voices in Germany.
Throughout 2023, they have defended constitutional rights in the face of growing prejudicial policies and bans on all things Palestinian.
Since October 7, 2023, authorities have further clamped down on Palestinian activism in Berlin but Nadija will not give up her struggle for Palestinians.
Palestine: Banned in Berlin is a documentary by Nahed Awwad and Mariam Shahin.

If you are in Germany, doing any of the following things can land you in trouble:
– Wearing a keffiyeh
– Toting a Free Palestine sticker
– Expressing support for Palestinians

MEMO speaks to Zaid Abdulnasser, a Palestinian refugee from Syria who is being stripped of his refugee status in Germany as authorities claim his pro-Palestine activism makes him an ‘extremist’. Zaid works as an electrical engineer and faces a ban on travel and work amidst a climate of increasing repression against Palestinians and those showing solidarity with Gaza.

what about the sons of Holocaust survivors supporting Palestinian rights?

Adam Broomberg, Artist and professor of Photography

Adam Broomberg is a South African artist, activist and educator currently based in Berlin, Germany. He is known for his work in photography, video, new media and collage. Broomberg was born in Johannesburg in 1970 and has exhibited internationally. He was part of the artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin who received critical acclaim for their work.

He currently lives in Berlin and is Professor of Photography at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg. Broomberg’s work often explores social and political issues and he is known for his collaborations and activism, including his involvement with the NGO Artists + Allies x Hebron.

Broomberg has faced backlash and scrutiny for his support of Palestine, including being labelled an anti-Semite, and the Anti-Semitism Commissioner for Hamburg vilified him for his involvement in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, accusing him of legitimising terrorism.

Yet, it is worth noting that Broomberg’s work has been exhibited internationally and his art is in the collections of prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Adam Broomberg, the son of Holocaust survivors, spent two years documenting Palestinian suffering.

Adam Broomberg is an artist based in Berlin who’s spent the past two years in Palestine on a photography assignment. He’s come under threat for his views and work, and recently had some of his shows cancelled. Broomberg reports his own story.

Deborah Feldman, Author of the bestseller “Unorthodox”

Deborah Feldman is an American-born German writer living in Berlin. She is best known for her 2012 autobiography, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots,” which tells the story of her escape from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. This memoir served as the basis for the 2020 Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox”

Deborah Feldman has been vocal about her views on Israel, particularly in the context of her experiences as a Jew living in Germany.

She has expressed her views as an outspoken secular Jew, which has led to backlash from conservative Jewish groups Her criticisms have been highlighted in the German media, where she has been quoted and featured in TV shows discussing her perspectives.

I’ve lived in Germany for nearly a decade now, but the only people with whom I’ve ever been able to discuss the conflict in the Middle East are Israelis and Palestinians. Germans tend to cut off any attempt at constructive conversation with the much-favoured phrase “that topic is much too complicated”. As a result, the understandings I’ve reached about the geopolitical developments of the past three decades are the result of private conversations, safely tucked away from the judgmental eyes of a German society eager to lecture us on how any criticism of Israel is antisemitic.

Deborah Feldman (Germany is a good place to be Jewish. Unless, like me, you’re a Jew who criticises Israel – The Guardian)

The article highlights how the German government’s unconditional support for Israel leads to the marginalization of dissenting Jews and the ignoring of civilian deaths in Gaza. The author concludes that Germany’s obsession with Israel is more about the “German psyche” than the safety and belonging of Jewish people.

Deborah Feldman: a jewish author, currently in Berlin, talking on 01.11.2023 about the holocaust and the historical lesson we should take from it and Palestine and the ongoing war in the Middle East. Full interview with zdf, Markus Lanz.

What it is behind Germany’s support to Israel-Zionist regime?

“All the leading German politicians think [that defending Israel] is morally the right thing to do because of the German past,”

Academic Daniel Marwecki, author of “Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and State Building”. [As war in Gaza rages, what’s behind Germany’s support of Israel?, Al-Jazeera interview]

One key factor is Germany’s efforts to make amends for its Nazi past and the Holocaust.

This responsibility is often seen as rendering any criticism of Israeli policies impermissible. Germany’s support for Israel can also be seen as an attempt to whitewash its international image and distance itself from its Nazi past.

“At this moment, there is only one place for Germany. That is the side of Israel,” Scholz said in an address to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, on Thursday. “That’s what we mean when we say, ‘Israel’s security is German ‘reason of state.’”

Olaf Scholz (Scholz: Germany’s ‘only place’ now is at Israel’s side – DW – 12 Oct 2023 )

Unpacking Germany’s Collaboration with Israel

The collaboration between Germany and Israel extends to different fields, including diplomacy, research, science, technology, and economics.

Germany sees a “special responsibility” towards Israel, which was founded just three years after the Holocaust, and this commitment is considered a fundamental part of present-day Germany’s existence.

Siemens logo
  1. Security and Strategic Cooperation:
    • Financial support from Germany for Israel’s military and intelligence.
    • Vocal endorsement of Israel’s right to self-defense and opposition to boycotts.
  2. Technology and Innovation:
    • Germany as a key partner in Israel’s global leadership in technology and innovation.
    • Significant investments in Israeli startups and research by German companies.
  3. Energy and Natural Resources:
    • Israel supplying around 40% of Germany’s natural gas imports.
    • Mutual interest in exploring Eastern Mediterranean gas deposits for enhanced energy security.
  4. Cultural and Academic Exchange:
    • Long history of collaboration between German and Israeli universities and research institutions.
    • Advancements in science, technology, and medicine through this exchange.
  5. Tourism:
    • Approximately 300,000 German tourists visit Israel annually.
    • Tourism contributes significantly to Israel’s economy and strengthens bilateral ties.

Freedom of expression at stake: is Germany justified?

person holding white chalk
  1. Protest Restrictions.
  2. Crackdown on Pro-Palestinian Groups.
  3. Harsh Treatment of BDS Movement.
  4. Climate of Fear and Division.
  5. Limits on Free Expression for the Palestinian Cause.
  6. Bans, Arrests, and Profiling for Palestinian Diaspora.
  7. Silencing pro-paestinain voices in the Culture Sector.
  8. Repression of Anti-Zionist Jews.

Want to know more?

  2. Petition: “The Elephant in the Room.”
  3. Human Rights Watch Report: “A Threshold Crossed.”
  4. Deciphering Germany’s Pro-Israel Consensus | Institute for Palestine Studies
  5. Germany and Palestine | DW | 15 May 2008
  6. Germany’s relentless campaign to silence pro-Palestinian voices | Conflict | Al Jazeera
  7. Colonial discourses are stifling free speech in Germany | Racism | Al Jazeera
  8. Watch: German TV “regrets” airing this interview about Gaza | The Electronic Intifada
  9. Palestinians must suffer so that Germany can feel better about its past
  10. Why Must Palestinians Pay for Germany’s Crimes Against European Jews? Plus, Pinkwashing – YouTube
  11. Why Germany gets it wrong about antisemitism and Palestine | openDemocracy
  12. Stigmatized But Not Silenced: Growing up Palestinian in Germany – Mondoweiss
  13. Germany: An enduring enemy of the Palestinian struggle | Middle East Eye
  14. Israel-Palestine: How Germany’s remembrance culture ignores today’s war crimes | Middle East Eye
  15. How Israeli influence is squashing free speech in Germany | Middle East Eye
  16. Germany rejects Amnesty’s ‘apartheid’ label for Israel – DW – 02/02/2022
  17. Germany’s Split Identity: Liberal at Home, Reactionary on Palestine | Contending Modernities
  18. Germany’s anti-Palestinian censorship turns on Jews
  19. Activists from Different Worlds: Meet Two Prominent Peace Advocates Working to End Israel’s Occupation of Palestine
  20. Germany’s anti-Palestinianism is escalating | Opinions | Al Jazeera
  21. Leading Israel scholars invoke ‘apartheid’ in critique of status quo – The Washington Post
  22. ‘Complete censorship’: Germany’s Palestinian diaspora fights crackdown | Israel-Palestine conflict | Al Jazeera
  23. Opinion: Germany pledged ‘never again.’ Now its stance against genocide is silencing protests – Los Angeles Times
  24. Amnesty is fighting to end Israeli apartheid. Why isn’t its German branch?
  25. Germany’s unique relationship with Israel – DW – 15 Oct 2023
  26. Palestinian voices ‘shut down’ at Frankfurt Book Fair, say authors | Germany | The Guardian
  27. Germany must face its issues over Israel and the past. Silencing a Palestinian author won’t help | Hanno Hauenstein | The Guardian
  28. Europe: Right to protest must be protected during latest escalations in Israel/OPT | Amnesty International | 20 October 2023
  29. Germany’s strict support for Israel, informed by history : NPR
  30. Germany is a good place to be Jewish. Unless, like me, you’re a Jew who criticises Israel | Deborah Feldman | The Guardian

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