Pro-Israeli rallies in Germany have been small so far. Even fewer people show their solidarity with the people in Gaza. Nevertheless, Palestinian organisations are threatened with a ban.
Around the world, the latest escalation in the Middle East conflict is bringing supporters of both sides onto the streets. Some deplore the large-scale Hamas attack on Israeli army bases and hundreds of civilians as an unprecedented massacre. Others see it as a spectacular escape from what has been described as an open-air prison in Gaza.
In Germany, too, people are demonstrating, expressing either their solidarity with Israel or with the people of Gaza. There, the Israeli military has razed hundreds of houses to the ground since Sunday. This is apparently a retaliatory action; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sharing videos of the bombs hitting from the air on the internet platform X (formerly Twitter).
“Berlin stands firmly by Israel’s side”, wrote Axel Springer’s newspaper “BZ” after a rally on Sunday in front of the Brandenburg Gate, but not even 2000 participants came. Also in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Munich, not “thousands”, as Springer’s “Bild” reported on Monday, but a few hundred each followed the calls on Monday.
The pro-Palestinian protests are also relatively small: at a rally in Munich on Monday evening, there were reportedly 350 demonstrators, while in Berlin their numbers have so far only been in two digits.
There were no major confrontations between the two sides, but in some cases there were provocations and scuffles between Israel and Palestine sympathisers. The police also intervened – but always on one side. In Munich, for example, numerous participants of the pro-Palestinian rally were surrounded at the end, allegedly to prevent an escalation towards the nearby pro-Israeli event. In Frankfurt, some men allegedly shouted Palestine solidarity slogans and were then taken away by police. One person allegedly sprayed pepper spray beforehand.
As in Berlin on Saturday, Palestine-solidarity groups had called for a protest in the Duisburg district of Hochfeld on Monday evening. The 110 participants were opposed by about half as many counter-demonstrators. Both groups chanted slogans and insulted each other, as observed by “nd”. Two people from the pro-Palestine demonstration were taken into custody for resisting and attempting to free prisoners. One participant was said to have disturbed the public peace by approving of criminal acts. However, according to the police, the entire event was “largely free of disturbances”.
There were isolated expressions of solidarity with Hamas at the Palestine demonstrations, for example in Duisburg. The “nd” reported the same about a spontaneous gathering in Berlin-Neukölln on Saturday. There, the protests were apparently due to the international Samidoun network, whose flag was also waved in Duisburg.
Founded in 2011, the Samidoun movement aims to support supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) imprisoned in Israel. In the EU, the PFLP is classified as “terrorist”. Samidoun should also be prosecuted accordingly in Europe, demands the government in Israel. There, the network is one of the six solidarity organisations that Defence Minister Benny Gantz had banned in 2021. This caused criticism because the alleged links to the PFLP could not always be proven. An open letter against the ban, which was confirmed by the courts last year, was signed by the international writers’ association PEN and 150 other organisations.
Now the air is getting thinner for Samidoun in Germany. On the internet platform X, the German section had written on Saturday: “Long live the resistance of the Palestinian people”. Several politicians then called for a possible ban on the association to be examined.
Although Samidoun is not registered as a German association, such a ban would be possible. Felix Klein, the federal government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, compares this to Hezbollah, which was banned from operating in 2020 by the then Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU). “This was issued without Hezbollah being organised in registered association structures,” Klein said in response to a question from “nd”.
Klein also refers to the association Palestinian Community in Germany (PGD), whose members “predominantly belong to Hamas or sympathise with it”. The association publishes calls for anti-Israel rallies and offers Hamas-affiliated activists a platform for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic speeches. Such an organisation should “not be allowed to operate freely” in Germany, Klein told “nd”.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his predecessor Joachim Gauck also said on Monday that Hamas’ brutal attacks should not be celebrated or cheered in Germany. The coming pro-Palestinian demonstrations, however, will probably not be jubilant events. The main focus will be on mourning the hundreds of deaths after the bombings by the Israeli air force and anger at the government in Tel Aviv, which is once again making the people in Gaza pay for Hamas’ actions.
Published in German in „nd“.