Registered protests against Israel’s bombs in Gaza are comparatively small and peaceful in Germany. Nevertheless, they are too much for the police. Discussions are now starting if only “all Germans” are allowed to assemble.
In view of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, a German police union is calling for the right of assembly to be restricted. The responsible authorities should “take an even more restrictive approach”, GdP head Jochen Kopelke told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) and impose corresponding conditions. “In view of the enormous drain on police resources, there should be no large marches, only small, stationary rallies,” Kopelke also said on Deutschlandfunk radio. This would make it easier for the police to control the protests. At the same time, “anti-Semitic incidents” could be punished more quickly or even prevented, according to the GdP chief.
At the weekend, thousands of people once again demonstrated in various German cities against the Israeli military’s widespread bombardment of Gaza. They also denounced the fact that thousands of children are being killed in the attacks. Together with the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people by the Israeli military, this constitutes genocide, many participants criticised. Speakers also called for an end to Israel’s “apartheid”. Amnesty International also used the term in a widely publicised report on Israel’s crimes in the occupied territories published last year.
Compared to worldwide protests, the demonstrations in Germany were small. Even in Berlin, where the largest Palestinian diaspora in Europe lives, around 10,000 people only took to the streets on each of the last two Saturdays, according to police reports. These protests with hundreds of self-painted signs were largely peaceful, as the police also stated. In some cases, investigations are being carried out on suspicion of incitement to hatred or condoning criminal offences.
In public, the gatherings are often interpreted as anti-Semitic. Springer media outlets, for example, indiscriminately use the terms “Israel-haters” or “Jew-haters” to describe the marches. Associations in solidarity with Israel, whose members have press cards, monitor statements made by demonstrators and look for evidence of anti-Semitic remarks. Criticised by them, but popular with pro-Palestine demonstrators, for example, is the saying “From the river to the sea – Palestine will be free”. This refers to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Following the Hamas massacres on 7 October, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office ordered that this slogan be prosecuted. However, a Berlin administrative court ruled a few days earlier in proceedings against an activist from the “Samidoun” network that this was not fundamentally a call for genocide or that it was always directed against Jews. According to information obtained by “nd”, other public prosecutor’s offices, including in Cologne, are also not prosecuting the call. In Berlin, on the other hand, a demonstrator was even arrested on Saturday for leaving out key parts of the sentence on his sign.
On social media on the internet, people are now questioning whether non-German residents are even protected by the right to assemble under Article 8 of the German Basic Law – as it states that “all Germans” are allowed to assemble “peacefully and without weapons”. However, the right to demonstrate is guaranteed in state constitutions for all respective “residents”. The Federal Assembly Act of 1953 also allows “everyone” the right to assemble. New state assembly laws reaffirm this fundamental right.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Protest 4 November in Berlin (Montecruz Foto).