Eyewitness report of Berlin Palestine Congress

22 April 2024

By Martin Suchanek

In a serious attack on freedom of expression and assembly, on 12 April the Berlin police shut down and dispersed the Palestine Congress, a democratically and legally organised meeting.

All this was an attempt to criminalise criticism of the state of Israel and its racist foundations, indeed any advocacy of the democratic rights of the Palestinian people.

For weeks before, both reactionary and supposedly liberal ‘democratic’ opinion makers had been calling for the Palestine Congress to be banned. Berlin’s right wing conservative mayor Karl Wegner threatened ‘rigorous intervention’ at the ‘slightest suspicion’ of unlawful statements. In fact, of course, none of these people could point to any such breaches of the law.

The day began with constant harassment. The fire safety regulations were used as a pretext for allowing only 250 people into the premises, which can accommodate 600 people. From the outset therefore hundreds of people were prevented from attending. In addition, the police dragged the process of searching and admitting participants out for hours.

However, while hundreds of people who had bought tickets were denied entry, the police smuggled in pro-Israeli journalists from the conservative daily Die Welt, which had been waging a grossly defamatory campaign against the event and its organisers.

The Berlin police deployed some 900 officers and made the presence of a huge number of uniformed and plainclothes police a condition for the event to even begin.

Despite all this harassment, the congress began with a moving speech by Hebh Jamal, a Palestinian-American journalist based in Germany. She exposed the lies about Gaza and Palestine and the complicity of oppressors worldwide, arguing that this is no ‘conspiracy theory’, but reveals the common interests of all the ruling classes in an imperialist world order based on exploitation and oppression.

Above all, she made it clear that a conference that highlights the crimes of the Nakba, the expulsion and oppression of the Palestinians and emphasises the complicity of German imperialism, is in itself an act of resistance, breaking the silence, a call to take action, and an opportunity to strengthen the coordination of our movement.

This was exactly what the entire political establishment wants to prevent at all costs. This includes the parties of the coalition government, plus the far right, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). But, shamefully, it also includes parts of the Left Party (Die Linke).

The police were able to break up and disperse the Congress. But they will neither silence us, nor will they achieve their goal of destroying our movement, which is growing and becoming stronger. The fact that the German media is also denouncing comrades from the Gruppe ArbeiterInnenmacht, the German section of the League for the Fifth International and its youth group REVOLUTION convinces us that we have done something right. The charges of antisemitism directed at the organisers are also defamatory to anti-Zionist Jews, including Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, who had their association account blocked by the Berlin savings bank following the conference.

Above all, however, we must not forget that it is our Palestinian comrades who are being brutally attacked, whose associations and organisations are being threatened and criminalised and over whom the threat of deportation hangs, while at the same time their friends and relatives are dying or being expelled.
Even if they managed to dissolve our congress, the actions of the German governments and police made far larger numbers of people around the world aware of the reactionary, anti-democratic character of German capitalism than our speeches, contributions, discussions and resolutions alone could have done. German imperialism in particular has spent decades building up the image of being ‘democratic’ and ‘value-based’. It is exposing this self-congratulatory lie itself.

We will make sure that it sticks in their throat. They can ban a congress, but they will not break our resistance, our will to fight, our determination. Because, unlike them, we are fighting for a just cause, for freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people, indeed for a world without exploitation and oppression.

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