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The impact of the anti-BDS resolution of the German Parliament

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First four impacts of the anti-BDS resolution of the German Parliament:

* 10 July: Stage ban for US hip hop star

* 21 June: Church congress canceled workshop with South-African theologian

* 16 June: Regional Court restricted personal rights of journalist

* 14 June: Director of Jewish Museum in Berlin was forced to resign

On 17 May, the German Federal Parliament Bundestag became the first in the European Union to pass a resolution that designates the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against the military occupation of Palestinian territories by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as „anti-Semitic“.

BDS is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality which upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

The IDF is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, BDS urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

BDS became a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Thirteen years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Germany has celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany with a resolution of the Bundestag, which violates the fundamental right of freedom of expression. Germany’s oppression of BDS activists is not a restriction of freedom of speech. It is the extinction of freedom of speech against citizens advocating human rights and international law through BDS. The anti-BDS Bundestag resolution has alsready caused several violations of freedom of expression on many levels in Germany in the weeks since its adoption.

US hip hop star Talib Kweli was invited to perform on 13 July at the main stage of the Open Source Festival in Düsseldorf. Kweli has been disinvited from the festival after refusing to denounce the BDS movement. Kweli was asked by Philipp Maiburg, the artistic director of the festival, to revoke his support for BDS. In a letter sent to Kweli, Maiburg was referring to the anti-BDS Bundestag resolution: „As we are also working with public funding we have no other choice than to ask you for an official statement concerning your position towards the BDS.“ This sounds a bit as a new form of McCarthyism.

On June 4, Kweli posted a response to the festival organiser’s demand: „Censorship is the wave in Germany now. By lying and saying that BDS is anti Semitic movement, the German government is engaging in fascism and doing a disservice to the German people. Palestinians are treated like second class citizens in the region, due to their darker skin and Islamophobia. White supremacy is insidious like that. It will have ‚white‘ skinned Jewish people aligning with the very same Nazis and KKK who want them dead. Nazis and KKK often hold Israel up as a great example of an ethno state due to how Palestinians and other darker skin people are treated there. This is an unholy alliance that the German government is enabling by suggesting BDS is anti Semitic and trying force artists to agree with them. Boycotting, Divesting and Sanctioning are peaceful solutions to the crisis that destroys Palestinians homes and lives. It is the opposite of terrorism. It worked to make South Africa a more fair and equal nation and it could work in Israel if its opponents were not so anti black and anti Muslim. It is not a coincidence that Donald Trump, virulent racist and frequent admirer of Nazis and dictators, shares Germany’s official position on BDS. If Donald Trump agrees with you, you are on the wrong side of history. Why would Germany champion the suppression of free speech? BDS does not engage in violence. I get why Germany’s government would want to be cautious about platforming hate, but to equate a peaceful push for the rights of Palestinian people to the horrors of Nazi Germany is a false and offensive equivalency. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to annex the West Bank which would create a state in which mostly white skinned Jews rule over mostly dark skinned Arabs. The far right around the world supports this. I do not. If I’m not allowed in Germany because I support humanity, fuck it. I won’t go. The ball is in your court. I would like to perform in Germany but I don’t need to. I’d rather be a decent human being and stand up for what’s right then censor myself and lie about BDS for a check.“

Kweli’s removal from the festival line-up in Düsseldorf was part of an anti-Palestinian censorship trend, said 103 signatories of an open letter to „The Guardian“ including Peter Gabriel, Naomi Klein, Judith Butler and Boots Riley condemning attempts in Germany to impose political conditions on artists who support Palestinian rights.

Yaam, a music club in Berlin, cancelled the Kweli concert on 12 July. On 17 June, Kweli asked his followers on Instagram about the second stage ban: „I’d like to know why @YaamOfficial is attempting to suppress the free speech of artists and lying about BDS. This email they sent me is full of fascist lies. Germany, why are you all allowing this to happen?“ @YaamOfficial is the official Instagram profile of Yaam club in Berlin.

Yaam said about its point of view: „Of course we agree to support oppressed groups. But making a country as a whole responsible for it is a different thing. Although we condemn the political and social situation in Palestine we do not consider or condemn Israel or the Israeli society as a whole. We have Israeli friends, colleagues, we book Israeli artists if we like them. BDS goes against this. Given the circumstances, our point was to ask Talib [Kweli] not to instrumentalize this very show at Yaam to make a point in this BDS affair. It would involve us in a discussion which we don’t want to be part of and put us in a position of ‚indirect BDS supporter‘ which we don’t want to be put in. We are ready to make this show happen because we think that Talib [Kweli] could respect this. This has nothing to do with free speech. It’s a matter of respecting boundaries. Which is why we ask artists to sign this act.“ Which act?

Also Feierwerk cancelled a Kweli concert in Munich on 10 July.

On 10 July, the day of the cancelled concert, Ina Hedwig, head of Press, Public Relations and Marketing division of Feierwerk said: „Feierwerk, as a city grantsman, is committed to city policies that oblige us to remain neutral on party politics and to ensure that city resolutions and policies are implemented. As for the BDS campaign, there is a City Council resolution of July 2017, which obliges us not to make our rooms available to supporters of the BDS campaign, because this campaign is considered anti-Semitic. On this basis, the lease was canceled with Target Concerts, the organizer, for the planned concert of Talib Kweli.“

Christoph Neder from Target Concerts in Munich confirmed the cancellation.

Dr. Tobias Kumpf, a specialist lawyer for administrative law, is currently suing the municipality because of the the anti-BDS resolution of the City Council from July 2017. On 10 July, Kumpf said: „I can say that we have not yet received an appointment by the Bavarian Administrative Court for a hearing. However, the background to this is that we first had to file a so-called application for admission to the appeal. The requirements of case law are extremely high. In this respect, it is currently not clear whether there will be a call for appeal at all. Courts are prone, cautiously, to overstating the legal hurdles that must be jumped for a vocation negotiation. We are in the second instance, but not in the actual appeal procedure, but in the so-called application for admission to the appeal.“

Listening to administrative law specialist Kumpf makes you understand why suing against anti-BDS resolutions is extremely difficult in Germany.

Also Drushba Club cancelled a concert with Kweli at its venue in Halle on 11 July. A press release of the working group antifascism/anti-racism of the student council at the University Halle said on 23 June: „On 11 July, the Jew-hater and declared enemy of Israel Talib Kweli wants to perform in the dance club Drushba. The musician supports the BDS movement, an organization that calls for a boycott of Israel, declares the country as an apartheid state, and challenges Israel’s right to exist. The German Bundestag had recently classified BDS as anti-Semitic. Kweli even accuses the Bundestag of getting involved with fascism through this decision. He argues with a ‚white supremacy‘ and ‚white Jews‘ who would make common cause with Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. We ask the operators of Club Drushba to cancel the concert with Talib Kweli. We have no understanding that activists involved in racist, anti-Semitic, and hateful actions as well as BDS campaigns are being offered a stage. The operators of the Drushba must consider whether they want to procure public space in contrast to organizers from Düsseldorf and Munich anti-Semitic propaganda.“

On day later on 24 June, the management of the venue Drushba Club said: „We cancelled the concert with the US Rapper. Also the organizer Salty Soundz will announce today that the concert will not take place. For further information regarding purchased tickets, please contact the organizer directly. Anti-Semitic, racist or xenophobic utterances as well as homo- and transphobia or other exclusion and agitation have never been tolerated and of course continue to be not tolerated inside the Drushba Club .That is natural for us. Drushba Club has always has been a place where guests, bands and artists from all over the world come together and celebrate peacefully together. For this we have already been awarded twice with a prize. Since we already carry this spirit in our name, it will continue to be our maxim. We look forward to many more concerts and parties with you!“

Salty Soundz said: „Dear supporters and friends of Salty Soundz, due to contractual obligations, some information may only be published at certain times. Herewith we send you the details of the planned concert with Talib Kweli. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have to cancel the concert scheduled for 11.07.2019 in the Drushba club. The public debate about the artist’s statements has developed into an extremely complex political issue, which made it impossible for us to reconcile a performance of the concert with our conscience. Furthermore, we would like to speak at this point against any form (!) of intolerance, anti-Semitism and racism. It is important to us not to create spaces for our events. Our vision would have been to get Talib Kweli and other actors together for a debate – but since he does not come to Germany, the political problem seems initially banned, but it is only spatially relocated and thus unfortunately remains present. Should you still have criticism or comments regarding our bookings and contents in the future, we ask you to seek the personal conversation with us, as this provides the space for a fair debate in content. Advance tickets for the Talib Kweli concert can be returned to where they were purchased.“

The Open Source Festival in Düsseldorf, Yaam in Berlin, Feierwerk and Target Concerts in Munich as well as Drushba and Salty Soundz in Halle all cancelled their concerts with a US hip hop star because he stands with BDS. Stage ban in Germany for a famous international law advocator.

On 21 June, the church congress in Dortmund cancelled a workshop in cooperation with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin. South-African theologian Farid Esack was supposed to participate in the workshop. Esack comes from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. He was linked to BDS by the church congress in Dortmund.

Reverend Dr. Julia Helmke, the Secretary General of the church congress in Dortmund, said on 20 June at a press conference: „Yesterday, we heard that the workshop will be also attended by two individual participants who feel that they belong to the BDS movement and who do not clearly distinguish themselves from anti-Semitism or even advocate anti-Semitism.“

Reverend Dr. Helmke was talking about the theologians Farid Esack from South-Africa and Ulrich Duchrow from Germany who were invited by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin to participate in the workshop at the church congress in Dortmund.

Duchrow was the guest of honour of the church congress. On 21 June, the daily newspaper of the church congress (circulation: 50,000 prints) announced the cancellation of the workshop. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation denies that it cancelled the workshop.

Karl-Heinz Heinemann is the CEO of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in North Rhine-Westphalia. He described the events on the ground in the following way: „The management [of the church congress] has given us the choice: Either we disinvite Esack and Duchrow, or the event does not take place. We then explained to discuss outside the venue. But there were not many visitors, because the administration of the church congress had previously spread in the daily newspaper of the church congress that our workshop had been canceled.“

Andreas Zumach, a journalist and correspondent at the United Nations in Geneva, said about the church congress in Dortmund: „Since May 17, we have a resolution of the Bundestag. Some state parliaments and city councils have passed something similar. All this is legally binding for anyone, but politically has the enormous weight. As part of the church congress in Dortmund, it came to the first incident that proved it. A workshop of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation was prohibited at short notice with reference to alleged BDS proximity of individual participants. I urge the foundation to sue now against the resolution of the Bundestag.“

This is the way the Church of Germany treats its guest of honour.

There has also been an impact on legal practice with a decision on 16 June 16 by three judges of the Regional Court of the Berlin State referring to the anti-BDS Bundestag resolution.

In this case, Dr. Reiner Bernstein, a German journalist, failed in a preliminary injunction against the further dissemination of the book entitled „The New German Anti-Semite“ by Israeli Major Arye Sharuz Shalicar, former spokesperson of the IDF and currently advisor to Israel Katz, Foreign Minister of the State of Israel.

Major Shalicar wrote on page 110 of his book „The New German Anti-Semite“ that „Bernstein is a self-hating Jew“ because he supports BDS. Shalicar also calls Bernstein an Alibi Jew. Shalicar says about Bernstein who lives in the Southern German City Munich: „He probably does not want to be any different from the Munich elite and does everything […] to appear more anti-Semitic than anyone else, […] with the index finger pointing to the common enemy, the Jew […].“

After Shalicar resigned as an IDF spokesperson, he worked for the Israeli intelligence services.

On 15.12.2017, Shalicar turned to Palestinians on his official Facebook page as a representative of the Israeli intelligence services, who protested the day before in Berlin against the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: „WE KNOW WHO you are, WHERE you are and how we are WE determine time and place, live with fear!“

It was a verbal attack, a threat to peaceful demonstrators in Germany from an official secret service agent in Israel. This case is without precedence.

Bernstein applied at the Regional Court of the Berlin State for an injunction against the book, but the judges reject the motion for injunction with the following reasons: „The point of departure for the contested expression is the fact that the applicant has publicly expressed his positive attitude towards the BDS (abbreviated to „Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions“) movement. The goal of the internationally oriented BDS movement is the economic and political isolation of Israel. The campaign calls for a boycott of Israeli artists, athletes, scientists, and stickers on Israeli merchandise designed to discourage purchase are widely viewed as openly anti-Semitic. Recently, the German Bundestag on 15.05.2019 passed a resolution, supported by CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP and Alliance 90/The Greens, in which the House condemned boycott calls against Israel and the BDS as anti-Semitic (see Annex Defendant 1). Also in this context, it does not matter whether the classification of the BDS as ‚anti-Semitic’ is ‚correct‘, as it is a political assessment that can be arguably disputed. That the applicant has sympathy with the BDS movement, he will not be able to deny.“

Finally, Peter Schaefer, a famous scholar of Jewish studies, is one the first publicly known victims of the anti-BDS Bundestag resolution. He was forced to resign as the director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin after Ms. Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin, the spokesperson of the museum, presumably retweeted on 6 June a tweet by the German outlet „taz – die Tageszeitung“, which reported on a letter signed by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars who reject the Bundestag resolution against BDS and called on the German government not to equate BDS with Anti-Semitism: „The equation of BDS with anti-Semitism has been promoted by Israel’s most right-wing government in history. It is part of persistent efforts to delegitimize any discourse about Palestinian rights and any international solidarity with the Palestinians suffering from military occupation and severe discrimination. We urge you to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of racism without aiding these malign efforts. We ask you to safeguard free expression and protect democratic spaces in Germany, rather than to isolate and silence those who non-violently express their political beliefs.“

Why is all this happening in Germany?

Currently, the IDF is one of the main clients of the German arms industry. Germany is the third largest exporter of arms in the world after USA and Russia.

So far, Germany has produced and delivered nine military Dolphin-class submarines to the Israeli navy which are believed to be nuclear armed, which gives the IDF a sea-based, nuclear strike capability.

Recently, the Israeli Air Force has started training German Heron TP drone pilots. German Air Force Col. Kristof Conrath, whose squadron will handle Heron TP operations, called the beginning of the training program “another milestone” in German-Israeli Air Force cooperation.

These are just few examples for many arms deals and military cooperation between Germany and Israel.

The German-Israeli military–industrial complex is the current alliance between Germany’s and Israel’s military and the defense industry. This may be one of the reasons why Germany is silencing citizens who advocate support for BDS.

German policemen counteract B.D.S. activists
German policemen counteract B.D.S. activists

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