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May 12, 2023 10:49 am

Citing Concerns Over Antisemitism, Berlin Police Ban Palestinian ‘Nakba Day’ Demonstrations

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather in Berlin. Photo: Screenshot

Police in Berlin have banned two pro-Palestinian demonstrations set for the weekend, citing concerns about antisemitic agitation as the reason.

The demonstrations, on both Saturday and Sunday, had been billed as a protest to mark the 75th anniversary of the “Nakba” — the Arabic word for “catastrophe” that is used by many Palestinians to describe the founding of the State of Israel in May 1948. Police have yet to make a decision on whether to permit a third demonstration on May 20, which organizers have said is a protest “for the fundamental right to freedom of assembly and expression on the 75th anniversary of the Nakba.”

The bans come on top of the decision by police in the German capital to prevent several pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent weeks because of the likelihood that antisemitic tropes would be on display, the Tagesspiegel news outlet reported on Friday. Last month, police launched an investigation after a cries of “Death to the Jews” were heard at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood.

Antisemitic incidents have risen steadily in Germany over the past decade, with many attacks involving young Muslims assaulting Jews or chanting antisemitic slogans during protests ostensibly directed against Israel. During the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza during May 2021, more than 200 antisemitic outrages were reported.

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Samuel Salzborn, Berlin’s antisemitism commissioner, on Friday defended the ban, arguing that it was warranted by the open display of antisemitism at past demonstrations.

“At these types of rallies we see a major escalation of antisemitism, from glorification of violence and calls for violence to actual physical violence against police officers and journalists,” Salzborn told the Judische Allgemeine news outlet.

Salzborn argued that the “Nakba narrative” — which depicts Israel as an illegitimate colonial entity solely responsible for the dispossession of 750,000 Arab refugees during the 1947-48 War of Independence — “ignores the historical context of the founding of the state of Israel, such as the aggression of its Arab neighbors.”

“This creates a one-sidedness that turns categorically against Israel and is not very inclined to consider dialogue-oriented or cooperative solutions,” he continued.

Separately, Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, held a special debate on Friday to honor the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Among the speakers was Michael Roth, a representative of the center-left SPD Party, who warned that Germany’s post-Holocaust commitment to Israel’s well-being was wavering.

“The principle of Israel’s security as a German reason of state is increasingly being followed by a ‘but,’ and that ‘but’ is being said louder and more aggressively than ever,” Roth asserted.

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