(April 11, 2023 / JTA)
Berlin police are investigating a pro-Palestinian rally where demonstrators allegedly chanted “Death to the Jews” and “Death to Israel,” phrases that if verified could be criminal offenses under Germany’s strict post-World War Two hate speech laws.
Hundreds of people showed up in the Kreuzberg and Neukölln neighborhoods on Saturday at a rally organized in response to the police clashes with Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week. In video captured by a watchdog called Democ, many were also shown praising the Qassem Brigades armed branch of Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union.
Some additionally chanted “Tel Aviv, the answer will come.”
In the aftermath, authorities have launched investigations into incitement of hate and have been scouring videos of the event. Iris Spranger, the Berlin city government’s interior senator, condemned the antisemitic statements in a social media post on Monday, writing “Hate has no place in our society.”
“The rule of law must be applied consistently,” said Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, in remarks to the Jewish community newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine.
The non-partisan Jewish Values Initiative group called on the Berlin police and interior ministry to explain why they allowed the march to continue despite the antisemitic slogans, and why there were no arrests on site. Elio Adler, head of the group, said the police’s failure to make arrests has done “immense damage.”
Israeli police removed Ramadan worshipers from the Al-Aqsa Mosque last week, in response to their plan to occupy the site overnight. In the days after, rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip, and two terror attacks left three Israelis dead.
The German-Israel Society and the Jewish Values Initiative have also now demanded that authorities consider a federal ban on the Samidoun association, which advocates for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Observers said the group was involved in organizing the demonstration.
“We have long been pushing for a ban on this supposed ‘aid organization’” Adler said in a statement.
“The several hundred demonstrators don’t represent all Muslims in Germany,” he emphasized. “But their behavior is hardly unusual; and one hears far too little criticism of this hate from within their own community.”
Manuel Ostermann, German police’s union deputy chairman, called the demonstration “the very image of shame.”
For the third year in a row, Berlin authorities have banned the Al-Quds Day march, a demonstration that protests the formation of Israel. Organizers had applied for a permit for some 2,000 participants to demonstrate next weekend in Berlin.