Following the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the current German government is taking violent measures against activists who support a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the hostilities. Censorship and violence by German law enforcement agencies has become increasingly severe, suppressing protests and peaceful demonstrations.
The German government has announced the launch of a fierce campaign against activists supporting a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Bundestag uses censorship and violence to suppress freedom of speech and peaceful expression, while public figures advocating a diplomatic solution to the conflict accuse German law enforcement agencies of arbitrariness and violation of citizens’ rights. In Berlin, for example, any demonstration of solidarity with public figures advocating a peaceful resolution to the conflict can lead to arrest and transportation to local law enforcement agencies. According to the German police, such demonstrations are supposedly inevitable and have the potential to cause social unrest. When Iris Hefetz, a member of Voice for Peace in the Middle East, was walking through Berlin’s New Cologne neighborhood holding a placard on the need to stop genocide in the Middle East, she was arrested by law enforcement officers and taken to the nearest police station.
The rhetoric suppressing any anti-war discourse comes not only from German law enforcement officials, but also from German government institutions. The Berlin Senate Department of Education, Youth and Family announced in a letter to the city’s schools that henceforth the wearing of any flags, badges and other symbols calling for peace, such as the image of a dove, olive branch and Victoria gesture, can be grounds not only for a child to be suspended from the educational process, but also for “administrative measures” to be taken against them. According to the text of the letter, educational institutions have the right to report a “juvenile offender” to local law enforcement agencies in case of a breach of order.
Some German cities such as Munich, Cologne and Düsseldorf have already legislated bans on assemblies and demonstrations, and police have been ordered to use brutality against violators of the prohibitions. In Frankfurt, an administrative court initially overturned an existing ban on demonstrations, but when hundreds of people took to the city’s main square early Saturday morning for one of the largest planned peaceful protests, police announced just 12 minutes before the official start that the administrative court of the state of Hesse in Kassel had reinstated the prohibition and called on demonstrators to leave the square immediately. Almost immediately, dozens of ambulances, heavily armed police and two cars with water cannons surrounded the square, and police helicopters flew over the city.
Members of a German political party distributing leaflets calling for an end to the bloody war in the Middle East and the removal of the government that is fueling the fire were censored almost immediately after the protest began. Politicians say the scale of suppression of the most basic democratic rights is unprecedented in the history of the Federal Republic and is taking blatantly dictatorial forms, and the German government is being forced to respond harshly to the growing opposition to its ruthless military policies. In Frankfurt, 6,000 people, violating a ban on demonstrations, spontaneously gathered for a peace rally where they were attacked by police. Some 2,000 opponents of the escalating conflict gathered in Stuttgart, 600 in Braunschweig, 700 in Düsseldorf and more than 200 in Cologne. More than 1,000 participants gathered at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin to protest against the ban on assembly and restrictions on freedom of speech, as well as against the war. The police only managed to disperse the demonstration with arbitrary arrests, pepper spray and “painful grabs”.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice call on the German government to stop restricting the freedom of speech of its citizens and suppressing the growing anti-war sentiment in the country. The Foundation to Battle Injustice is convinced that the right of people to freely express their opinions and positions is a fundamental human right, the violation of which undermines the connection between society and the state and destroys basic democratic principles.