Hebh Jamal – Germany is Becoming a Police State When It Comes to Palestine Activism

Shocking stories of the intimidation, harassment and punitive measures activists are facing in Germany from the police, solely for resisting the genocide in Gaza.

Hebh Jamal is a Palestinian American journalist from New York City now based in Germany. Subscribe to her Substack newsletter, The Diaspora Journal, here.

Cross-posted from ScheerPost

Picture by Hossam El-Hamalawy

At 6 a.m. on March 22, pro-Palestinian activists Said and Yasemin, who were asleep in their respective Berlin homes, were awakened by armed and masked police officers who broke down their doors at the same time. Berlin police then looked through their belongings and confiscated their electronic devices, including their phones. The simultaneous raid was to deter one from communicating with or warning the other.

In a series of posts on social media, Said said that this raid was the police’s third visit and he maintains that he is being targeted for his activism and that he did nothing wrong. “I am not okay,” he wrote, “Why is the German government trying everything possible to criminalize me? I have done nothing wrong. I make the German government and the media responsible for everything that might happen to me!” 

Yasemin tells me that she was targeted due to a social media video she made on the action against Israeli diplomat and ambassador of Israel to Germany, Ron Proser. “I explained why the activists are protesting Proser in my video, but the police [took that as evidence that] I was there.” Yasemin was not. 

Yasemin, however, believes that the raid was not an isolated incident, but was in fact part of a bigger campaign against pro-Palestinian activists by the authorities. “We are not only attacked and arrested, but prematurely handpicked from a crowd while attending lawful protest gatherings.” 

“One time, after they arrested me for absolutely no reason, they took my fingerprints and mugshots and imprisoned me,” Yasemin said. On at least one occasion, undercover police even followed her home. “All of this because I am actively protesting against human rights violations by Israel. I am worried because for me, now there is this question of what’s the next step? Are they going to shoot me?” 

This is not the first time Berlin police raided people’s homes over social media posts. Earlier this month, police knocked down the door of a middle-aged woman who wrote “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free” on her social media and arrested her. She was charged with “using the symbols of unconstitutional organizations,” Berlin police said in a statement. In Germany, the Interior Ministry determined on its own that the popular protest chant was the slogan of Hamas and the Samidoun Solidarity Network, a banned pro-Palestinian organization. 

Germany functions as an extension of the Israeli apartheid state. Not only does it extrapolate the same propaganda onto Palestinians as Israel, but Germany has also adopted similar tactics of psychological warfare against activists to deter solidarity within the country. 

The raids due to social media rings extremely similar to Israel’s “zero tolerance policy” toward social media activity in Palestine, which has led to the arrest of hundreds of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who expressed solidarity or support for the people of Gaza. In a viral video earlier in this war, Israeli police arrested a woman over a Whatsapp post, and in the video she pleads with the officers, and out of fear even retracts her statement by saying, “God protect Israel.” 

Of course, the posts do not pose a threat, neither to Israel nor to Germany. The raids and arrests are meant to instill fear and deter others from participating in protests or speaking out against Israel’s genocide in Gaza. 


In Berlin, this has taken the form of extraordinary measures to clamp down on pro-Palestinian activism. Most recently, the state and the media have tried their best to shut down the Palestine Congress, a gathering of international scholars, activists, and journalists such as historian Salman Abu Sitta, and journalist Ali Abunimah. 

Senator for the Interior, Iris Spranger, stated that the authorities are monitoring the planned Palestine Conference, while the CDU faction leader Dirk Stettner demands that everything must be done to prevent the alleged “antsemitic event.” 

“It’s a clear violation of our freedom of speech,” one of the Palestine Congress organizers told me. “The fact that the German government and the press have labeled the conference as an antisemitic hate gathering, without even engaging with the content of the conference or mentioning that a prominent Jewish group is helping organize and a quarter of the speakers are Jewish, show that German politicians have no interested in actually protecting Jewish life in Germany but would rather intimidate, threaten, and financially restrict the organizers to protect their own genocidal ideology.” 

Judische Stimme, the anti-Zionist Jewish group on the organizing committee, are financing the Congress. It has now become the target of the State’s repressive campaign. On Tuesday, the state-run bank,  Berliner Sparkasse, blocked the account of the group and all of the funds raised from GoFundMe for the Congress are now inaccessible. The bank demanded to know the updated names and addresses of every organization member, an unprecedented and bizarre request. Instead, the group believes this is directly tied to their solidarity work. 

“The German state is criminalizing and intimidating Jews who stand up against genocide, the ludicrous thing being that the state is selling this as ‘fighting antisemitism,’” the Congress organizers said. 

Indeed, this attack against the conference is not for the protection of Jewish people. It is to justify this country’s colonial response to the Holocaust — by protecting Israel’s national security (or what they described in 2008 as their Reason of State),  Germany can move on from its Nazi past. And by affirming that Israel is, in fact, the true representative of world Jewry and that the definition of anti-Zionism and antisemitism should be taken as fact, then there can be no space for Palestinian identity.

In fact, for Germany, anti-Zionist Jews pose the same threat to the state as Palestinians, because they force the country to reckon with the genocide of the past and their support for genocide and apartheid in the present.

Challenging the German police state

A Palestinian friend of mine, Mahmoud, is currently being targeted by the state of Karlsruhe for saying the following during a protest: “Palestine is for all people, from the river to the sea, regardless of their denomination or religion.” That was enough for the state to say he had committed a hate crime by questioning Israel’s right to exist. He is being forced to pay 7,500 euros in fines. 

In our conversations, Mahmoud not only expressed how surreal and ridiculous it was, but that the state is willing to go to incredible lengths to categorize him and all Palestinians as dangerous criminals worthy of the time and money to prosecute them. “It is me today, but everyone else later,” he told me. 

This fear of saying the wrong thing or being described as an activist is seen and felt on the streets of Germany. Many have stopped coming to protests. Muslims and mosque communities stopped advertising protests, and many are even wary of posting on social media. The psychological impact of Germany’s war on Palestinians is doing its job, while the media elite is aiding and abetting the state’s hegemonic rhetoric. 

Activists like Mahmoud, Yasemin, and Said are consistently standing up for the Palestinian people now and before October 7, despite the state’s drastic measures to criminalize Palestine solidarity. However, many in Germany have to calculate multiple risks when choosing to attend a protest or share a post on social media — because they realize that their attempt to stop a genocide is tantamount to challenging the German state itself. 

However, Yasemin, who is not Palestinian herself, tells me that while she is worried, this can never stop her from fighting for the Palestinian cause. “As long as the genocide and cooperation doesn’t stop, as long as the real criminals are out there, I am going to amplify the voices of Palestinians. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I’m not doing anything about this, even if it’s just attending a protest.”

On Instagram, Said wrote that although the “government’s targeting of me has led to threats, I refuse to stay silent.” 

Mahmoud expressed a similar sentiment to me as we were reminiscing near an olive tree he had managed to bring to his home from Nablus. “I as a Palestinian have no choice. We have to fight.” 

Mahmoud is challenging the fine charged by the state of Karlsruhe in court and is not capitulating to a single charge. 

“I believe I have done nothing wrong, and I know I and every other pro-Palestinian activist is on the right side of history.”

Due to the Israeli war crimes in Gaza we have increased our coverage from five to six days a week. We do not have the funds to do this, but felt that it was the only right thing to do. So if you have not already donated for this year, please do so now. To donate please go HERE.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.