Berlin police ban pro-Hamas signs, lsrael flag burning during May Day rallies

Weeks after antisemitic demonstrations in German capital, strict rules announced ahead of left-wing gathering

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Footage of a rally against Israel in Berlin uploaded to YouTube on April 9, 2023. (democ./Screenshot from YouTube)
Footage of a rally against Israel in Berlin uploaded to YouTube on April 9, 2023. (democ./Screenshot from YouTube)

Two weeks after a Berlin rally in which protesters called for the death of Jews, police in Germany’s capital announced a ban on signs supporting Palestinian terrorist organizations and on calling for Israel’s destruction during far-left demonstrations on Monday marking May Day.

Citing public safety, instructions posted to the police website on Saturday stressed that “any advertising” for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) or Hamas was banned.

The police also emphasized that “identification marks, symbols or emblems of these organizations may not be shown on flags and banners, nor on the clothing of the participants or in any other way.”

They also prohibited statements calling for “the annihilation of the State of Israel and/or its inhabitants or are otherwise likely to convey a readiness to use violence.”

The PFLP, the second-largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, is a hardline Marxist organization that carried out a series of high-profile lethal airplane hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s, and continues to attack Israelis.

Hamas, the radical Islamic group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and openly seeks Israel’s destruction, has engaged in a series of conflicts with Israel since then and fired many thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.

Illustrative: German police officers prepare their equipment in Berlin on March 31, 2023. (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Berlin’s police also banned signs supporting Hizb ut-Tahrir, a nonviolent fundamentalist organization seeking to reestablish an Islamic caliphate.

Without referring explicitly to Israel, the announcement also banned flag burning or the utterance of slogans “that are defamatory towards parts or individuals of an ethnic or religious group, incite hatred or impair the human dignity of others, as well as defamatory statements.”

The announcement came the wake of an April pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin 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 II hate speech laws.

Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) aim their weapons at an effigy depicting US President Donald Trump as they ride a truck during a protest in Gaza City, May 23, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

The demonstration was organized in response to the police clashes with Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

In the aftermath, authorities 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 tweet, writing: “Hate has no place in our society.”

The nonpartisan Jewish Values Initiative group called on the Berlin police and interior ministry to explain why they had 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 had done “immense damage.”

Israel’s embassy in Germany told The Times of Israel on Monday that the April rally is “another example in which Palestinian demonstrators take advantage of a legitimate platform to spread antisemitic messages.”

“We will not allow the event to become a festival of delegitimization and demonization of Israel,” said the embassy spokeswoman, referring to the May Day demonstrations. “We trust and are sure that the Berlin police learned the lessons from the hate demonstrations two weeks ago, and will prevent their recurrence.”

“For more than a decade, we have highlighted the connections between the PFLP terror group and NGOs that spread antisemitism, hatred, and incitement,” said Olga Deutsch, vice president of NGO Monitor, which tracks anti-Israel non-profits. “Local authorities are right to act when civil society descends into terror support and incitement against Jewish communities.”

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