Police: Speaker made past antisemitic, violence-glorifying remarks

German police shut down pro-Palestinian gathering over hate speech concerns

Authorities cut power after banned speaker appears via video link; British-Palestinian surgeon who spoke at ceremony for terror leader says Germany denied him entry to attend event

Screen grab of a video circulating on social media showing police shutting down a pro-Palestinian event over hate speech fears, April 12, 2024 (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen grab of a video circulating on social media showing police shutting down a pro-Palestinian event over hate speech fears, April 12, 2024 (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

German police cut the power and shut down a conference of pro-Palestinian activists on Friday after a banned speaker appeared by video link, organizers said.

The three-day Palestine Congress, promoted by pro-Palestinian groups including former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s DIEM25 party, said it aimed to raise awareness of what it called Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza.

The police banned the final two days of the event, citing concern about the potential for hate speech.

Among the speakers was activist Salman Abu Sitta, author of a January essay that expressed understanding for the Hamas terrorists who carried out the devastating October 7 attack on southern Israel in which some 1,200 were killed and a further 253 men, women and children taken hostage to Gaza.

“A speaker was projected who was subject to a ban on political activity,” Berlin police said on social media. “There is a risk of a speaker being put on screen who in the past made antisemitic and violence-glorifying remarks. The gathering was ended and banned on Saturday and Sunday.”

Organizers of the conference said police intervened when Salman, who according to Stern magazine was banned from entering Germany, began speaking on video.

“The police violence, like we were some sort of criminals, was unbearable for a democratic country,” said Karin de Rigo, a parliamentary candidate for the German offshoot of DIEM25. “They not only stormed the stage, they cut the power like we were transmitting violence.”

In Germany as in other Western countries, Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has stirred growing popular opposition as the Palestinian death toll has mounted.

Shortly after  October 7, the German government implemented a formal ban on activity by or in support of Hamas.

Germany’s backing for Israel is rooted in a desire to atone for the genocide of Europe’s Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. The presence of a large, growing Muslim and Arab population in Germany has made the tension particularly acute.

Many protesters have complained that expressions of solidarity with Palestinians are effectively criminalized by authorities on alert for antisemitism.

“It is right and necessary that the Berlin police intervened firmly at the so-called Palestine Congress,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser posted on social media. She earlier had urged police to be on guard for signs of hate speech at the congress.

Meanwhile, a prominent British-Palestinian surgeon who volunteered in Gaza hospitals during the first weeks of the Israel-Hamas war said he was denied entry to Germany on Friday to take part in the conference.

Abu Sitta said he arrived at Berlin’s airport on Friday morning before being stopped at passport control, where he was held for several hours and then told he had to return to the UK.

Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, a Palestinian-British plastic surgeon speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 9, 2023 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Airport police said he was refused entry due to “the safety of the people at the conference and public order,” Abu Sitta told The Associated Press by phone. There was no immediate comment from German federal police.

The UK’s Jewish Chronicle reported last year that Abu Sitta spoke at a Beirut ceremony on the anniversary of the death of a founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Maher Al-Yamani.

The report said Abu Sitta wept as he “hailed the late terror group founder for his success at striking fear into the hearts of Israelis.”

Terrorists from the PFLP participated in the devastating October 7 attack.

On October 8, Abu Sitta promoted a social media post which said Gazans should “fight back and die in dignity” as they were “going to die anyway,” the UK’s Jewish News reported.

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