Scoundrel Time Revisited


Berlin police raid the Palestinian Congress conference, April 12, 2024. (Photo: Twitter/Progressive International)

Criminalizing Palestine Solidarity

GPM # 61

Israel’s assault on Gaza is now into its eighth month. As Israel wages war on Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied, effectively annexed West Bank, Western governments wage war on their own citizens who condemn Israeli crimes – on students, faculty and off-campus antiwar protestors, many of them Jewish.

McCarthyism is abroad, once more — communications surveilled; gatherings banned; reputations smeared; careers ruined; artists blackballed; academics dragged before angry legislatures.

Scoundrel time revisited. Back then it was communism. Today’s it’s Palestine.

Social media bursts with images of pro-Gaza, anti-genocide protestors young and old, on the ground, beaten, tasered, handcuffed and dragged away.

Much more tranquilly, on May 13, prominent Jewish-Israeli historian Ilan Pappé was interrogated for over two hours by FBI agents at Detroit Metro Airport. Pappé is a history professor at the University of Exeter, in the UK, and the author of the groundbreaking 2006 work, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Did he support Hamas, FBI agents asked Pappé in that little room on the edge of Motown? Was Israel’s war on Gaza genocidal? Did Pappé have Arab and Muslim friends in the Detroit area? What is the solution to the ‘conflict’?

After a lengthy exchange with someone on the phone (Pappé thinks they were Israeli), airport coppers returned his phone and waived him on.

British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah didn’t fare so well.

Last April 12, at Berlin airport, heading to a big Palestine conference, Abu-Sittah was detained, questioned for hours, then put back on a plane to London.

Abu-Sittah is the Rector of the University of Glasgow, and an expert in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Know one knows more about the bloody carnage Israel’s war has inflicted, especially on little kids, than Ghassan Abu-Sittah.

Not something German authorities wanted him to talk about. Hours later, dozens of German police broke up the conference he was going to attend. The Palestine Congress had barely convened. Heavily armed German cops cut off power and a live feed, and emptied out the crowded hall. One of the organizers, a Jewish activist, was reportedly arrested.

This story grows. Three weeks later, on May 4, Abu-Sittah was halted in his tracks at a Paris airport. Scheduled to address a symposium at the French Senate, French authorities told him to go away. Why? A Schengen ban had been placed on him.

Originally designed to stop football hooligans from traveling match to match within Europe’s border-free Schengen zone, a Schengen fatwa had just been slapped on the Israel critic — by Germany!

Schengen bans being what they are, the Dutch followed suit, blocking Abu-Sittah from attending a May 17 session of the Netherlands’ Rights Forum, in Amsterdam. Abu-Sittah had also planned to meet two Dutch MPs, and present details about Israel’s use of white phosphorus to a chemical weapons monitoring organization.

Thanks to the efforts of the European Legal Support Center, Germany’s fatwa against the eminent surgeon has just been lifted, though not in time to attend the Rights Forum gathering. Instead, Abu-Sittah beamed in, on Zoom.

Listen to Ghassan Abu-Sittah in this edition of the GPM. Click on the play button above or go here. You’ll also hear Dutch anesthesiologist Sara Galli, with Artsen Voor Gaza (Doctors For Gaza). Berber van der Woude, a political scientist, moderates the session.

Flag Woman in Rotterdam, October 2023 (David Kattenburg)

Germany’s Schengen fatwa on Ghassan Abu-Sittah has recently been lifted, thanks to the efforts of the European Legal Support Centre. The ELSC supports and defends advocates for Palestinian rights across mainland Europe and the UK. Tobias den Haan is a legal researcher with the center. Listen to den Haan in this edition of the GPM, speaking at last Friday’s Rights Forum gathering, in Amsterdam, in conversation with moderator Berber van der Woude. Click on the play button above, or go here.

Anti-war protesters in Amsterdam, May 2024 (David Kattenburg)

Palestine solidarity activists have been doxxed, smeared, fired and arrested for years, increasingly so with the widespread adoption of the pro-Israel IHRA — the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism.

October 7 moved the repression up a notch. Over the past month, almost 3000 students have been arrested on US campuses, in the course of peaceful protests against what the International Court of Justice considers plausible Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Here in Europe, no country is more hostile to free speech about the nature of the Israeli state and its core ideology, Zionism, and about the fate of the perpetually subjugated Palestinian people, than Germany.

Listen to British-German activist Wieland Hoban speak about this at that Rights Forum gathering this past Friday, in the wake of the busting up of that Palestine Congress in Berlin, and about the deep roots of Germany’s undying commitment to the ‘Jewish State’ (you may be surprised).

Hoban is a British-German composer and translator, and chair of the German group Jüdische Stimme – Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East.

Click on the play button above, or go here.