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The campus protests have reached Germany

One week ago, around 1,000 people came together to demonstrate in the German city of Hamburg. Organized by “Muslim Interaktiv”, a platform deemed anti-constitutional, one of the most popular slogans of the protest was “The solution is a Caliphate”. Other posters read “Gaza has won the infowar”. And indeed, what we are seeing globally, in recent weeks most explicitly around US college campuses, shows that in the “info war”, progressive leftist movements have long chosen a side, and have become complicit in distributing and normalizing false information and harmful rhetoric.

At the onset of the war, I wrote about a distinct German sit-in and choice of language. And even though I was concerned then, I would have believed the things we see today to be impossible. But now, only days before Yom HaShoah, German students are sitting in front of the main entrance of Berlin University, shouting “From Berlin to Gaza, yalla yalla Intifada”. Just steps away from where the Nazis were once burning books, young German students today are shouting that “there is only one solution”.

German politicians have called this year’s First of May in Berlin, traditionally a day of protests for workers’ rights, a particularly successful and peaceful day. A representative of the Social Democrats stated: “The anti-Semitic incidents we feared were also not numerous. And if they existed, the police acted consistently. This is an important message to the Jewish community in Berlin, which has had to endure a lot recently.” If they existed? The protest in Berlin, which counted 12,000 attendees and half as many police officers, was full of anti-Israel sentiments, such as posters reading “Intifada until victory”. Even though “From the river to the sea” is now deemed illegal in Germany, the (original) Arabic “from the water to the water” and others apparently are not. The Berliner Zeitung reported that the organizers of the protests had chosen to lead it around the northern part of Neukölln, a neighborhood with high numbers of residents with Arab and Palestinian roots, knowing that this would provoke both sides further.

I find the images from the protests in front of the Berlin campus, inspired by its US predecessors and organized over social media, particularly glaring. Videos show the president of the University, Julia von Blumenthal, attempting to approach a group of protesters and offering to talk to them. In return, she is being aggressively shouted down, called a Zionist, and criticized for having invited Israeli scholars in the past – all by a group of students sitting on the ground next to the famous golden “stumbling stones”, which commemorate Jewish academics persecuted and murdered by the Nazis.

In November last year, it seemed that Germany was facing a watershed moment, whether it would let a new wave of antisemitism become publicly acceptable. Now, it has become clear that not much has been done to stop that, as we watch certain groups only radicalize further. German Minister of the Interior has called the Hamburg Islamist demonstration “hard to accept”. And today, a week later, people in the city of Hamburg are coming together for a counter-protest. Both seem careful first steps in the right direction. But I am afraid that none of this will help much unless the majority of the German public will stop remaining silent. Because between protests and counter-protests, we must not let the spiral of radicalisation move the focus away from the fact that, as I am writing this, there are still hostages in Gaza.

About the Author
Katharina Hillmann is a PhD student at the Department of Jewish Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University.
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