Despite its professional journalism and public media, German journalism is still lacking when it comes to Palestine and Israel.
When approaching coverage regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine journalists, tend to be too cautious, labor to remain “politically correct” and careful in their language. If one side must be taken, then they take Israel’s side, as if doing so represent some form of “compensation” for historical atrocities. But often, siding with Israel is also the financially and politically rational choice to make.
But if Israel and Germany are indeed ‘best friends’, then it is incumbent on the German government, to be honest with its friend, Israel. Some tough love is now more urgent than ever before, where Germany can inform Israel that while it regrets its history of racism and violence against Jews, Israel must also learn to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.
The silver lining is that the horrific situation underway in Gaza is finally registering in German media differently if compared to past wars. Yes, the German media continues to tout the Israeli viewpoint, but more and more new, sober voices are daring to offer an alternative narrative on the situation. A good example is a recent episode of the popular podcast Lage der Nation, hosted by journalist Philip Banse and Judge Ulf Buermeyer. In episode #241, they interviewed Dr. Muriel Asseburg, a Senior Fellow at the Africa and Middle East sector of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
From the onset, Asseburg defined Hamas according to the meaning of the word itself – a resistance movement, elaborating further on its historical roots. Then, she goes on to explain that Israel has a “one-state reality” with total Israeli control of the borders, the coastal waters, the airspace, and most of the territory. She also said that people in that de-facto state reality enjoy very different rights according to their nationality, ethnoreligious affiliation and according to where they live—rights that concern freedom of movement, political participation, but also economic and social rights.
When an interviewer asked for an example, Asseburg said that if a Jewish citizen in the West Bank commits a crime, he will be tried in a civil court; whereas a Palestinian from the West Bank who commits the same crime – will be tried in a military court.
She added, in these military courts there is a 99% conviction rate, so it’s very difficult for Palestinians to get any kind of justice.
Moreover, she explained that the restrictions on movement are even more severe: while Israelis have the right to move freely within the territories, Palestinians from the Gaza strip have no freedom (unless they have a special permit, which can only be obtained in exceptional cases). Even Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, Asseburg stressed, can only move from one city in the West Bank to another with an Israeli permit.
Here are a few excerpts from the 31-minute conversation (transcribed and translated from German):
Question: What is Hamas again?
Asseburg: Hamas is one of the major parties or movements (in Palestine). Hamas stands for the Islamic resistance movement. It emerged in 1987 from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which in turn had previously split off from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the meantime, however, Hamas has disassociated itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, i.e. it has established an organizational and ideological separation, especially with regard to Egypt, in order to make itself less vulnerable to attacks.
Question: Can you describe (…) these social divisions in the Israeli society. Human Rights Watch has just published a long, over 200-page report in which they accuse Israel of having installed a regime of apartheid, at least in the occupied territories. How do you assess this?
Asseburg: Well, I’ll try to describe the situation in a few sentences. I would say that we now have in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in this whole area, something that could be called a one-state reality. What do I mean by that? That we have an overriding Israeli control in this overall area. So that Israel controls the borders, controls the coastal waters, controls the airspace, controls most of the territory directly. It also means that people who live in this territory have very different rights according to their nationality, according to their ethno-religious affiliation and according to where they live. Rights that concern freedom of movement, political participation, but also economic and social rights.
Question: Give me an example; that always sounds so abstract.
Asseburg: For example, a Palestinian in the West Bank lives under Israeli military law, whereas a settler, an Israeli settler with Israeli citizenship in the West Bank, lives under Israeli civil law.
Question: What does that mean?
Asseburg: It means that this settler, if he commits a crime, (he) will be tried in a civil court, whereas the Palestinian who commits the same crime will be tried in a military court. And we have (…) in these military courts, a 99% conviction rate. So, it’s very difficult for Palestinians to get any kind of justice in such courts.
But I would say the restrictions on movement are actually even more severe. Israelis with Israeli citizenship have the right to move freely within the territory, with the exception of the Gaza strip and the so-called A-areas in the Westbank, where they are not allowed to stay for security reasons. Palestinians from the Gaza strip have no possibility to move towards Israel, towards the West Bank, unless they have a special permit, which can only be obtained in exceptional cases.
This also applies to Palestinians living in the West Bank, who can only come to Jerusalem with a special permit and this even applies to the representatives of the Palestinian authority, for example, the Palestinian president himself, who can only move from one city in the West Bank to another city in the West Bank with an Israeli permit.
– Hadas Emma Kedar is a PhD student and Research Associate at the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of Hamburg University, Germany. She researches science, climate and crisis communication, focusing on a comparative analysis of Covid-19’s mass communication in Germany, Israel and the USA. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.