Oxford Dictionary defines “hypocrisy” as a “behavior that does not meet the moral standards or match the opinions that somebody claims to have.”
Transposed to the concrete issue of Palestine within political discourse in Germany, my home country: that “somebody” would be the Federal Republic’s political left (social democrats, greens, socialists, anti-fascists, especially the white Germans among them), the “moral standard” would be the universality of human rights and the “behavior” that does not meet said standard would be the denial of said universal human rights to Palestinians.
The latter is done not only by looking the other way when Israel tramples on said human rights but also by rationalizing Israel’s immoral and all to often illegal behavior through the prism of collective guilt regarding past crimes committed. It behooves to point out that while Germany’s socialist party DIE LINKE is grappling with a tentative shift in its ideological stance towards Palestine/Israel, the Zionist consensus of all other establishment parties from left to right remains steadfast and unwavering.
The lefty-liberal hypocrisy of considering oneself antiracist, but staunchly supporting Israel, a country founded on the ideology of Zionism which the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 condemned as “a form of racism and racial discrimination”, operates within the context of an albeit well-intended national Stockholm syndrome Germans like to call Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coping with the past) that has not only had the unintended disastrous outcome of historically providing a German carte blanche to Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians since their land was renamed “Israel” in 1948 and they were expelled from it in Israeli ethnic cleansing campaigns collectively known as the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), but has also in recent years rendered the already heavily constricted space in Germany within which to criticize the self-proclaimed “Jewish State” virtually nonexistent.
Due to Vergangenheitsbewältigung’s flawed premise which confuses historical Schuld (guilt) with Verantwortung (responsibility) and its top-down nature with a limited lasting trickle-down-effect, imposed by post-war political elites with the occupying Allied Forces watching over them like hawks (as opposed to an organic development from the bottom up), Germans have subconsciously resolved to reconciling the paradox of being history’s eternal bad guy while witnessing the Jewish metamorphosis from victim in Europe to perpetrator in the Middle East by simply taking the easy way out: by either keeping one’s eyes, ears and mouth completely shut in all matters Palestinian, or when that doesn’t work and the issue does come up, always taking Israel’s side, come what may.
Uneingeschränkte Solidarität (unbridled solidarity) is the political term for this singular fealty (for which the German language has an incredibly graphic term: Kadavergehorsam, carcass-like obedience) which even takes precedence over Germany’s traditional serfdom to the US euphemistically referred to as a “transatlantic partnership.”
When Ignorance Meets Arrogance: The German Left’s Refusal to Acknowledge Israeli Apartheid
One consistent matter of contention within Germany’s political discourse on Palestine and Israel is whether the latter is an apartheid state. According to lefty-liberal white Germans, Israel is not an apartheid state. And anyone who dares to say the contrary is fair game to be smeared as antisemitic.
It seems to me that these people don’t actually know what apartheid or even antisemitism is. And when you tell them that the one people who would know best about apartheid — namely South Africans — say that Israel most definitely is an apartheid state, they — being the stubborn know-it-alls that they are — simply don’t care.
Forget the fact that this indictment is coming not only from the victims of South African apartheid, such as Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, a grandchild of the German left’s beloved Nelson Mandela and a political activist, who at last year’s Palestine Expo in London said,
“For us South Africans, the matter is clear: Israel is an apartheid state. And to us who experienced apartheid South Africa, we regard Apartheid Israel to be the worst form of apartheid”,
but even from the perpetrators: former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, known as the “Architect of Apartheid” said as early as 1961 in the context of an Israeli vote against South Africa at the UN:
“Israel is not consistent in its new anti-apartheid attitude…they took Israel away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years. In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”
Forget the fact that even Jews think Israel is an apartheid state: take the recently deceased South African freedom fighter Denis Goldberg for example, a comrade of Madiba (as Nelson Mandela is affectionately known), who once said that he had “no doubt that Israel is an apartheid state.”
No, lefty-liberal white Germans — who care about no other opinion than their own, no matter how factually wrong — will continue to deny that Israel is an apartheid state, despite what all others might say. This kind of gaslighting is pretty rich coming from the same people (white Germans) who not long ago gas-chambered millions of European Jews off the face of the continent.
Intransigent German ignorarrogance at its best. And the country’s left is in no way immune to it.
Germans Love Bashing Erdoğan. They Love Giving Netanyahu a Get-out-of-jail-free Card even more
If there is one thing lefty-liberal Germany loves, it is criticizing Turkey or Russia for their human rights violations, but staying surprisingly mute when these violations are committed by Israel.
Post-war Germany has a long history of anti-Turkish racism ever since Anatolian Turks immigrated there as contract laborers. Today, their descendants constitute the country’s by far largest immigrant community and through the prism of current European geopolitics, any criticism of Turkey’s president Erdoğan coming from a Christian or atheist white German — no matter how justified — has to factor in this historic anti-Muslim xenophobia against the people who basically rebuilt Germany’s shattered post-war economy from scratch, doing menial jobs privileged white Germans were too arrogant and too lazy to do themselves.
The casual racism of German lefty-liberals today includes putting their Turkish compatriots in a constant position of having to position themselves on Erdoğanism, increasingly the only lens through which Turkey — and therefore Turks — are viewed, no matter how uninterested or apolitical that person who was born and bred in Germany might be with regards to the politics of his or her parents’ or even grandparents’ country.
The same goes for Russians in Germany: they will constantly be asked what they think of Putin or where they stand on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Funny that these same white Germans never ask German Jews about their take on Israel’s own autocratic — and corrupt — head of government, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his blatantly right-wing coalition. German Jews are also never asked to explain themselves for Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine, one that — unlike the Russian military’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 which is currently in its sixth year — has been going on for over five decades now, with no end in sight.
But the German left — or what passes as “left” in my country — cannot be bothered by moral asymmetries like these. Why would they when these are the same people that refuse to call a spade a spade by insisting on referring to Israel’s settler colonialism as an “occupation.” And continue to turn a blind eye to Israel’s systematic crimes against humanity, war crimes and slow genocide against the Palestinian people on their own land.
When Vergangenheitsbewältigung Meets Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest”
Speaking of colonialism: a hallmark of lefty-liberal German memory-making and atoning for ones past is selective guilt: while honoring the genocide of European Jews is understandably a consensual no-brainer in my country, the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples from 1904-08 at the hands of German colonial troops in what is today Namibia, as well as other colonial crimes, are treated as a “flyshit of history.”
This was the analogy of choice once uttered by Alexander Gauland, a prominent member of the right-wing AfD party (Alternative für Deutschland) to belittle the 12 long years of Germany’s Nazi era (1933–45). Germans from center to left were justifiably up in arms at Gauland’s — in their view — heretical words.
And yet Germany’s organized mass murder in what was then German Southwest Africa — being not only the first genocide of the twentieth century, but also acting as an inspirational blueprint for Hitler’s anti-Jewish extermination fantasies, culminating in Germany’s second genocide, the Holocaust — was until fairly recently treated as a mere footnote — if mentioned at all — in the annals of its national history.
Two genocides in four decades: that’s got to be an unrivaled world record. But in hegemonic academic discourse, in scholastic education and in the country’s overall Erinnerungskultur (culture of remembrance), the slaughter of the Jews is the only German crime you will learn about. As if Germany’s colonial barbarism in Africa never even happened.
Lefty-liberals in Germany do their part in ensuring the unbroken continuity of putting Jewish lives above Black lives within the context of eurocentric narrative construction: the — albeit botched — defamation campaign instigated by Felix Klein, the German government’s antisemitism watchdog, against renowned Cameroonian historian Achille Mbembe for his daring to criticize Israeli apartheid and question the principle of singularity afforded to the Holocaust within Western historiography (an attempted witch-hunt in which even supposedly progressive German media outlets partook until they quickly realized that they had bet on the wrong horse once scores of Jewish and Israeli academics and artists began to show support for Mbembe and called for Klein to be sacked), was a telling example of the hierarchization of victimhood of historic crimes in my country.
During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, 800,000 people were slaughtered in the course of a mere six weeks. That is an average daily body count that eclipses that of the Holocaust (six million killed between 1941–45) by far: you do the math to find out how many Tutsis and moderate Hutus would have been killed by their Hutu extremist countrymen had the Rwandan genocide lasted for four years.
But Western historiography and discourse — especially in Jew-murdering Germany — continue to treat the Holocaust as the yardstick against which all other genocides are to be measured. Not even the left dares to break with this irresponsibly supremacist tradition.
I always thought that being left entailed believing in the universality of equality. But apparently, Germany’s left has succumbed to the paradigm that some are more equal than others: within German Vergangenheitsbewältung, this means that only the strongest survive. Since 1945, it is the Jews who are the big winners of the country’s West-centric historiographical evolution.
Where does that leave the Herero and Nama? In 2017, the descendants of the 90,000 killed by German colonial troops took the Federal Republic of Germany to court in the United States in a compensation lawsuit that ended after two years with the case being dismissed. To this day, Germany is doing all it can to dodge its moral responsibility for colonial crimes committed on the African continent.
Black Lives Matter, but Palestinian Lives Don’t?
Nowhere has the hypocrisy of the white German left been more transparent than in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests ignited by the racist killing of the African American George Floyd by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (a telling last name, if you ask me) on May 25.
While in the German capital Berlin thousands of people jam-packed the city center’s famous Alexanderplatz to protest the fatal torture of yet another black American by yet another white killer cop, not one seemed to know or care that the same technique employed by Chauvin when he murdered Floyd— pressing down his knee on the victim’s neck and wringing the life out of him for eight straight minutes in broad daylight on a busy street — is a popular constraining technique among Israeli occupation soldiers when harassing Palestinians.
Not only that: merely a few days after the killing of Mr. Floyd, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man named Eyad Hallaq was executed by Israeli Border Police in Jerusalem’s Old City. His crime: running from the officers who called out for him to stop and who claimed that he had a gun — even though he didn’t. The unarmed Hallaq was riddled to death with ten bullets.
If this man had been black and this had happened in the US, lefty-liberal white Germans would have been out in the streets again, throwing their performative support behind Black Lives Matter and protesting systemic racist police brutality in the US, all the while staying audibly silent on Germany’s own racist police culture (I’ve seen video footage of the day of the George Floyd protests in Berlin which show a black man just standing there in front of Alexanderplatz train station minding his own business when he is suddenly attacked by a mob of police thugs in riot gear and violently wrestled to the ground).
But when it comes to systemic and systematic racist police brutality in Israel against Palestinians, white Germany’s hypocritical wall of silence is deafening. There was next to no mention of Hallaq’s death in mainstream “progressive” German media. No indignant mass protests to denounce the annihilation of yet another innocent Palestinian life deemed worthless by Israeli state terrorism.
Because in Germany, Palestinian lives do not even enjoy the merely performative backing that Black lives do.
“From Ferguson to Palestine”, the transnational protest slogan coined after the killing of African American teenager Michael Brown in the summer of 2014, signifies the identical liberation struggles of two peoples — Black and Palestinian — against their respective oppressors.
But the German left willfully closes its eyes to such commonalities, lamenting racial injustices in the US and decrying the militarization of police on the other side of the continent while failing to address the fact that the same police are routinely trained by the Israeli military. Or that since the end of the Second World War, the American client state of Israel has received a staggering sum of 142,3 billion US dollars from its patron saint in order to consolidate the last outpost of European settler colonialism in the Middle East and to keep Israel’s system of control in occupied Palestine (and within its own borders where its discriminatory anti-Arab practices affect the lives of 20% of its population that is Palestinian with Israeli citizenship) running like clockwork.
Jutta vs. Judith: When a Washed-up Green Party Has-been Defames a World-renowned Feminist
Talk about cherry-picking: selectively choosing social justice causes that are subjectively the most desirable and convenient to oneself instead of treating human rights in a holistic manner is a cornerstone of modern mainstream leftist politics in Germany.
This has lead to rather asinine asymmetries and inconsistencies within lefty-liberal words and deeds, such as celebrating Judith Butler for her feminism, Slavoj Žižek for his anti-capitalism and Noam Chomsky for his anti-hegemonism, but at the same time glossing over their pro-Palestine activism and support for the global BDS movement, which the German parliament in an equally asinine move and in a show of rare cross-party consensus has designated as anti-Semitic (albeit in a non-binding resolution).
Some prominent German leftists are not content with hiding the truth, but feel the need to go the extra mile and actually fake it by pro-actively smearing pro-Palestine activists as anti-Semites: one of these misguided incorrigibles is Jutta Ditfurth, a publicist and founding member of Germany’s Green party, who in a tweet from January 31 did exactly that: slander Judith Butler as an anti-Semite because she was invited to speak at Berlin’s Technical University on the issue of gender equality, calling her an “antizionist anti-Semite.”
Not only does this juxtaposition of two statements, typical for overall white German ignorance that continues to equate Zionism and Judaism, constitute an (oxy)moronic falsehood, but according to section 187 of the German Criminal Code, Ditfurth’s tweet attacking someone who is most definitely not antisemitic fulfills the criminal offense of defamation:
“Whoever, despite knowing better, asserts or disseminates an untrue fact about another person which is suitable for degrading that person or negatively affecting public opinion about that person or endangering said person’s creditworthiness incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine, and, if the act was committed publicly, in a meeting or by disseminating material (section 11 (3)), a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine.”
“Lock her up” chants would be wholly warranted in this case because she most probably would not even be in a position to pay a fine to ward off prison: the woman is financially bankrupt. The shameless narcissist that she is, Her Royal Brokeness not only proclaimed her insolvency on Twitter, but publicly begged for money because according to her, she had “had the flu for weeks” and had “lost all 15 jobs due to Corona” (that’s 15 jobs more than Germany’s 2,5 million unemployed have, by the way).
So apparently being a white German lefty-liberal not only means being anti-Palestinian and pro-Zionist and therefore supporting an illegal and illegitimate Jewish supremacy over Palestine, but also requires one to tap strangers for cash and in the process misappropriating the charitable goal of crowdfunding for the wanton needs of one’s own white privilege.
Every single person that contributed even a single cent to this gold-digging supporter of Israeli colonialism and apartheid, while in Yemen over 20 million people are in danger of acute hunger and a child dies there every 15 minutes, should bow his or her head in eternal shame.
And to show how hypocritically racist and anti-Palestinian “liberal” Germany in general actually is: while in Berlin, Ms. Butler was also supposed to speak at a smaller gathering on a different issue: that event was canceled on short notice by the venue host, citing logistical reasons.
What that “different issue” was, you might already have surmised, dear reader: the issue of Palestine. This echoes something that Israeli journalist Gideon Levy described about the organized silencing of pro-Palestine voices in Germany when speaking at the aforementioned Palestine Expo:
“You are lucky that you can have this occasion here. Last week I was in Berlin, and the solidarity movement with the Palestinians couldn’t find a venue, and finally, we had to go all the way to a Copt monastery 400 km from Berlin in order to find a venue in which people can speak about Palestine, can mention the occupation, and — God forbid — maybe even say something about the Palestinians as human beings.”
Ironically, the name of the organization that invited Ms. Butler to Berlin and was not allowed to hold its event due to the cancellation of the venue is named “Palestine Speaks” and the title of the event was “Politics of Resistance.” Alas, in Germany today, being a lefty-liberal entails either tacitly accepting or pro-actively propagating that Palestine is not allowed to speak, and to do everything in one’s power to keep it that way.
“If they Call You anti-Semitic: Let them. You Know Better.”
I could find many more examples of the German left’s hypocrisy towards Palestine and Israel, but the ones already mentioned should be telling enough. They are definitely enough to label me an anti-Semite in Germany.
Like in any other Western country that has aligned itself with the settler-colonial entity that ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948, rebranded it “Israel” and continues to enlarge its territory with illegal annexations and violent intimidation tactics, such as house demolitions, a war crime under international law: while the A-word of apartheid in an Israeli context is considered more taboo in Germany than saying Voldemort’s name in the Harry Potter universe, the other one — antisemitism — is recklessly hurled at anyone who dares to criticize anti-Palestinian Israeli human rights violations.
Remember that German taboos regarding Israel go even further: the top-down collective guilt instilled for decades into the incorrigibly germanocentric and — as time keeps moving further away from the horrors of the Holocaust — increasingly nonchalant and guilt-free minds of the descendants of Hitler’s willing executioners via the German school system, media and politicians has led to the aforementioned mantra of uneingeschränkte Solidarität for Israel. Anyone who goes against it commits sacrilege in the eyes of the powers that be and define in Germany.
Which is why even the German left — that is supposed to be on the side of the “good guys” — strictly adheres to this nonsensical doctrine, no matter how right-wing a government is in power in Israel. Be it Ariel Sharon a.k.a. the Butcher of Beirut, the ethnic cleanser Yitzhak Rabin a.k.a. the Bone Breaker, or Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Zionazi in office, the colonizers among the German left (to borrow a term from the blockbuster superhero movie “Black Panther” will criticize all other democratically elected anti-democrats in the world — from Erdoğan to Orban, Trump to Johnson, Bolsonaro to Duterte, but will keep their hypocritical traps sealed firmly shut on Israel’s bloodstained illiberal democracy and the supervillains that rule it.
Even Realpolitik has its boundaries, and the German left should ask itself whether it can in good conscience continue to call itself “left” while supporting and making excuses for the Israeli “right” and vilifying the proponents of unadulterated leftism (which includes antizionism, antiracism, antifascism, antimilitarism and anti-neoliberalism), as anti-Semites.
In Germany, defending oneself against antisemitism slanders is a Herculean and Sisyphean task combined, especially when they originate from one’s own political habitat: the left. As long as the cross-party German consensus affords Jews not only eternal victimhood, but singular victimhood, no matter now factually false and morally wrong this hierarchization is and how removed current-day Zionist perpetrators in Israel are from their persecuted European ancestors, the overall anti-Palestinian stance of white German lefty-liberals will continue unabatedly.
Furthermore, despite their small number, Germany’s 200,000 Jews receive far more discursive attention than the country’s by far larger Muslim population of four and a half MILLION, simply because the former can do no wrong whatsoever in the eyes of lefty-liberal white Germans who willfully grant the same people they tried to wipe off the face of the earth not all too long ago collective puppy license.
There is a way to defend oneself against the weaponization of antisemitism in which the majority of the German left is actively participating: namely ignoring it. Israeli historian and dissident Ilan Pappe, speaking at an event in London last year organized by the media outlet Middle East Monitor (MEMO) and the advocacy group Europal Forum, revealed to the audience a coping technique for dealing with antisemitism smears that is ingenious in its simplicity:
“If they call you antisemitic: let them. You know better.”
Anyone caught in the crosshairs of weaponized antisemitism for doing the right thing and standing up for the human rights of Palestinians, should heed Pappe’s pragmatic call to stoicism and simply ignore the ignorant: be it in Germany or any other Western country that chooses to be on the wrong side of history by supporting Israel’s 72-year-long War on Palestinians.
– Timo Al-Farooq is a journalist and political analyst from the gentrified wastelands of Berlin, the capital of the Merkelian Postdemocratic Republic. Based in London. Visit his website www.torial.com/timo.al-farooq. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.