German authorities barred Palestinian-Canadian journalist Khaled Barakat from speaking at a Palestine solidarity event in Berlin, claiming his âanti-Semiticâ speeches posed a threat to public order and could undermine relations between the country and Israel.
The activist has been prohibited from attending future political events and threatened with up to one year in prison, marking another success in the Israel lobbyâs bid to clamp down on criticism abroad.
Barakat had been invited to speak at an Arab community event in Berlin on 22 June to discuss Palestinian liberation and its implications for other Arab communities, as well as US President Donald Trumpâs so-calledÂ Deal of the Century.
But, he was accosted by police on arrival.
âAs soon as we left the U-Bahn station nearest the venue my wife and I noticed heavy police presence in the area, including multiple vans full of police,â Barakat told The Electronic Intifada.
âI was approached by a group of police and one officer spoke to me. He said: âYou have an event here tonight and you are the speaker âŠ you cannot speak.ââ
The police took Barakat and his wife to a police station where government officials handed him an eight-page document prohibiting him from political activity.
The document, issued by the Berlin Foreigners Registration Office and seen by The Electronic Intifada, states in German that Barakat faces a ban on participating in specific events and a general âlimit on your political activity until you leave the Federal Republic of Germany.â
âThey [representatives of the foreigners office] told me that I am banned from speaking at any public event in Berlin and even attending meetings and gatherings,â Barakat said.
He said was also ordered to avoid social events of âmore than 10 people,â or face a one-year prison sentence.
Barakatâs wife is also a Palestinian rights activist, but not Palestinian and she was not banned.
âAfter I was told to acknowledge that I had received the document we were released from the police station. We also noticed significant police presence on the way home,â Barakat added.
Barakatâs case mirrors that of Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh who wasÂ smeared in the German mediaÂ before being banned from speaking at an event in Berlin for International Womenâs Day earlier this year.
She wasÂ finally forced to leaveÂ the country.
The official document states that Barakatâs political activities âpose a threat to public safety,â that his talk would âimpair and endanger the peaceful coexistence of Germans and foreignersâ and that Germanyâs relationship to Israel could be âconsiderably endangeredâ if he were allowed to speak.
The document also states that it believes Barakat might be working for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine â PFLP â which the document notes is listed as a âterroristâ organization by the US, Israel and the European Union.
However it acknowledges that the group is ânot prohibitedâ in Germany. Israel considers virtually all Palestinian political parties and organizations that militarily resist occupation to be âterroristâ groups.
âIf you look at the campaigns being carried out by Israel and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs against BDS organizations around the world, or Students for Justice in Palestine in the US, they are trying their best to criminalize all movements for Palestine or even human rights organizations by using so-called connections to Hamas and the PFLP,â Barakat said.
Barakat observed that in theÂ leaked Al Jazeera undercover filmÂ The LobbyâUSA, ârepresentatives from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies openly advocated for this tactic and now we are seeing it in practice.â
BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions â a global campaign for Palestinian rights modeled on the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is a Washington-based neoconservative think tank andÂ agentÂ of Israelâs strategic affairs ministry.
The document goes on to list a number of speeches given by Barakat in Germany, but fails to cite any examples of anti-Semitism.
Barakat believes this is because the authorities need to âexaggerate in order to justify their repressive measures.â
Despite offering no examples of anti-Jewish bigotry on Barakatâs part, the government order insists the draconian ban on his political activities is justified because âthe public should be protected from your expected anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.â
Barakat strongly refutes the claim that his speech would have caused tensions between Jewish and Arab communities in Berlin and asserts, rather, that authorities are trying to prevent a united front from emerging.
âThe same forces advocating for and issuing this political ban against me are involved in repressing Jewish voices that criticize Zionism, Israeli policy and German policy on Israel,â he said.
Barakat noted that under Israel lobby pressure, the director of the Jewish Museum Berlin was recentlyÂ forced to resign.
Moreover, the groupÂ Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle EastÂ had itsÂ bank account closed. And, two Jewish activists with Israeli nationality areÂ on trial for criminal chargesÂ alongside a Palestinian activist from Gaza for interrupting an Israeli politician who supported Israelâs 2014 assault on Gaza thatÂ killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 550 children.
These facts, as well as the German parliamentâsÂ recent resolutionÂ smearing the BDS movement as anti-Semitic make it increasingly difficult for activists to advocate for Palestinian human rights.
The people who face the brunt of these attacks are Palestinians themselves.
The racism, political bans and growing repression aside, Barakat remains undeterred: âI firmly believe that the vast majority of people in Germany support justice for the Palestinian people and reject Israeli war crimes and apartheid, but they live in fear and I understand.â
~ Electronic Intifada/Days of Palestine