Germany: Some Hate Speech ‘More Equal than Others’

Jul 2, 2019 by

by Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute:

In June, the “Al Quds Day” march took place in Berlin. Al Quds Day, in the words of the late historian Robert S. Wistrich, is “The holiday proclaimed by Khomeini in 1979 to call for Israel’s annihilation” which “has since been celebrated worldwide…”

In Germany, Al Quds Day marches have been taking place in the country’s capital since the 1980s[1], first in Bonn and since 1996 in Berlin. On Al Quds Day in December 2000, more than 2,000 demonstrators in the Kurfürstendamm — a central boulevard in Berlin — called for “the liberation of Palestine and the holy city of Jerusalem”. In November 2002, only one year after 9/11, the march featured slogans such as “Death to Israel” and “Death to the USA”. At the march in 2016, the slogans were, among others, “Death to Israel”, “Zionists kill children”, and so on.

Despite nearly four decades of such rhetoric — the kind that is arguably capable — according to paragraph 130 of Germany’s Criminal Code, which prohibits hate speech — “of disturbing the public peace” by inciting “hatred against a national, racial, religious group or a group defined by their ethnic origins”, German authorities have continually refused to ban the Al Quds Day march. The argument is, reportedly, that the Administrative Court would overrule such a ban. “A constitutional state must act in accordance with the rule of law,” said the spokesperson for the interior administration of the city of Berlin, Martin Pallgen. “Freedom of assembly and expression also applies to those who reject the rule of law”. Instead, German authorities have prohibited marchers from being overtly anti-Semitic and inciting hatred against Jews. The exercise is a bit like telling a neo-Nazi march please to cover up the swastikas to look more presentable.

It has not helped. In 2016, police issued specific instructions for the march’s participants, banning them from expressing anti-Semitic views or inciting violence against Jews. That restriction, according to Benjamin Steinitz, the director of the Berlin-based Department for Research and Information on anti-Semitism (RIAS), curbed the undisguised hate speech somewhat, but led to the use of “coded messages”, frequently in Arabic or Farsi, which most German police do not speak. “So,” said Steinitz in 2017, “the police regulations have had some effect, but since the goal of this demonstration is the dismantling of the State of Israel, the anti-Semitic content is always there.”

Indeed, according to Der Tagesspiegel, despite the specific police instructions of previous years, in the June 2018 march, the police had to issue the following instructions to the participants:

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