Are planting trees, building parks and setting up nature reserves “war crimes”? Apparently so for pro-Palestinian activists who on October 4th stormed a concert of elderly Israeli singers raising money for the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) efforts to rebuild the Carmel Park in Haifa that suffered a devastating forest fire in 2010.
It’s happened at concerts, dance performances and on campus: pro-Palestinian activists speaking their minds, or rather shouting their pre-planned talking points, while at the same time manipulatively blocking Israeli artists’ and supporters’ own right to free speech. And like in past cases, this one pitted protesters vs. audience members in physical scuffles, shoving, and knocking each other to the ground.
It hardly matters that this latest protest occurred in Berlin; in the past these orchestrated interruptions have targeted Israel-supporting speakers across American college campuses, at times with the help of Occupy Wall Street activists.
The Israeli choir Gevatron was performing at a JNF fundraiser in a Berlin church when suddenly about a dozen pro-Palestinian activists barged in, shouting, unfurling banners and throwing leaflets into the audience. Many were wearing red shirts stating “Viva Palestina,” while at least one was wearing a black and white keffiya and sporting a mohawk. While the interruption began only with words, it very quickly turned physical.
The group behind the interruption calls itself “Direct Action Berlin” and posted a video of the altercation on YouTube. According to the Israeli site Ynet, activists included Palestinians living in Germany, Iranians, a Spaniard and – perhaps surprisingly – two Israelis.
Any doubts about the peaceful intentions of the protesters were quickly confirmed by the video which shows one female activist marching through the room chanting “From the river to the sea: Palestine will be free.” Translation: Jews should be completely wiped from the territory that comprises Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, that is, between the Jordan River to the East and the Mediterranean Sea to the West.
Direct Action Berlin insists its objectives are not anti-Semitic. In a statement it posted on its Facebook page after the protest, it wrote:
Resisting apartheid is not antisemitism. Resisting war crimes is not antisemitism. Critic against Israel is not antisemitism.
Protesters say their "act of resistance was symbolic and non-violent." Was their protest really non-violent? Here are some screen shots from the video they posted. This is the only video that appears to have been posted of the incident. Because it was apparently filmed by the protesters themselves, it's not exactly the most objective documentation. Even so, it provides useful information.
The flyer that activists hurled into the crowd included the allegation that because the Jewish National Fund has over the years purchased land in Israel, this activity constitutes “ethnic cleansing.” It claims the JNF’s parks and nature reserves are built on “Palestinian land, to prevent the return of its people.” The flyer stated: “Don´t donate to ethnic cleansing, don´t enjoy the music of the apartheid!”
Berlin-based Jerusalem Post Correspondent Benjamin Weinthal – who writes extensively about anti-Semitism in Europe spoke to German journalist Alex Feuerherdt, who covers anti-Israel activity in Germany:
“The anti- Semitic character of the ‘protest’ was made clear through two points.” First, he cited the slogan “From the river to the sea: Palestine will be free,” which “can only mean ‘free from Jews.’” Feuerherdt said the second sign the action contained “modern anti- Semitism” involved the protesters’ defamation of the Jewish National Fund, the sponsor of the choir group, as “one of the oldest and effective instruments of Zionist Apartheid and repression in Palestine.”
He said the comparison between Israel and the [former South African] Apartheid system aimed to delegitimize and demonize Israel and was a method that characterized contemporary anti- Semitism.
Feuerherdt added that the “very aggressive action of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] activists deals in no way with peace or the well-being of the Palestinians; rather, the destruction of Israel.”
Weinthal also quoted Gerald Steinberg, who heads the non-profit NGO Monitor, a research institute that monitors anti-Israel bias in non-governmental organizations. He said the concert disruption is just one example of “the penetration of anti- Israel political warfare in Berlin.”
He added, “In this atmosphere, Berlin’s leaders have a moral obligation to act clearly and strongly to condemn all manifestations of such immoral behavior.”
Watch the video of the protest that Direct Action Berlin posted on YouTube: