Fighting Germany’s genocide drive

Portraits from BJA’s recent action at the German Embassy.

Fighting Germany’s genocide drive
Placing stickers reading 'Free Palestine from German Guilt' on a structure outside London's German Embassy. Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

On Friday 7 June, the Black Jewish Alliance (BJA) held an action outside the German Embassy in London. We chose this location because Germany, the second largest seller of arms to Israel, holds a very specific role in upholding Zionism. Germany claims to have dealt with its own genocidal history through Holocaust memorialisation, but its support for the genocide of the Palestinians shows that extreme racialised violence remains in the picture. We came to show Germany and the rest of Europe that "Never Again" is for everyone.

BJA is an anti-Zionist collective of radical Black Jews, Black non-Jews, and non-Black Jews that came together in 2021 to rebuild communal and political Jewish practice beyond colonialism and Israel. We organise on the basis of solidarity between Black and Jewish communities, which are inherently interlinked through our shared histories of racialised violence and joint, radical resistance. We were founded in a context of tensions between Black and Jewish communities, underscored by claims of inter-communal racism, lack of solidarity and the changed social positions of Jews and Black folk to wider society, and to each other.

Our action outside the German embassy sought to demonstrate why Black and Jewish people need to struggle together. Germany's past and present perpetration of genocide, including the Herero and Nama genocide, the Holocaust (including both the Shoah and the Porajmos), the genocide in Palestine, as well as its active support of the Ottoman genocide of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians, demonstrates the historical links between anti-Black racism, antisemitism, and anti-Palestinian racism. Colonial racism doesn't disappear, it transforms. In James Baldwin’s words: “If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

Nadz gives their speech in front of a banner that reads "Free Palestine from German Guilt". Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

As a crowd gathered at the Embassy around banners which read “Free Palestine from German Guilt” and “From the River to the Sea, Fuck you Germany”, a BJA member opened the evening with an introduction and grounding in remembrance of the victims of genocide in Palestine. In our remembrance, we acknowledged the role of both Germany and Britain in facilitating the genocide, in words and in weapons, through providing money, arms and political cover to the occupying Israeli forces.

Reading from the anti-Zionist Jewish bloc siddur. Cover reads "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free". Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

We brought in Shabbat with the Jewish Bloc’s anti-Zionist siddur, which contains the usual prayers for bread, wine and candles, but also poems written by Palestinian comrades, and anti-Zionist definitions of terms like Yisrael, interpreted to mean not the nation state, but “those who wrestle and struggle with God.”

Sharing wine for the bracha. Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

We then heard from Palestinian, German, Black and Jewish speakers who shared their expertise on Germany’s history of supporting and enacting genocide. They included Nadz, a Black Jewish German citizen; Moe from BLM UK and the Decolonial Centre; Howie, a Jewish academic researching genocide and collective violence in Germany; and Hanna, a Palestinian-German activist, academic and playwright. Special guest Wieland Hoban, chair of Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East), a German-based group, joined us in person as well. We learned from these speakers in detail about the manifestation of race in German, the Herero and Nama genocide’s connection to Palestine, and the idea of the singularity of the Shoah.

The crowd listens to Moe's talk. Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

As Howie told the crowd, Germany continues to propound the notion that the Shoah was a break with the natural course of Western liberalism, one that has never happened before or since. This is an obvious negation of, for example, slavery and the West's violent colonial history. The Western world sees Germany as having committed the worst crime possible, to which nothing else can compare. This idea, known as the singularity thesis, asserts that no other community has suffered a slaughter so horrific, and that no other community ever will. This notion undermines solidarity between racialised communities and makes it impossible for some people to view the horror in Gaza as a genocide.

This provides the ideological cover for the emergence of the Israeli ethno-nation state: a settler colonial project that regards itself through the lens of the singularity of Jewish experience in and at the hands of Germany. Germany, in turn, views Israel as both an outpost of its political interests in the region and the resolution for its Holocaust shame, as is clearly legible in Angela Merkel’s proposition that Israel is Germany’s Staatsraison (reason of state). Any criticism of Israel is therefore seen to be anti-German, and the response from the German state is, consequently, violent and repressive. Hanna told us how Germany’s reason of state is increasingly translated into the erasure of Palestine and Palestinians, as “Palestinians are denied not only the permission to narrate our own life stories, but German logic outright negates the possibility of our existence.”

It is through this lens of “fighting” antisemitism that Germany characterises and justifies its support for genocide in Gaza. White, Christian, antisemitic violence is projected onto Muslims, Palestinians, and people of colour, rather than interrogated at home. Two Palestinian comrades in Germany who have faced intense police repression shared video messages with us which we played through the speaker. Salah Said, campaigner and founder of NGO Worldcitizen, and American journalist Hebh Jamal  explained how the German state has brutally targeted them and their comrades – Palestinian, Jewish, and others – who call for an end to the genocide. Groups have reported violent arrests, raids and bank account closures

A woman sits outside the German Embassy in a keffiyeh watched by police. Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

Jamal shared this crucial insight: “Instead of facing their history of colonisation and the politics of dehumanisation that made the Holocaust possible…Germany unconditionally agrees with and supports a state that claims to be the representative of Jewish people worldwide. In order to do this, they first have to silence, censor, sideline and criminalise Palestinian identity in ways no other country except the state of Israel has done before. We are a pesky nuisance getting in the way of their tactical response to the Holocaust – which is of course, material support for Israel.”

The history of Germany's enthusiastic support for genocide demonstrates that murderous violence goes through cycles and renewals. Each generation gives a different target, a different shade, a different language, a different religion, but the same outcome: mass death, annihilation, and a new generation of traumatised people. If we don't say, forcefully and without equivocation, never again for anyone, then it will soon be again for someone, and eventually everyone.▼

A participant of the action wears a watermelon kippah. Credit: Black Jewish Alliance
A participant places stickers outside the Germany Embassy. Credit: Black Jewish Alliance

Black Jewish Alliance is an anti-Zionist collective of radical Black Jews, Black non-Jews, and non-Black Jews. BJA organises on the basis of solidarity between Black and Jewish communities, and works to rebuild communal and political Jewish practice beyond colonialism and Israel. Follow BJA on Instagram and Twitter. 

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