In solidarity with Ballhaus Naunynstraße and the curators of the festival “After the last Sky”
(This is a translation of our German Statement “Gegen rechte Zensur – in Israel und Deutschland)
In the past one and a half years the Netanyahu government, which can be considered the most right-wing extremist government in the history of Israel, has tried to silence Jewish and non-Jewish left-wing voices. Cultural institutions in and outside of Israel that give room to a critique of the Israeli occupation and its concomitant policies as well as to Palestinian voices of resistance are increasingly pressured and face defamations by public campaigns against them.
German journalists and organizations are complicit in this strategy of silencing the imporant individuals and institutions critical of Israel. By doing so they work to prevent the emergence of a public discourse in Germany surrounding the basic human rights that have been denied to Palestinians for decades. Recently, the unfounded accusations against the Berlin theatre “Ballhaus Naunynstraße” and, more concretely, the curators of the festival “After the last Sky”, which took place at Ballhaus Naunynstraße from early September until early October 2016 – the first month-long international and interdisciplinary Palestinian cultural festival to take place in Germany – have shown that those complicit in this strategy don’t stop short of defamation.
Media reports claimed that using terms such as ethnic cleansing to describe the actions carried out by Israeli armed forces on the Palestinian population in 1947-1948 or apartheid to characterize the current system of rule in the occupied territories is invalid, one-sided and an act of incitement. But research in Israeli archives, meticulously carried out by various renowned Israeli and Palestinian historians, has proven that the systematic expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 was indeed a case of ethnic cleansing. The terms “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” have been defined by international law. sraeli as well as international Human Rights organizations evoke this common legal definition when they describe the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as apartheid. Simply put, two ethnically grounded juridical systems exist there side by side: Palestinians are subjected to Israeli military courts whereas Jewish settlers are subjected to Israeli civil law. Is everyone alluding to this fact an antisemite?
The authors of the disparaging media reports about Ballhaus Naunynstraße and the curators of the festival want us to believe that. However, we strongly oppose the defamation implied in the act of referring to the naming of simple facts in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Terriroties as “one-sided” or “incitement.” We also strongly oppose equating the non-violent movement calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it meets its human rights and other international legal obligations with antisemitism. In a recent statement of June 2016 we made this clear declaring our solidarity with BDS activists worldwide, not least because we consider equating the BDS movement with antisemitism a false and dangerous trivialization of antisemitism and accusations of antisemitism.
The claims brought forward against Ballhaus Naunynstraße, the curators and various contributors to the festival „After the last Sky“ prove to be unfounded. A short fact-check as can be expected of any professional journalist shows clearly that neither words nor actions of incitement occurred during the festival. Rather, by naming the various crimes committed by Israeli governments of the past and the present only facts were stated. In the Hebrew-language media coverage these facts have long been known and in the last years particularly have been reported on almost on a daily basis. But n Germany they remain unknown (or largely unknown) as a result of the systematic supression of the voices that try to bring them to light. Instead, fearmongering is used to restrict freedom of expression in order for Israel to be able to continue its oppressive policies without protest but with German and other international support.
In the face of this and other similar cases we feel compelled to clearly take a side and show our support and solidarity with those silenced. We support the important anti-racist work of Ballhaus Naunystraße and we are grateful to the theatre as well as the curators of the festival “After the last Sky“ for being brave and having stimulated the critical discourse on Israel-Palestine in Germany by inviting artists to show and discuss their work and interventions.
We will not be silenced and we will not let others be silenced.