• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Pro-Gaza, Israel marches choke city centres

DPA/The Local · 25 Jul 2014, 18:00

Published: 25 Jul 2014 11:37 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Jul 2014 18:00 GMT+02:00

Anticipating possible violence against Jews and citing a "marked increase in danger for Israeli establishments", police in Berlin deployed more than 1,000 officers around the opposing demonstrations.

Despite intermittent heavy rain, around the same number of pro-Gaza protesters gathered as expected and paraded along the city's famous Kurfürstendamm shopping street, mostly without incident.

Police briefly obstructed the passage of several banners and signs while they checked their legality. These included the printed slogan 'Stop the genocide, stop the massacre', referring to the ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza. 

Banners also attacked Germany as an arms exporter to Israel, saying 'German arms in murderers' hands are erasing the whole land', and 'Israel bombs while Germany finances'.

But pro-Palestinian organizers urged participants to refrain from racist outbursts and remain peaceful. 

Meanwhile, a few hundred people marched in two concurrent pro-Israeli demos in the capital, with a heavy presence of police officers and vehicles enforcing a cordon between the sides.

"It's important to stand up for the Jews, especial with Germany's history," said German marcher Johanna, 26. 

"I'm protesting against Israeli genocide," countered Ali, 27, as he moved with the rival column. "People in Gaza have no food, no water, and they are dying." 

Some scuffles ensued as a few individuals attempted to break through the police cordon but they were immediately removed from the scene.
 
Marches involving hundreds of people also took places in a number of other cities. 

Government officials had warned earlier that breaches of the law through racial slurs and inciting slogans would be prosecuted, as well as any acts of violence against members of Germany's 200,000-strong Jewish population.

"Anyone who picks a fight in this way with the Jewish community will be doing so also with our law-based state," Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the news agency dpa.

People were entitled to express their views, but when these became "a pure outpouring of hatred and were worded accordingly, these constitute an offence of incitement which must also be dealt with," Maas added.

Emotive date 

An estimated 30,000 Palestinians live in the German capital. Thousands more live in other large cities like Frankfurt, which also saw turbulent protests with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish chants and slogans in the past two weeks.
 
Friday's pro-Palestinian demonstrations had been expected to be especially vociferous as they coincided with the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. It is also known as International Quds Day, initiated by Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 as a focus of Muslim unity against Israel. The date is observed each year by millions of people demanding an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
 
But protest leaders repeatedly urged participants to demonstrate peacefully: "We have no knives, we are burning no flags…Control your emotions, we are in Berlin, not Gaza," one organizer told the crowd around him. 
 
Authorities took some preemptive steps against possible acts of violence against Germany's Jewish community.  

Acting in response to messages posted on Facebook, police in Essen on Thursday detained four men on suspicion of planning an attack on a synagogue in the Ruhr city.   

Complaints filed, debate fuelled

Several politicians have filed complaints with the police and demanded action over anti-Semitic slogans and tirades observed in recent days, including a prayer offered in a Berlin mosque by a Danish imam for the wholesale destruction of Jews by God.

A senior Berlin police official also said prosecutions should be made in certain cases that were observed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged her unwavering support for the country's Jewish community.

The chancellor regarded such outbursts as "an attack on freedom and tolerance and an attempt to shake the foundations of our free and democratic system,"  government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters..

Story continues below…

Speaking on German radio, the general secretary of the Central Committee of Muslims in Germany, Nurhan Soykan, said his organization distanced itself from insults and direct attacks on Jews, and had appealed for restraint.

"But it must also be possible to criticize Israeli policy just like the policy of any country," Soycan added.

The chairman of the German-Israeli committee in the German Parliament, Volker Beck, told Tagesspiegel newspaper that there should be a firm consensus in the country that "Jews in Germany are not responsible for Israel's policies and that we will protect them."

Prior to demonstrations on Friday in Stuttgart and Mannheim, police explicitly warned organizers that anti-Semitic slogans would not be tolerated.

The tensions have produced some unlikely alliances amid attempts to avert excesses witnessed in recent days.

In Berlin, the largest Turkish Muslim organization, the Ditib, is together with the Milli Görüs Jewish association jointly organizing a rally on Sunday to promote mutual understanding.

SEE ALSO: Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Deutsche Bank denies asking Merkel for state aid
Photo: DPA

Deutsche Bank on Wednesday denied rumours it had sought state aid and announced the billion-euro sale of its British insurer Abbey Life, in a bid to reassure investors spooked by a potentially massive US fine.

Munich at high risk of housing bubble: report
A view of Munich. Photo: Pexels.com

Considering buying property in Munich? This report might make you think twice.

After fatal hail storm, south Germany set to see sun
The hail storm in Baden-Württemberg on Monday night left the streets looking like a winter landscape. Photo: DPA.

A hail storm in southwest Germany on Monday night led to the death of one woman, but forecasters predict a bit more sun in the days to come.

Police shoot dead father who attacked daughter's abuser
Police at the scene of the shooting in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Berlin police on Tuesday night shot and killed the father of a young girl at a refugee home as he tried to attack a man who allegedly sexually abused his daughter.

TV celebrity criticized for claiming 70 kg is overweight
Sophie Thomalla. Photo: DPA

Model Sophie Thomalla claimed that promoting models who weigh over 70 kg sets as dangerous an example as skinny supermodels.

UK files show how Spanish spy tricked Nazis over D-Day
Photo: DPA

Secret files released in Britain Wednesday shed new light on how a Spaniard dubbed the greatest double agent of World War II tricked Germany with false intelligence about the D-Day Normandy landings.

Pegida take to Dresden streets - to march against Pegida
Pegida demonstrators. Photo: DPA

Followers of the xenophobic Pegida movement marched in two factions on Monday evening in the capital of Saxony, brandishing fierce accusations of treason against one another.

Analysis
Is it fair to call the AfD far right?
AfD leaders, from left, Georg Pazderski, Frauke Petry and Jörg Meuthen. Photo: DPA.

The AfD has been dubbed "far-right" over the past year as it has taken on a tougher stance against immigration and made gains in state elections. But at what point does one call a group far-right?

Dresden police guard Islamic buildings after mosque attack
The Dresden mosque that was hit by a homemade bomb attack on Monday. Photo: DPA.

All Islamic buildings in the capital of Saxony have been put under police protection on Tuesday after explosive devices were detonated at a mosque and a congress centre in the city.

Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
Photo: DPA

German data protection authorities on Tuesday said they had blocked Facebook from collecting subscriber data from its subsidiary WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,591
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd