Why I’m not automatically an “anti-deutsch” white potato just because I criticize the BDS campaign

Fragmentary notes on a disheartening weekend

It’s the week before pride weekend in berlin. I am glad that there will be an alternative march again, but I am also a bit worried. Will there be conflicts around the march again?

Two days before the march, things get rolling. A person asks on facebook how the organizers position themselves with regard to BDS. They position themselves critically, I am relieved but I also suspect that this won’t be the end of it. A discussion begins and a group calls for a “queers for Palestine solidarity block”, within a couple of hours this event gets an enormous number of participants. I am looking forward to the pride less happily. With some friends, I still attend and we agree to meet as far away from that block as possible. On the way to the march, we meet another friend. She says she’s going home because she doesn’t want to do this to herself. I hear this a few times in the next hours. The “queers for Palestine soli block” is large, well-organized and very audible. It intimidates me. I get the feeling that the radical queer march is being taken over by this block.

Differing stories have been told regarding the following events. Why did the police intervene to push away the BDS block – because of the organizers’ request, with their approval or against their will? It is difficult to reconstruct how the police intervention came about. In any case: a police intervention at a left-wing rally is always crap and lefty queers should never go for this!

At the same time: It is also not acceptable that people from the BDS block behaved in a verbally and physically aggressive way towards other participants, for example with sexist slurs. I am not surprised though as this is in line with the events at the 2016 Kreuzberg queer march. But it has since become even worse and more massive.

My mood has gone down the drain. I am frustrated, angry, sad. Many thoughts go through my head this evening and during the following days. I don’t want events like the alternative queer march to be taken away from me, yet this isn’t bearable. The BDS campaign’s arguments are crudely simplifying but that’s what makes them seem so compelling and logical to many people. ‘Culprits’ and ‘victims’ are defined with ease, without any troubling ambivalences or contradictions. That these arguments are being voiced by Black People, People of Color and Jews make them seem almost irresistible to many radical queers who want to show solidarity – particularly to those who subscribe to one-dimensional politics of positioning. The arguments are presented as the only legitimate leftist/radical stance. The “queers for Palestine soli block” is defined as the anti-racist voice of the Radical Queer March, and those who don’t agree with this block’s politics are racist “anti-deutsch” white Germans who haven’t worked through their (ancestors’) historical guilt properly. Whoever is not with us, is against us! Nuances, complexities, differentiations, ambivalences, dissenting opinions, and also the simultaneous fight against racism and antisemitism – there’s no place for this. Just as there seems to be no place for a person who is (also) queer, (also) left-wing and (also) Jewish and who at the same time criticizes the BDS campaign and its forms of politics.

A little later, we also leave the march. We let it pass us. I scan the people in the “queers for Palestine soli block” which has become part of the march again. I am afraid I might see familiar faces. Too big would be the disappointment and the feeling that something stands between us. Amongst antisemitic slogans propagating the obliteration of Israel, people in the block call for solidarity with Khaled Barakat, the speaker of a terrorist organization that murdered several people a few years ago. With all due respect to the plurality of perspectives and opinions: Why on earth is this happening at a queer radical left-wing march? So much for the proclaimed non-violence of the BDS campaign!

After the march, the fight over the correct interpretation of events gets going on social media. A narrative emerges according to which there were PoC, Black people, Jews and refugees on one side and white people on the other side. To me this is a form of strategic defamation and power politics. It draws a clear line between perpetrators and victims and labels everyone a racist who is not an anti-Zionist, or who is critical of BDS. To be clear: It is painfully obvious that the voices and struggles of People of Color, Black People, refugees, migrants, Roma and Sinti and Jews need to be heard and heeded a lot more. Germany is a postcolonial and post-nationalsocialist country. It is still characterized by white dominance and “völkisch” (ethnic-national) ideology. Structural racist and antisemitic violence massively impacts the lives of marginalized people. People are being murdered by right-wing terrorists and no one cares. And there’s still a white Christian dominance in leftist queer spaces, too.

However, the political style of BDS and its supporters cannot be a response to these conditions. I have the impression that BDS activists don’t really want to make visible the voices of racially marginalized people – not in their plurality. Instead BDS performs a strategic whitening of everyone who is not on their side. This particularly affects those PoC, Black People, refugees and Jews who did not walk with the “queers for Palestine soli block” and who hold differing opinions. But they were there, even on the loudspeaker van!

And even if there are white non-Jewish Germans who are opposed to the politics of BDS: Why can’t they bring up their critical attitude towards antisemitic positions without being vilified as racists? Because they have the wrong political positions? Because antisemitism is not to be taken seriously as a structure of oppression? What white Germans say who run with the “queers for Palestine soli block” is okay because they have the “right” position? Are only those to be heard who have the “correct” opinion? Isn’t it possible to be against the racist politics of a national state and still to act in solidarity with Jews, who by the way can be Black or People of Color, too? Is it legitimate to act against a differing position with physical violence? Once again it becomes clear that BDS supporters are not interested in discussion but want to impose their position in an authoritarian way.

The fact that this situation has established itself as the status quo of political debates in Berlin’s queer scene leaves me angry and sad. It divides our communities and paralyzes political struggles that need to be fought in these times!

Right now, within left-wing queer spaces in Berlin, the only Jewish voice that is audible (or listened to) is one that supports BDS politics. It is mainly brought up by Jewish ex-pats that follow the same politics here as they did in Israel, the USA or elsewhere. Supporters of BDS ignore the German context completely. I wonder whether they have any idea what it means to grow up and live as a Jew in a country in which antisemitic discrimination and violence is an everyday occurrence, a constant threatening presence. A country which is characterized by the failure to make a radical break after the Shoah and national socialism, instead building on structural and personnel continuities whose effects continue to this day. Do they know what it means to permanently live in state of invisibility, to be a minority? Do they take antisemitism seriously as a structure of oppression? Anti-Zionism means something else in Israel or the USA, context plays an important role and should be taken into account. And my criticism cannot be rejected and derailed by pointing at Nazi grandparents!

Days later, I am still disillusioned. Where do we go from here? It makes me sad that once again, the attempt has failed to organize a left-wing radical pride march. The alternative CSD collapsed because of the same conflict (see link above). A block that acts so massively accepts the possibility of this collapse, or maybe that was even the goal? Maybe it was all about politics of power: a strategic escalation to put one’s own issue on the agenda while rendering other issues invisible. Not only where other issues of the radical queer march pushed aside. Also, critical voices were ignored and strategically vilified, and those Jews, People of Color and Black People who hold different opinions were ignored and erased. You’re not the only left-wing radical Jewish voice and I’m not automatically an “anti-deutsch” white potato – deal with it!

 

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