On Saturday November 7th the association „Jüdisch-Palästinensiche Dialoggruppe München“ held an event in the Gasteig in Munich. The city handed over the room for this talk without demanding any rent. In a statement before the talk the chief of the city library stated that n a democratic pluralistic society the option has to be given for all parties to speak out their opinion. Someone in the audience therefore shouted: “Why don’t you give it to the NPD” (NPD = National Democratic Party / far right/neonazi party). This rent free handover caused a reaction of Charlotte Knobloch and the event was mentioned in international newspapers. „BDS“ – boycott, divestment & sanctions – is a internationally controversial idea of boycotting products from Israel.
How BDS works
The barcode on products tells the costumer the origin of the good. Every country has its own code – products from Germany for example start with 401. As Israel is the state for jewish people – but not a jewish state – the statement to boycott Israeli products to me seems pretty equal to: „Kauft nicht bei Juden.“ – used by neonazis 77 years ago, asking german citizens to boycott jews.
Christopher Ben Kushka held the talk about this topic. He is officially part of the BDS organization, so the opinions of the organization can be concluded from his talk.
First off Ben Kushka explained the principles of BDS and how BDS works. Then he started with the reasons for a boycott – which are criminal offenses against humanity, according to him. From the beginning on members of the jewish community also listened to talk. Some of them brought Israel flags. Those were forced to hide the flags, and later visitors that payed for the ticket were not let in because they had an Israel flag with them. As Christopher Ben Kushka started to list the „criminal offenses against humanity“ and „UN resolutions acted on Israel“ members of the jewish community were not able to hold back anymore and started asking questions loudly about sources and about reasons for e.g. „the wall“. Amongst those members of the jewish community were survivors of concentration camps, also Marian Offman – city council member – and many others that have to cope with antisemitism in their daily lives and in history. The referent then continued after demanding people to be quiet and ignoring their questions. As he simply ignored the questions, anger started rising amongst the audience. Just minutes later people started asking questions loudly once again. As one older lady could not hold back her anger he decided to call the security company serving Gasteig on her. Police also showed up. After short chaos the situation settled as Marian Offman asked over the microphone to endure this talk and then later join a discussion. Ben Kushka continued with lots of pictures from Palestine as he just arrived back from a visit. Then concluded with the names of companies that are boycotted and explained that the EU is going to enact a law forcing products from Israel to be branded which makes boycott easier. All in all the referent did not mention the Hamas a single time – topic was only what Israel is doing cruel to Palestine and how cruel the IDF is. Racism on twitter by IDF soldiers was mentioned – on the other hand Ben Kushka did not talk about antisemitsm by people from palestine at all.
More excerpts from the talk and opinions were gathered by my colleague Josef A. Preiselbauer on his blog (in german): http://www.preiselbauer.de/2015/11/09/bds-boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-gegen-israel-ein-vortrag-in-muenchen/
Discussions after the talk
As the talk was over the referent gave people the option to get a microphone handed and ask questions. Questions were answered always 3-in-1 which led to lots of questions being unanswered. One man that tried to show another view was not able to finish his talk because one of the organizers tried to rip away his microphone. Also a survivors of 5 concentration camps that fought in several Israeli wars tried to explain his opinion finishing his talk with:
„We would like to live in peace, but politics [of both sides] don’t let us.“
Before and after demonstrators hold up Israeli flags to demonstrate their solidarity with Israel and protest against antisemitism. The protestors stayed very peaceful. Just after the talksome were shouted at by a man that also attended the talk and physically attacked by an older man that also gave an interview to a TV station.
Something that rather irritated me: I was repeatedly asked by the holders of the event if I am a member of the „Grüne Jugend“ the youth organization of the ecological party. When I asked the holder of the event (that also spoke at pro-palestine demonstrations one year earlier and gave a colleague and me an interview, that was disprupted by his followers and led to a damage of my camera, corrupting the video) what the problem is with the „Grüne Jugend“ he stated:
„Das sind Arschlöcher! Anti-deutsche Arschlöcher!“
[roughly translated: they are assholes, anti-german assholes]
Also there were flyers laying around before the event I took with me as sources to report about. After the talk somebody removed those. An old lady that was also holder of the event started shouting at me because I was supposively the one that took all of them.
Attached is an example of the flyers that were layed out (the call for boycott of Israeli products by the palestinian community):
All impressions from the talk: