Since fleeing Syria a decade ago, Wafa Mustafa has spoken publicly at the United Nations about political prisoners, organized vigils outside war crimes courts and chanted in solidarity with the Iranians, and her activism has garnered attention and praise in Germany, her chosen country, until she went out to a demonstration in support of the Palestinians a few days ago.

The New York Times reported that everything changed for Wafa during that demonstration, which was against the continued Israeli bombardment of Gaza, where police pushed her friend to the ground, and then arrested them both.

Since the outbreak of the war on Gaza, governments across Europe have begun to look at how to contain the fallout from the conflict in their countries, with some imposing strict restrictions on pro-Palestinian protests in particular or banning them altogether citing security concerns, raising concerns about violations of civil liberties.

Prevent or narrow

The authorities have tried to ban pro-Palestinian protests in Austria, Hungary and Switzerland, with some cities taking the approach of banning protests of any kind.

In France, a court rejected a blanket ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, but they can still be banned on a case-by-case basis. Even in cases where protests have not been banned, some government officials have discouraged or strongly condemned pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

According to the New York Times, the debate about what is the legal and legitimate expression of dissent was not as fraught as it was in Germany, where it struck at the core of how a nation defines itself and raised questions about which values should take priority over another.

Germany sees strictly banning criticism of Israel as a necessary part of Holocaust atonement, but many in immigrant communities — Arabs, as well as many Jews and progressive Israelis — say the restrictions not only violate freedom of expression, but are also discriminatory.

A taste of Germany

In recent weeks, Hamburg has banned protests or restricted the number of Palestinian flags that can be waved. In Berlin, officials allowed schools to prevent students from wearing the keffiyeh or the Palestinian flag or its colors.

Police in Berlin said they had blocked more than half of the planned 41 planned Gaza solidarity protests, sometimes on the grounds that they "stir up emotiona" for residents of Palestinian origin.

This included a children's demonstration to mourn Palestinian children killed in Israeli raids last month.

A spokesman for the Palestine Activist Group, who asked not to be identified because of concerns about hate messages, said that for more than two decades, he had felt at home in Berlin, where he works as a pediatric surgeon, but in recent years, he had felt alienated by what he said was an increasingly hostile attitude toward Palestinians and any criticism of Israel.

Jews against Israel

He recalls how the city embraced protests he joined in support of Ukrainian hospitals under Russian bombardment. He said the contrast with the way Germany restricted protests over the suffering of Palestinian civilians was painful: "I feel discriminated against, I feel second-class, I feel shocked."

Wafa Mustafa told the New York Times, "I feel so stupid that I have to say this all the time, but our fight is not against the Jews."

Last month, German police arrested a woman standing in a Berlin square after she refused to put up a poster that read: "As a Jew and an Israeli: Stop the Gaza genocide."

Explaining the reasons for the ban, police told the New York Times that the demonstration was "openly open to participants of Palestinian origin," and Udi Raz, one of the protest organizers, said the police decision was "heartbreaking and anti-democratic in essence."

More than 100 Jewish writers, artists and academics signed a letter condemning Germany's practices, saying, "If this is an attempt to atone for German history, its effect is to risk repeating it."