Pro-Palestine demonstrations have been banned in Germany and cultural and literary events have been banned (Getty Images)

BERLIN – In order to begin a protracted legal battle against the Berlin municipality, the Oyoun Cultural Center needed €72,<> from donors who believe in freedom of expression and freedom of art in Germany, and only a few days after the launch of the fundraising campaign, the center was able to raise a larger amount.

Donations are a matter of life and death for the cultural center located in the suburb of "Newkoln", where a large Arab community lives, after the decision of the city's Senate (executive body) to stop funding the center, as it was provided with one million euros annually to support its activities that focus on supporting artistic and cultural projects from the angle of decolonization and supporting feminist and immigrant voices.

According to the center's management, the reason for the suspension of support is that the center hosted a seminar by the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, which supports Palestinian rights, and the BDS movement. The management of the center learned that the city council plans to close it within 5 weeks, to decide to knock on the doors of the judiciary.

"This seminar and our centre have been linked to a hidden anti-Semitism, without any investigation into this allegation," said Luna Speu, director of the center, adding that the Berlin Council's decision to stop funding "contradicts its promise to guarantee financial support until at least the end of 2025."

The council has not officially announced the cancellation of funding, but is considering granting the state-owned building to another association, especially following a rise in criticism of the center's activities in hosting activities that are strongly critical of Israel.

The council has promised the cultural center support up to 2025, while the council says the promise is non-binding and could end funding this year.

Luna Speu, director of the Oyoun Cultural Center in Berlin: Our center has been linked to anti-Semitism without investigation (Al Jazeera)

Frequent cancellation

The decisions of the German authorities mean not only "the termination of the work of a number of artists, but also the closure of spaces for cultural participation," according to Luna Speu, adding that these "partially arbitrary decisions are a wake-up call for freedom of expression and cultural diversity in Germany."

German authorities in several cities have cancelled invitations to artists, writers and university professors because of their opinions, and banned several activities in recent weeks.

The decisions to cancel the accusations of "anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel" have become an almost daily news in Germany since the beginning of the Israeli occupation aggression on the Gaza Strip, especially since Berlin considers Israel's security and support "supreme national interest."

Al Jazeera Net counted the cancellation of at least 10 events during the past weeks for these reasons. A museum in Essen (west of the country) cancelled an art performance by Anis Dublin, an artist from Haiti because of his stances in support of Palestine. So did an exhibition in the western city of Saarbrücken with South African Jewish artist Candice Britz, who has recently been highly critical of Israel.

The team at the Documenta Contemporary German Art Gallery also resigned en masse due to the great pressure it was subjected to, especially after the controversy that one of its members signed a petition to boycott Israel. The resignation letter noted the impossibility of "organizing an artistic show that allows for diverse perspectives, perceptions and discourses."

Time magazine named photographer Shahidol Allam, from Bangladesh, as one of the 2018 personalities, known for supporting Palestine (Getty Images)

BDS Movement

It may even be literature, such as the cancellation of the coronation ceremony of the Palestinian novel Adania Shibli "A Small Detail" at the Frankfurt Fair, simply because the novel talks about the Nakba. German-British writer Sharon Duduwa Otto also decided to forfeit a literary prize she would have received in Bochum this month, after the city hall announced an investigation into the author's signing of a call to boycott Israel in 2015.

Three German cities also canceled the Biennale for contemporary photography, which was to welcome the work of three photographers from Bangladesh. The event management said that one of the photographers, Shahidul Alam, had "published anti-Semitic posts" and refused to remove "racist" comments, which could not be accepted "given Germany's historical responsibility towards Israel."

Allam, named by Time magazine as one of the 2018 personalities, is a pro-Palestine activist who asserted that he is anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic. The other two photographers also stood in solidarity with him and refused to attend the event, and it was also ruled canceled.

Much of the cancellation decisions stem from positions supporting the boycott of Israel, which has been classified as anti-Semitic in Germany since 2019 by a decision of the German parliament, which calls on German states and municipalities to refrain from supporting events organized by this movement.

But the decision remains controversial, and while the Berlin Administrative Court ruled it did not violate the law, at least seven courts have ruled in favor of activists linked to the movement to organize their events in the face of the authorities' ban, according to a statement by the European Centre for Legal Support.

Munich municipality banned lecture by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe (Getty Images)

Frequent prevention

Recently, the municipality of Munich tried to prevent a lecture by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe on the future of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but the organizers of the "Salam Shalom" association turned to the judiciary, and were able to obtain a ruling in their favor, and the lecture was finally held.

The Munich Colored Association, which protested the event, said in a statement that the lecture "is expected to focus on questioning or denying Israel's right to exist, which could lead to results including "spreading aggressive anti-Semitism associated with Israel," and stated that the event comes at a time of "increasing anti-Semitic crimes," which will have negative effects on public order.

"One might think that the appearance of an Israeli Jewish historian in Munich should be given special protection, given the constant talk about protecting Jews in Germany, but the Munich municipality's attempt to ban the lecture shows that there are other purposes related to the suppression of opinions," a German activist based in Munich told Al Jazeera Net.

The human rights activist, who asked not to be named, added that the attempt to ban the lecture "can only be classified as part of a general crackdown on activities in support of Palestine," pointing out that the matter affects "in particular Palestinians, whose freedom of expression is restricted, despite the bombing of a number of their acquaintances in Gaza," as well as "Jews and Israelis in solidarity with the Palestinians."

This was not the first time that the Munich municipality tried to prevent a lecture by Ilan Pappe, author of the book "Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine", as the municipality had previously cancelled the reservation of the hall where he was to give a lecture in 2009.

In the face of this repeated ban, Luna Sebou, director of the Oyoun Cultural Centre, stressed the need for those affected to reorganize themselves so that they can continue in a "hostile cultural landscape". More than ever, she said, "we must stand together to fight false claims and strive for cultural diversity and freedom of expression."

Source : Al Jazeera