German Police Fine Jewish Activist For Staging Pro-Israel Counter-Demonstration at Palestinian Rally
(Illustrative) Pro-Palestinian demonstrators clash with German riot police in Berlin on May 15, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Christian Mang
A Jewish communal official in the German city of Hanover has accused the local authorities of “criminalizing” the fight against antisemitism after she was fined for organizing a counter-demonstration at a pro-Palestinian rally where her father-in-law was assaulted for carrying an Israeli flag.
“The fight against antisemitism is being criminalized,” Rebecca Seidler — the director of the Liberal Jewish Community in Hanover — told the Welt news outlet during an extensive interview this week. “We are being made into perpetrators.”
Seidler recalled that on Apr. 23, she and her father-in-law, Michael Höntsch, arrived at the pro-Palestinian rally in downtown Hanover to register their protest and observe the proceedings alongside six other colleagues. When the 67-year-old Höntsch — a former member of parliament in the state of Lower Saxony for the center-left SPD Party — silently waved an Israeli flag, he was violently pushed to the ground by a demonstrator. Police later arrested the 55-year-old assailant and have initiated a criminal prosecution.
Seidler said that after the attack on her father-in-law, who walks with the aid of a cane, she spoke with the local police commander, urging him to de-escalate the increasingly heated situation. Because the official claimed that Seidler had organized her counter-protest without giving advance notice, she “was then informed that there would be a lawsuit against me, which irritated me a lot,” she said.
“I would have liked the police to have protected my father-in-law from attack, instead of underestimating the situation,” Seidler added. “And I wanted the pro-Palestinian rally to have been shut down after the attack.”
Seidler said she was examining whether to lodge an appeal against the fine of 128.50 Euros (about $125). She noted that despite a notice being read out at the commencement of the pro-Palestinian rally warning against antisemitic slogans, “none of that was complied with.”
A video of the rally showed several inflammatory slogans being chanted at the rally, among them “child murderer Israel” and “Zionism is racism.”
A spokesperson for the Hanover police department told Welt that the rally had been peaceful until the counter-demonstrators had turned up “waving an Israeli flag.” The spokesperson asserted that tensions between the two groups of demonstrators had followed as a result, and that they were consequently separated. He added that “administrative offense proceedings for violating the Lower Saxony Assembly Act” had been initiated against Seidler.
Other German Jewish leaders voiced support for Seidler. “It is a fatal sign for civil society engagement when it is criminalized,” said Elio Adler, the chair of the German-Jewish Values Initiative, an NGO. “The police should have shown more tact at that moment.”