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18 September 2011
*PALESTINE/ISRAEL REFLECTION: You come from Germany?*
by Benjamin Krauß
Friday, 9 September, our group of mostly German Mennonites, in the first
German-speaking CPT delegation, participated in a Women in Black vigil. The
Women in Black are Israelis, including Holocaust survivors, who silently
protest the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine by gathering at the
same spot in West Jerusalem at the same time every week since the first
Intifada. They hold up signs in the shape of a black hand bearing the
slogan, “End the Occupation” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
At the vigil we encountered animosity by Israeli passers-by and many of us
felt uncomfortable taking part in the protest because German history.
However, although we could respond to insulting gestures and shouting and
even aggressive Israeli youth by smiling and silently praying for them, we
were not prepared for one particular Jewish reaction, even though we all knew
exactly what that reaction would be. The challenge of how Germans,
responsible for the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews,
could dare criticize Israel, the perceived safe haven for the Jewish people.
And of course, exactly that happened. During the protest, an angry Jewish
American confronted us and asked one of us accusingly: “Where do you come
from?” My colleague stuttered, “Germany.”
“FROM GERMANY?!?! SHE COMES FROM GERMANY! THESE PEOPLE COME FROM
GERMANY!” He was screaming it at all the cars stopped at the lights. And
I felt paralyzed. This reaction was the thing I was most afraid of during
my stay here in Palestine/Israel: “You, a German, sent us to the gas. How
dare you criticize us?!”
Although the Holocaust happened almost seventy years ago and I personally
had nothing to with it, wasn’t he still right? Are there not other issues
more appropriate for Germans to protest? Some issues not as historically
Several Israelis have told our group that we Germans should stop treating
Israel as a special case. We should treat the human rights violations of the
occupation as such and not justify them with the Shoah.
This response was helpful, but I still had a troubled conscience. We
asked the Women in Black what they felt and one of them said: “You’re our
friends and you’re standing with us in solidarity. You haven’t just come
here with your own agenda, demanding something. You came and looked for
Israelis whom you could support. The oldest amongst us Women in Black are
German Jews who had to flee the Nazis. Now we are living here and protesting
the occupation. The man who attacked you does not even live here, and yet
still he thinks he knows who’s allowed to criticize Israel and who isn’t.
It is terribly embarrassing for us to have such people as him here in
I will continue to ask myself the question what I as a German can say and
do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what I can’t. But these
brave Israeli women have helped me overcome a large part of my guilt complex.
CPT's MISSION: What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline
and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized,
nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in
regions of lethal conflict.
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