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Germany bans doctor who worked in Gaza, ends Palestinian conference

BERLIN — Police disrupted and banned a Palestinian solidarity conference in Berlin and arrested more than a dozen participants, hours after a British Palestinian doctor who was scheduled to speak at the event said authorities German authorities had “prevented him by force” from entering the country.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a reconstructive plastic surgeon who spent 43 days treating the wounded in Gaza City last year, said he was interrogated for three hours at Berlin airport before being told that he was not allowed to enter the country. He said he was also informed that he was not allowed to record videos that could be broadcast at events in Germany during this period.

The German Interior Ministry did not respond to emails seeking comment.

“As lawyers, we will discuss his expulsion from Germany with the authorities and await a full explanation of how he was treated today,” he added. said Tayab Ali, who portrays Abu Sitta, on

“They want to silence Palestinian voices,” Abu Sitta said at a protest at the German embassy in London after returning to Britain. “When you see what they are doing to the people of Gaza, it’s nothing. They want to silence the witnesses.

Shortly after being turned away at immigration, the Palestinian conference he was scheduled to speak at – which accuses Germany of being complicit in “apartheid and Israeli genocide” on its website – was dispersed by the police.

German officials have characterized the country’s crackdown on pro-Palestinian voices since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack as a fight against anti-Semitism, paramount for the state given its Holocaust history.

Critics countered that Germany’s intention was to stifle voices critical of Israel’s war and pointed out the authorities’ softness when it came to white German anti-Semitism. ‘far right.

In February, Israeli filmmaker Yuval Abraham caused a storm at the Berlin International Film Festival after calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Police interrupted the Palestinian solidarity conference about a minute after a video message from Salman Abu Sitta, Ghassan Abu Sitta’s uncle, was broadcast. “We have never before seen all the means of life systematically destroyed: hospitals, clinics, schools, universities, libraries, ancient monuments, mosques, universities, cemeteries, apartment buildings,” he said before the police intervention.

“Be calm, they are embarrassing themselves,” an organizer told participants as police interrupted the live broadcast. About 30 police officers were in the room with 250 participants to monitor the event, participants said. They then cut off the building’s electricity.

Berlin police said they broke up the event because Salman Abu Sitta was “prohibited from being politically active in Germany.” Seventeen people were arrested, according to a police statement which did not give further details on the arrests.

“There is a risk of displaying on screen a speaker who in the past has made anti-Semitic and violence-glorifying remarks,” Berlin police said. said on social networks. The last two days of the conference were banned, the press release said.

Wieland Hoban – the president of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, which co-organized the event – ​​said organizers were not informed that Salman Abu Sitta was under arrest. prohibition of speaking. Two of the group’s members were arrested, including one who held up a “Jews against genocide” sign outside the event venue in the morning.

The conference – and Salman Abu Sitta’s participation in particular – sparked controversy before it even began, with Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, saying he was in favor of banning the author of enter the country. In a blog post published in January, Salman Abu Sitta wrote that he “could have been among those who crossed the fence” if he had been younger and still living “in the concentration camp called the Gaza Strip “.

Organizers said about 100 police officers were at the event Friday morning, but told them of no concerns about the conference schedule. In the morning, police had told organizers that building and fire regulations meant only 250 participants would be allowed to attend instead of 850.

Berlin Mayor Kai Wagner praised the police action. “We have clarified which rules apply in Berlin,” he tweeted. “We have made it clear that hatred towards Israel has no place in Berlin. Anyone who does not follow these rules will face consequences. »


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