Palestine, Feminism, and the Pitfalls of Liberalism—in Germany and Beyond

In the wake of the Nemi El-Hassan affair, Anna-Esther Younes and Noor Blaas discuss race, feminism, and figurations of the Palestinian in Germany today.

43 min read

The disinformation campaign against Palestinian-German journalist Nemi El-Hassan is one of the recent manifestations of the anti-Palestinian racism that has come to dominate German discourse. El-Hassan was unhired as the host of a TV-show on a German public-broadcasting network after facing accusations of Islamism and anti-Semitism. The ‘evidence’: her attendance of the Al-Quds day march in 2014, and the fact that she liked several Instagram posts a Jewish pro-Palestinian organisation.

An article in the Berliner Zeitung revealed how the WDR subjected El-Hassan to an ‘internal investigation’ meant to ‘rehabilitate’ her as a journalist, including a series of interviews in which she had to testify to her understanding of Islam, her religious traditions, her alleged Islamist family ties and to whether the establishment of the state of Israel and her family’s expulsion from Palestine constitutes a “defining theme at family celebrations”. The Israeli news magazine +927 reported that the attacks made on El-Hassan by the major German newspapers bore a suspicious resemblance to the attacks made on her a month earlier by Irfan Peci, a far-right YouTuber with ties to the neo-fascist AfD party Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD), and concluded that El-Hassan’s inquisition was, indeed, not aimed at fighting anti-Semitism but at suppressing her Palestinian political existence.

As shocking as these revelations may appear to a reader who has only recently become acquainted with the German context, they are, unfortunately, nothing new. Nemi El-Hassan’s case is part of a long list of academics, artists, and activists who have faced repression, public character assassinations and social exclusion in Germany.

It is an expression of the extensive culture of inquisition against members of the largest Palestinian diaspora in Europe and brings to light the peculiar role that ‘anti-Semitism’ plays in contemporary German discourse. Indeed, since fighting anti-Semitism and supporting the safety of Israel is part of Germany’s post-Holocaust ‘raison d’état’, as declared by Merkel in 2018, and since anti-Semitism is presented as a threat to the German political system and its “liberal democratic basic order”, as described in the anti-BDS resolution that was passed in the Bundestag in 2019, earning one’s ticket to speak in the German public as a respected voice is based on one’s acceptance of anti-Palestinian public discourse—leading to the German left’s perpetual failure to provide solidarity to Palestinians.

This serves as a reminder of how the ‘memory’ of the Holocaust is susceptible to being strategically instrumentalised for national rehabilitation politics, in order to legitimise both the explicit sanctioning of settler-colonial violence in Palestine, as well as forms of marginalisation and “racial governance in an ethnically diverse, yet white supremacist country”, as Anna-Esther Younes writes.

In this interview, Anna-Esther Younes and Noor Blaas discuss why Palestine should be a feminist issue, and a matter of concern to everyone interested in anti-racism.

NBAnna, thanks for being here. I very much appreciated our exchanges during the course of my fieldwork! I think that most people who are concerned with the topic of memory politics and its instrumentalisation in Germany have closely followed Nemi El-Hassan’s case over the last few weeks. It’s a very blatant expression of the system of surveillance and censorship that has been constructed to discipline Palestinian voices in Germany. Similar things have happened to many other people, including to you. How can we contextualise everything that has happened from the perspective of feminist and critical race theory?

AYHello, Noor, I am happy that we can continue our conversations this way. Maybe we should mention that our conversations also result from your fieldwork here in Berlin, Germany, and your recent publications, which I liked a lot. And yes, you are right, Nemi El-Hassan’s case is coming at a time after there have been dozens of others already.

Especially with the recent passing of bell hooks in mind, there is much to say why Palestine should be seen as a feminist issue: bell hooks raised many of us into a world of feminism where whiteness isn’t the dominant frame of reference or viewpoint through which to analyse and see the world and the various different experiences of womanhood, queerness or non-hegemonic masculinities writ-large. In her analyses, she taught us that Whiteness can also be understood and felt as “terror” when understood from the perspective of Black or brown people. In order to deconstruct racism though she believed that a white “anti-racist might be able to understand the way in which their cultural practice reinscribes white supremacy without promoting paralysing guilt or denial.” bell hooks turned around white paranoia that projects and thus views Blackness, or the racial Other generally, as “terror”, as a personal or social “threat”, or as child-like or animalistic and named it for what it is: a creation and projection of whiteness. Those analyses have also been important for Palestinians whose existence is also often-times seen as “terror” or “dangerous” in Germany for allegedly bringing a “new” kind of anti-Semitism (or terrorism) to this country and by extension Europe.

A feminism that is radical for bell hooks is also and always must be suspicious of nationalism and state power, including of the elites manifesting and furthering it. In her critiques of what she called “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” we see an intellectual who understood that white fantasies of Otherness and nationalism cohere on marked bodies differently, and the ones bearing the biggest hit by that Othering are queer folk of colour, men and women of colour and differently abled bodies of colour.

As feminists, bell hooks kept pointing out, we have to be suspicious not of women who dress differently or pray differently, but of the power of the State, which still often rather aims at criminalising subject positions that do not satisfy a heteronormative, white, and moneyed gaze. So, with bell hooks I believe we lost one of the most important thinkers of 21st century feminism. Despite the physical distance and different histories, she raised many of us with her work, too. She was exceptional and radical for she always tried to remain as approachable and understandable as possible in her work, whilst alerting us to the racial contradictions of our times: in Feminism is for Everybody, she taught us that the most vulnerable and most affected are still excluded and showed how the (second wave) feminist movement in the USA was cut off from the people and coopted into universities where it became, predominantly, at least, an employment pool for white women. She truly was an exceptional thinker, unapologetic, class oriented, and not afraid.

Today, although most jobs related to race or racism are all still very much precarious and limited in Germany, we have reached a point where we can at least have debates about racism in Germany and even about Black Lives Matter. But it seems, however, as though a “Palestinian Lives Matter” position is still unthinkable within an institutional setting – that’s why Palestine needs to become a feminist issue in Germany and Europe, too. And along with Palestine as a feminist issue we need new forms of radical kinship, international solidarity, and new political belongings, which are again on the rise with the younger generations of students and activists in Germany today. But there are also enough examples from the past. For instance, June Jordan’s poem ‘Moving Toward Home’, which talks about the massacre in Sebra and Shatila in 1982, speaks to a quite long and ongoing (US American) Black and Queer Feminist solidarity with Palestinian lives.

As feminists, bell hooks pointed out, we have to be suspicious not of women who dress or pray differently, but of state power, which aims at criminalising subject positions that don't satisfy a heteronormative, white, moneyed gaze.

What happened to El-Hassan, Achille Mbembe, and many others, then, is not just about Palestine: this is about Europe, race, and the management of people of colour in a still white supremacist Europe and beyond. During the time of the Reconquista, by the way, the majority of people that were killed in the name of the “principle of purity of blood”, were racialised women - the reproducers and carriers of “blood impurity”. And that’s why Nemi el-Hassan’s public dissection needs to also be read through race and gender and that’s why we need to come out in public and say her name, say each other’s names, and support each other.

Coming back to the context of El-Hassan’s terrible destruction in public, it should be noted that most people I know who have been writing about Palestine, doing art, academia, or activism have been through questions, accusations and demands like that in front of committees, employers, in the media, and so on – the list is endless.

We have come to a point in Germany where simply being Palestinian is already enough grounds for suspicion and inspections. Not that this wasn’t present before – structurally speaking – but today Palestinian identity and life have become the main “racial signifiers” in Germany for what goes wrong in our world when it comes to questions of race, racism, colonialism, multiculturalism. And depending on the racial optics and perspective you have in this “racially saturated field of visibility” of “white paranoia” as Judith Butler puts it, Palestinian-ness either means “terror” to some, or “settler colonialism and repression” to others – this is the “Manichean world” that Frantz Fanon described, brought about on a psychic and material level by capitalism and colonialism. Such fantasy image of the Palestinian as their own figurative “terrorist” nightmare is now haunting German public and institutional discourse today: said “terrorist and anti-Semite” is ostensibly coming to destroy their way of life.

Creating such demonic figurations of otherness to justify violence and cruelty is, however, not something new and is definitely not restricted to Germany. But what follows is what Christoph Glanz critically described as a certain German public culture in which Palestinians are expected “to suffer in silence and die.”

In short: as a Palestinian, any person can potentially accuse you of various formations of terror and the function of the accusation is to be judge, jury and executioner at the same time. Once labelled anti-Semitic the path is marked and it’s hard to get out. The same happens to our allies, too, except that as a Palestinians (or Arab, or Muslim), you are suspicious even without doing politics.

So ,yes, accusations like that have been going on for a long time in Germany, but there is more outrage now with El-Hassan’s case. This is partly due to the fact that there is more spotlight on the issue after the international campaign for the ‘rehabilitation’ of Achille Mbembe, who faced accusations of anti-Semitism in Germany based on some passages of his academic writings. What is important and representative of our time, I believe, is a misrepresentation of (academic) knowledge, as well as the accusation that it is the colonised who are somehow responsible for their own situation, and that it is people of colour – or women – who are responsible for racism, patriarchy, or “identity politics”.

All this is not new, and not only a German problem. In France, movements and academics are attacked under the banner of “Islamogauchisme”, and in the USA, it is Critical Race Theory that is attacked as the culprit of our times, as well as academic work around Palestine – recently a new book came out discussing scholars in Europe, called “Enforcing Silence - Academic Freedom, Palestine and the Criticism of Israel”.Palestine Legal speaks of systemic attacks against freedom of speech on Palestinian human rights, and so does theELSC. In Canada and in Britain, academics are acutely aware that the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by universities, under pressure from the government, “threatens free speech and academic freedom and constitutes an attack on both the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the struggle to democratise Israel.”

In 2017, I edited a little transnational overview of this in German, analysing how all these forms of repression, censoring and silencing come together under the rubric of “fighting anti-Semitism” writ large. This mechanism, then, which I have referred to as “The War on anti-Semitism” in my academic writing, is not specific to Germany: it is a colonially constituted ideology meant to control and police Muslim, Middle Eastern, Black African and Black bodies in the Western hemisphere and is connected to the permanent states of war that we also find in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs outside and within Europe . We also witness that classism, sexism, racism or anti-Semitism weren’t done away with. In fact, we have just done away with certain speakers’ positions and perspectives (PoC, women, queers, socialists) at a time when these positions for the first time in modern human history have had a realistic stake and say in the national and international politics of the West.

“The War on anti-Semitism” is not specific to Germany: it is a colonially constituted ideology meant to control and police Muslim, Middle Eastern, Black African and Black bodies in the Western hemisphere.

NBRight, Nemi El-Hassan’s case is a clear example of how racism is projected outwards onto people who have supposedly never learned the ‘right’ lessons from the Holocaust and, as such, remain external to the post-Second-World War ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilisation. One could argue that this is the effect of the collusion between the figuration of the Holocaust as the monumentalised and standardised object lesson in racial intolerance – for which Germany’s successful ‘redemption’ now constitutes a source of ‘German pride’ and a mark of special moral qualifications – with the disavowed history of colonialism and the continued application of colonial instruments of racial rule in German and European post-colonial societies. One could thus say that the disinformation campaign against El-Hassan is inherently connected to German memory politics. What are your thoughts about memory politics?

AYThe problem with memory discourses is that we remain trapped within narratives of what “we do or do not remember” – while it is certainly important to talk about, we need to also think about the fact that there are always reasons why people don’t remember, individually as well as collectively. And we also need to take into account that there are always limits to (educational, political, organic) memory, just as there are limits to this planet’s resources.

Memory can also become monstrous, as it happens in Yishai Sarid’s great novel The Memory Monster.

I am more interested in the reasons behind memory discourses as they unfold in Germany or Europe for that matter, today. Is the campaign against Nemi connected to memory primarily, or is it connected to racialised colonial surveillance and policing, settler colonialism and racial capitalism, and rather mobilises ‘memory’ discourses as a means of rationalisation and thus justification for our current racialised politics? I think ‘memory’ is by now the wrong lane to take if we want to understand German racial politics today.

When following public debates it seems that talking about ‘memory’, ‘redemption’, and ‘salvation’ is easier, since it follows discursive tropes that people already know through education and socialisation and are thus easier to connect to, understand, and thus partake in - they are “safer” to engage in in a way. People feel “unsafe” and very quickly “attacked” when they don’t understand why something is called white, or patriarchal. And we know what happens when white people feel unsafe when the colonised, othered and enslaved people talk about race or social exclusion. Thus, when we come to think about how difficult it already seems to speak about differences in memory politics on a national level, imagine talking about race or transnational whiteness.

This is a continent, Europe, where many people still feel uncomfortable using these terms due to Europe’s history with fascism and Nazism, and if they have to use it, they want to remain in control of how to use it. That might be one of the reasons why ‘memory’ discourses come easier to people, although even they don’t have an easy time, for any challenge to the status quo is looked at with suspicion.

Ironically, though, racist terms have always been used in colloquial language everywhere in Europe and were never not used, with the N-word being the most prominent example. Even today in Germany, when you compare anti-Jewish slurs to anti-Sinti/Roma or anti-Black slurs, thinking that people could then understand the racism behind using them faster, people still often get offended that you even dared making that connection for pedagogical purposes. So, in short, it is the white gaze that defines what we talk about, when, how, and in what relationship – that’s the problem we are actually having, and what we therefore call the structure of white supremacy in academia or critical race theories. It’s like using capitalist or sexist language all throughout the day, but then getting angry if a laid-off worker or battered woman points out that this is capitalism or patriarchy: provocatively speaking, a patriarchal society is only recognised as patriarchy if the (white) men agree. The same goes for race, and so on.

Finally, ‘memory’ discourse also believes that if we “just remembered”, everything would be good – many memory discourses as we witness them today in the public realm are an extension of a deeply seated enlightenment belief that our mental faculties will be able to understand and reform or repair what went wrong. Freudian psychoanalysis has questioned that, especially on a “mass psychology” or collective level.

To me, then, ‘memory’ discourse, and the way it is deployed today in politics and public policy, seem to be a discursive manoeuvre of deflection, attempting to swerve having to talk holistically about Germany’s structural past and present - at least when it comes to the questions you raised about racism and colonialism and the subsequent threat to democratic values.

This is especially stark since this country has seen at least two authoritarian systems unfolding here in the last century, not to mention the colonial authoritarianism (direct and indirect) that lasted even longer. How have these structures influenced the political structures and discussions in Germany today with regards to anti-Semitism anti-Black or anti-Roma or anti-Muslim racism? How have structures of authoritarian rule and colonialism influenced the Mbembe affair, or Nemi El-Hassan? Can we research and talk about connections between anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism without being attacked as anti-Semitic or as neo-Nazis? Can we stand up for the human rights of Palestinians and be allowed to be scholars at the same time without being accused of Islamism or anti-Semitism?

For me, the lens of ‘memory’ would profit from including an analysis of racial capitalism or psychoanalysis: an analysis of the types of policing, surveillance and “permanent wars” that were imposed on the non-white global majority with the conquest of the Americas and Africa, and that continue until today, as well as a critical reflection of what we deem ‘memory’ to begin with.

In my analysis of “the War on anti-Semitism,” referred to above, ‘memory’ discourses are used in order to continue older colonial forms of rule, inside and outside of Europe – today, this is dressed up in a ‘defence of Jewish life’ via modern political Zionism. It also means that these white colonial manoeuvres involve the hollowing out of Jewish identity, or the ‘thingification’ of Jewishness, in which Jewishness is merely perceived and interpreted as an object as well, an object to be scientifically and politically interpreted and ruled over by Christian Germans who seem to know better what Jewish identity is than many Jews, whom they even accuse of anti-Semitism, too.

This discourse we witness today is deeply anti-Semitic. Let’s not forget that Germans have had the largest historical and colonial archive on Jewishness, Jews, and anti-Semitic knowledge and science, as historian Andrew Zimmermann has pointed out. If we deny that impact on German racialising discourses today, and how Jewish and non-Jewish minorities are seen and interpellated generally—race never just works for one group—that’s like saying anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism have not shaped the USA or the way Muslims, i.e., are racialised there today.

Germans have had the largest historical and colonial archive on anti-Semitic knowledge. If we deny that impact on German racialising discourses today that’s like saying anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism have not shaped the USA.

NBIn order to place the analysis of the psycho-politics of German “memory culture” in the transhistorical and transnational context of national belonging, securitization and white racial anxieties, you coined the concept of a “War on anti-Semitism”. What is the War on anti-Semitism?

AYFor me, the War on anti-Semitism signals Germany’s re-entry into global racial politics in the wake of the War on Terror, yet with its own terminologies, as well as in its own historical and geopolitical context. My approach follows scholars who try to understand race and Whiteness in different national contexts, and those who see such global policing structures as stemming from settler-/colonialism and chattel slavery, which continue to manifest themselves today, in a globalised world, in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. The War on anti-Semitism is ‘special’ in the war-trinity against terror and drugs, in that it makes explicit use of “race as a discourse”—in this case, anti-Semitism—to govern in a way that furthers racism in an ostensibly “post-racial Europe”. Edward Said called “Orientalism” the secret sharer of anti-Semitism. Maybe we can think about the “War on anti-Semitism” today as the secret sharer of the “War on Terror”, which features war-making outside of Europe, as well as “war-prevention” (through lawfare, education, intimidation, and misinformation campaigns) inside of Europe (or the “West”).

The War on anti-Semitism is ‘special’ in the war-trinity against terror and drugs, as it makes explicit use of “race as a discourse” – in this case, anti-Semitism – to further racism in an ostensibly “post-racial Europe”.

To my mind, this war works to transnationally police and control predominantly Middle Eastern, African, and Central Asian populations in Europe and beyond, by using (i.e. educational) policies aimed at “preventing” and “punishing” anti-Semitic or terrorist tendencies that are supposedly “imported” by, primarily, migrants with Muslim backgrounds. Such special “anti-anti-Semitism education for Muslims” also serves to pacify young people’s experiences with racism in Germany – but not only here. Many scholars have already drawn direct links between the War on Terror and the War on Drugs as colonial continuities to control, incarcerate, and kill in a globalised world. My approach specifically insists on an optics through “race” in the context of the War on Terror: This colonially constituted war thus connects to histories of dispossession, expulsion, population exchanges, and conspiracy theories.

The phantasmogaria and demonisation of the anti-Semitic Palestinian figure today has dimensions of transnational reach and functions, in the words of Stuart Hall, as a racialising “floating signifier”, attaching itself to Palestinians and their allies in similar ways.

The phantasmogaria and demonisation of the anti-Semitic Palestinian figure today has dimensions of transnational reach and functions.

The mechanisms of control will be tested on those whose liberties can be violated easily, and will then be applied to the rest of society – we are in an age in which societies ruled by technology and capital have learned how to deal with people and politics that threaten the status quo. Let’s not forget that Palestinians are one of the most surveilled people on this planet today (next to US Americans—primarily people of colour—and Chinese citizens). The tools of surveillance and policing coming out of settler colonialism and racial capitalism traverse the borders of the Occupied Territories and are exported to other national contexts, where societies have the same need to manage and control racialised, Indigenous, or classed populations. Generally, we need to not only talk about “state surveillance” in our technological age, but also about “corporate surveillance” and how the fusion of such technological surveillance in Palestine today, for instance, is also informed by earlier forms of colonial and slave surveillance practiced by colonial Western powers.

We need to talk about how technological surveillance in Palestine today, for instance, is also informed by earlier forms of colonial and slave surveillance practiced by colonial Western powers.

I follow Black radical (feminist) thought in terms of understanding whiteness as the “real terror” -rather than the Black or Muslim body - although it is the Black and Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern-looking body that is always perceived to be the real threat. Hence, if we want to be truly ‘progressive’ and truly ‘remember’, we need to think with the colony. Not only from and for Europe, or everything else will again lead to a European repetition complex of racial superiority over the non-West/erner.

Today, there are some grounds for optimism: new social movements such as Palestine Speaks, QUARC Berlin (Queers Against Racism and Colonialism), Jewish Voice for Peace](, The Bundestag 3, the Jüdischer Bund (the new one, not the old one), and Black Lives Matter are promising. The young people who push these movements are more media- and social media-savvy, and are constructing new strategies of communication that help to educate people outside of academia, because academia in Germany is too closely economically dependent on state money and thus on state politics—a critique Hannah Arendt already had, by the way.

Since this is a war over hegemony, we need many diverse strategies and positions and ways to produce and reproduce knowledge. In the meantime, we should embrace social exclusion, learn to disobey a lot more, establish our own media outlets, our own discourse and talk to our own people and the organizations I already mentioned and others in similar situations: “The truth is like a rotten tooth, you gotta spit it out.”

NBCan you give an example of what you mean by older structures informing todays discussions?

AYThere are almost too many examples by now that it’s hard to choose. But what seems to be the most obvious structural issue is a parallel existence of the patterns of regressive and progressive thought that live side by side in our societies – the appearance of contradictions that become more obvious to large sections of society these days. Memory discourses, for instance, lose ground if we look at this tweet by the Ruhrbarone, who were also responsible for the attacks on Achille Mbembe.

Screenshot of tweet from the Ruhrbarone

How is this tweet explicable through memory discourses of the Holocaust from a German perspective? How can journalists call for the elimination of a people whilst lecturing the racial Other about how to remember German eliminatory politics? It’s obviously totally bizarre and a pathology: it’s white paranoia in self-defence mode by all means necessary, whilst history is put on the parking lot for future desires …desires that are never to be satisfied probably – a little psychoanalytical pun from my side (laughs).

PACBI legitimately calls this a “call for genocide”, because that is what it was. Memory discourses today co-exist alongside regressive racial and racist paradigms, as expressed in this tweet, and are thus still far removed from the “progressive memory work around lessons from the Holocaust” that Germans pride themselves on. Looking at this tweet makes it reasonable to ask if there are maybe people that are kept out of the “memory” of humanity for a reason? Or put differently, most Germans do know the language and meaning of eliminatory discourse through education, yet, it seems to be ok to deploy genocidal terminologies and calls for genocide against Palestinians – for instance.

That’s the predicament I meant with having parallel discourses, or contradictory discourses coexisting. We need to go deeper with our inquiries, question the structures that bring about discursive habits where some racisms are tolerated, and others aren’t; we need to further question why things appear as they do, and find meanings behind the façade of “memory”. In summary, however, we can surely attest that today’s memory discourses in Germany and Europe haven’t served Palestinians in the past, or in the here and now: within the regressive racial memory paradigms such as in the ones presented and discussed, Palestinians are either hypervisibilised as terrorists, sexists, and anti-Semites of the present or as hopefully dead bodies of the future. At the same time, our real lives are entirely invisibilised and eclipsed by hegemonic narratives of the Muslim anti-Semite and/or Islamist.

That is incredibly dangerous: if all that is allowed to exist is a racist stereotype, that also means there is a need for a figure that can be abjected from society, which – within those frames – is marked for genocide, premature death, social exclusion, and vindictive killings as they happen in Palestine as well as in the fantasy tweets of the Ruhrbarone.

Palestinians are hypervisibilised as terrorists, sexists & anti-Semites of the present or as hopefully dead bodies of the future. At the same time, our real lives are invisibilised by hegemonic narratives of the Muslim anti-Semite.

NBRight. I also noticed in my field research that interpellations of ‘pluralising memory’ or those framed as ‘multidirectional memory’, are vulnerable to liberal co-option. The implication is that the solution to the marginalisation of minorities lies with pluralising memory and with “articulating histories through the history of the other” rather than with challenging racial, social and economic segregation and containment at the hands of German authorities. Today, we see how organizations like KIGA (Kreuzberg initiative against anti-Semitism in multicultural German Society) employ multidirectionality or the idea that “if we just remembered…” as a means to point at a ‘lack’ of multidirectionality in the (particularly Muslim) ‘Other’ (see also here). Memory culture thus does not only negate attention to older colonial forms of rule, it also leads to new differential norms that measure the ‘civilisational’ and racial disjuncture between white Germany and its ‘immigrants’, since ‘learning from the Holocaust’ becomes envisioned as a linear temporal-historical regime in which Germans have already reached the final destination while immigrant populations supposedly insufficiently exposed to its currency still have a long way to ‘catch up’.

AYVery right and right on spot! Within a psychoanalytic moment where I “accuse you of what I am guilty of myself,” the racialised Other is the real anti-Semite today, in need of education. The thing is that (white) Germans defend their ostensible “right to not know and not see” by all means possible, as Marion Detjen wrote, in particular by insisting on “their memory” being different from everyone else’s.

I would say, however, that this is partly pre-/conscious and partly unconscious: ideology also saves the perpetrator from “truly seeing” what they are actually doing, after all. Privilege, when nobody tells you how you really got to where you are today, makes you unable to see the full picture. That’s the scary part, that memory is instrumentalised and politicised and nationalised, as you said, in the name of white supremacy without most people, regardless of their background, even knowing or realising it, but eventually profiting from it through, i.e., closed borders – whether that will save Germany from ecological and economic catastrophes is however a different question. I think that is an illusion, too.

NBOne could say, then, that the construction of German history disavows as much as it reveals: it is basically white German history. How does that exactly relate to Nemi El-Hassan’s case today then?

AYWhat caught my eyes yet again in Nemi’s case is the gendered and racialised dynamic in which the “debate” took place. Nemi was cited as she started crying during a Spiegel interview, for instance, and it was apparently totally fine to portray her like this. I see this as a cruel and sadistic desire by the white, male gaze to see a woman of colour being broken in public view, to see a woman cry, to infantilise her and to stigmatise her as emotional, and thus as the opposite of rational. It took me two days to finish reading it – in this interview she essentially denounced Palestine, Islam, and her background. And many people whom I talked to had the same problem, it took several attempts for us to finish reading it, because too many of us were triggered by that discursive violence and El-Hassan’s fearful responses.

For me, this is comparable to public punishments as we have seen them during colonial times, chattel slavery, or the witch hunts, yet obviously less physically violent so far, at least in Europe. In Palestine you simply get shot or incarcerated as a journalist, scientist, intellectual, or poet, let’s not kid ourselves.

Such German public executions, however, serve the purpose of deterrence, and we all know what it means: we literally see our own social deaths in front of us, the fear, and that there is seemingly no way to manoeuvre anymore, even for someone who took off the hijab and apologised for possible anti-Zionist comments she may have made in her youth – but as someone in charge of reproducing knowledge in society, as a journalist is, you will inevitably lose that dream job of yours after all, as an article about Nemi’s case was titled.

Today, people are thrown into unemployment, our characters get assassinated in public, and our personalities turned into Kafkaesque monsters that people want to stay away from or just get rid of, in order for them not to be reminded of a system they think will bypass them if they just remain silent. It aims to publicly set up an example to prevent others from following, through intimidation and economic punishment: after all, social exclusion is the worst to bear. It is either assimilation and denial of your history and identity, or exclusion. As for Nemi El-Hassen, even after she confessed her alleged wrong-doings in public, she still lost her job – that’s how it goes. So why confess, if you are sentenced anyhow? As the most wonderful Susan Sontag once wrote: “Everyone who knows history can’t take politics seriously.”

The moment Nemi El-Hassan, a self-made woman of colour, rebelled and talked back, in a later piece that followed this terrible Spiegel interview, she changed gears and wanted to “repair” her fearful and apologetic responses. The article was titled “I am Palestinian, deal with it”. Ironically but not surprisingly, the many articles responding to Nemi’s self-defense attested her an inability to “think” properly and instead alluded to her as unprofessional, biased, and emotional. Tomasz Kurianowicz has written a great article about it. Black and brown feminism has taught us about the banishing of anger in the racialised and in women. Whereas brown and Black men cannot be angry to a white public, they are still able to show their assertiveness toward their own community and women, for instance. Yet, as women, we will be called aggressive, angry, and unprofessional by mainstream society and our own people, unleashing even more wrath and envy, and in the case of Germany, more silence and social erasure will happen.

Or let’s take Hannah Arendt’s anger, that you can see especially in the shorter essays from after the 50s, and the way she was excluded not only by mainstream society but also by her own predominantly male Jewish establishment for her political positions. Yet, what all these subject positions have in common is the reaction of white wrath that Achille Mbembe expressed, via Fanon’s terminologies, as the moment where he was discursively thrown back to a colonial thinking where the “idea that a ‘Nègre’ can think and take moral stands all by himself is unbearable. A Nègre is an object to be used”. That is why Palestine is also a feminist issue, whether in Palestine or elsewhere.

Essentially, Mbembe and El-Hassan were told by mainstream German tabloids that they can’t think properly, or lack the knowledge to comment on white German politics and history.

NBIs that what you meant when you argued that “we need to not only safeguard liberalism for white people, we need to safeguard the idea of an inclusive democracy for everyone”, in your debate with Susan Neiman that was published in the Journal of Genocide Studies?

AYHa. Kind of, yes. In fact, that is exactly the colonial moment of liberalism: we like to pride ourselves with European universalities of ethics and human rights but, in reality, those ethics and rights still particularly apply to white people, or those who agree to white supremacy. Germany has the most extensive archive of anti-Jewish racism, yet, can we today imagine a woman of colour or a non-European claiming the right to comment on such history through a decolonial or non-white-German lens? Can we imagine El-Hassan’s opinion being seen as an important contribution to German democracy? The moment colonial subjects claim to have the right to comment on European politics, just like Europeans have always commented upon migrants or the rest of the world, is also the moment in which we start to witness social exclusion.

Essentially, Mbembe and El-Hassan were told by mainstream German tabloids that they can’t think properly, or lack the knowledge to comment on white German politics and history, although their lives were impacted, like any other (white) German life, by the Nazis and WWII. In fact, what happened with both public figures is that articles attested to them an intellectual, emotional, and professional inability to publicly argue against their own racist destruction, simply because they apparently lack the mental capacity to fully understand Europe, or because they lack the right manners, in a very gendered and racialised logic.

Mbembe and El-Hassan were also essentially told that it didn’t matter what they did professionally and what they had actually written or published before. What mattered is how some selected and unqualified Germans “understand” some aspects of their work or private life, and that is enough to disqualify them entirely. That is the most worrying part: the fact that some badly-informed journalists, politicians, or public policymakers get to make claims about your work and your persona—without even reading or citing you properly—and they get to decide how people see you in public.

Based on the power of the anti-Semitism argument and the power of the internet to spread disinformation quickly, our Arab, Muslim, non-white names, our lack of money and connections, our “natural suspiciousness” to a white gaze, or simply our “race” throw us into a vicious cycle where we need to continuously justify our existence and defend ourselves against accusations of anti-Semitism (if we even get the chance), rather than being allowed to talk about what we a) actually wrote or worked on, or b) the violence that happens on the ground both in Palestine, as well as here in Europe. It’s a Catch-22: the more you try to escape that war, the more you are contracted into it. In a way, we are already guilty before anybody accused us – the accusation is merely the final judgment; it’s not the prelude to a trial, but the end of the trial. That is what we all know, more or less, with or without university education.

Political liberalism has been colonially constituted and framed philosophically: it’s a fantasy of the mind on the one hand, and something that works to distribute very real material assets, such as access to resources, power and the ability to speak, on the other hand. People recognise that the way in which others are smeared is the way in which they themselves could potentially be smeared in the near future. In an act of fearful dis-identification, they thus distance themselves from those under attack, proving that they are not like those whose lives and work others seek to destroy. Even ex-partners or friends are scared and would not want to have their names associated with yours in public – Amir Ali, one of the BT3 plaintiffs suing the Bundestag over the BDS motion, gave a moving court testimony of such distancing manoeuvres by his own friends. In the end, however, none of these distancing mechanisms will suffice – they just buy people time.

Figuratively speaking it goes like this: “Don’t speak up because they will destroy you, and because we are afraid, we also won’t be able to help you or stand behind you in public!” The intimidation tactics thus develop a life of their own, continue in our head, or in times of distress, when people don’t know what to do. They tell you to be afraid, or to tone it down to more liberal arguments, because that’s still safer. That’s the “divide-and-conquer” situation we face today, which work through “coercion and consent” brought about by fear and hope, essentially immobilising us to speak up in more radical manners in public.

NBOne could argue that the real material consequences of being destroyed in public and the fact that, as you argued, nobody wants to become the outcast, have led to a situation in which people preemptively engage in forms of self-censorship. A certain ‘anonymity climate’ has thus been constructed as an effect of repression, am I right?

AYAbsolutely. This is the largest Palestinian diaspora in Europe and the most silent one – originally, I wanted to write my PhD about that, but ended up writing about the structure that produces that fear. I found that more interesting. But yes, self-censorship is real, because we are talking about basics here: finding a job, being able to pay your rent, stuff like that. You will not only lose your job or funding, you will also no longer be heard: in “liberal control societies,” as Jasbir Puar calls them, you will lose the (expert or class) status you have worked to achieve all your life, you will lose your career.

This is the largest Palestinian diaspora in Europe and the most silent one.

The moment you take part in shaping public discourse is the moment that you will be attacked and excluded – as Marion Detjen said, Nemi’s attackers would love to see her retreat to a job as a medical doctor, far away from the public eyes and ears, cameras and microphones. Essentially, this sort of social exclusion means class exclusion: it catapults you into a class-status of the voiceless labourers and colonised that die anonymous deaths and seemingly don’t contribute to society – no matter what your degrees or connections have been before. And that is why you can’t separate the establishment of liberalism from racial capitalism: liberalism has established the material and discursive borders to define and legitimise wrong-doing and exclusion in modern society.

Antagonising the powerful thus becomes an anxiety-inducing moment for many people who do not necessarily or easily profit from the structures, or people of colour whose positions in institutions of power is still precarious. Such positionality often leads to self-containment and the fear that “we are not allowed to talk about it”. Liberalism - to my mind - then also led to institutionalised recognition and respectability politics where people are afraid to lose their “right” to be included in the polis as a result of violating a white liberal (aka. middle- to upper-class) code of conduct that has reserved “rights” for those who “conform” – that’s the essentials of liberalism in racial capitalism, ever since colonial genocide and chattel slavery. Accordingly, Dr.Felix Klein, the German government’s anti-Semitism Delegate, said: “We should definitely also send a signal that whoever wants to be successful in our [German] society must also know our history and our sensitivity as far as Antisemitism is concerned. And if this is violated, we must show zero tolerance and apply the full capacity and rigour of our law.”1

Liberalism led to an institutionalised respectability politics where people are afraid to lose their “right” to be included in the polis.

Concretely speaking in this case, your public ability to defend yourself and your reputation in society is thus conditional upon one’s support for colonial or imperial ventures and violence (aka, capitalist extraction and exploitation) – that’s nothing new though and in fact is what connects a discourse of liberal European ethics to the discourse on non-European authoritarian ethics as two sides of the same coin. It is the Obama phenomenon, mastering the use of drones like no-one before him, and expelling the largest numbers of Latin@x from the country. When it comes to Palestine, this is called “PEP”, in US lingo: “progressive except for Palestine”. We could also call it white liberal anti-racism that excludes an analytic of colonialism and racial capitalism beyond the nation-state – that’s where transnational feminist and radical politics are important as counter-narratives.

NBIn order to ‘have a seat at the table’ or to speak as a ‘respected’ voice in the German public, then, one has to ‘learn’ to conform to the hegemonic narrative. However, from conversations with affected persons, I also learned that even if you do conform to the narrative in a way, it is never really enough: there is nothing Nemi El-Hassan could have done to fully ‘arrive’.

AYOf course, it will never be enough! As we know, Nemi El-Hassan lost her job no matter what. They stopped a young talented woman of colour right in her track. Liberalism inherently bears in itself the possibility for redemption, but only if you already belong to the chosen ones. And that last part is usually only to be found in the appendix, in a very small font on page 39827 of the social contract we signed as society.

This liberal social contract turns liberal values into something universally good, unpolitical and non-biased, morally acceptable, and thus into the norm. Everything else is then seen as radical or extreme politics, an aberration and bias, harmful to the ostensibly peaceful and just status quo. This move also depoliticises and dehistorises the emergence of the law as well as the history of repression.

If critiqued, such discourse is often narrated as a “memory politics” gone wrong, or else as an “anti-racism” policy in need of decolonisation. I would like to offer another way of thinking about the discussed manifestations of misinformation campaigns, criminalisation efforts, and war making - one that troubles easy binaries between “memory and non-memory” or “racism and anti-racism.” I would like to introduce the “War on anti-Semitism” as a modern European follow-up war to the war on drugs and the war on terror as well as other colonially constituted “continuous wars” (as Lisa Lowe said) that were fought against the colonised and enslaved in a larger circuit of racial capitalism. Rashid Khalidi, for instance, calls it a Hundred Years’ War on Palestine in his new book.

In that vein, to my mind, the accusation of anti-Semitism and terrorism became something like a “badge of race” of our time, as W.E.B. du Bois called social racialising experiences and materialities. A contemporary badge of race that catapults the accused into a world of the “inhuman” or “non-human”. Once you have been declared “morally unlikable” (i.e. a criminal, a racist, a sexist or terrorist) by society, it is easy to violate your personal or human rights, or even worse, kill you, especially if people are afraid of you.

NBHow have you and others so far dealt with such defamations, or declarations of being “morally unlikable”, and their afterlives?

AYIt did something to my ability to publish and write for years, and to my ability to believe that what I have to say is of value, needed or even wanted. I can’t speak for others, but I think that’s true for other people as well, to varying degrees obviously. If you get attacked several times over your writing or art curation, see how it is misrepresented and you are being smeared, you start to question your job, obviously, especially when people stop inviting you because you are “tainted”, as one Israeli activist once told me.

Being a political and historical Palestinian subject can potentially disqualify you from labour unless you deny that identity to begin with.

You end up with white Israelis speaking for you and about you to white institutions – that’s the structure we are moving in: Palestinians need white Israelis or European Jews to whitewash them of their “wrong” identity and for representational purposes to the outside. Radical self-representation becomes dangerous, which is why, at some point, you internalise the policing structures and intimidation tactics, obviously, just like you internalise the prison if that is where people put you. I think that’s, as I said, pretty normal. Furthermore, the precarity of (higher) knowledge production makes it prone to intimidation tactics. The political economy of knowledge re-/production is always about what gets researched and taught, who gets published, and who gets a position for what research, and so on. As the persecuted journalist Maria Ressa recently said: “You don’t really know who you are until you have to fight for it.”

The political economy of knowledge re-/production is always about what gets taught, who gets published, & who gets a position for what research.

Watchdogs come to academic presentations and continue harassing people there. You get screamed at on podiums (if you are still invited), accused of “being a refugee taking up European seats,” of being an anti-Semite, of being a “parasite”, stuff like that – and that’s all part of public debate, because it’s “freedom of speech”, but posting a statement in support of Palestinian human rights gets you into real trouble. But, when in 2017, for instance, students at the Humboldt University harassed an AfD professor by throwing a bucket of water over his head during a lecture, the university immediately started a trial against the students. If the professor had been a person of colour, and attacked for talking about Critical Race Theories, Palestinians, and Israel, the University would not stand behind that person in Germany – it would most likely just remain silent to the outside: Eleonora Roldán Mendívil’s case showed that, for instance.

In 2020, I was eventually told that hiring me for a semi-academic position would be too much of a liability, because it would destroy the project, lead to a withdrawal of funding, and that my employers would need to mobilise all their resources to “justify my hiring in public”. Well, at least that professor was honest and also said “there truly seems to be a campaign against you” (laughing).

In a similar situation, experienced by a friend of mine, another person of colour, working on racism in a project funded through state money, first had to answer questions like “whether they are Palestinian” and “what they think about BDS” before they were hired. So here it is: as Palestinians, there are first background checks, then maybe you get hired, provided you remain silent and don’t cause any problems with-/in the system – as is usual in large and powerful institutions, I guess.

However, being a political and historical Palestinian subject can potentially disqualify you from labour unless you deny that identity to begin with. And as stated before, Palestinianness is treated as an innate quality that fuels anti-Semitism and imposes terror, hence we need to talk about race and racism in this case. However, we still need to acknowledge that those that can speak and have jobs researching the issues we are discussing right now, are predominantly white people, too: after all, Orientalism is a career as Edward Said wrote.

Entire institutions bow down to intimidation and throw a single person under the bus to maintain their privileges. People of colour are written out of the nation, if they display anger, or misbehave, or have the wrong opinion in public. Disobedience to white supremacy is followed by dispossession. The only disobedience that this country can tolerate is white male disobedience, as I wrote in the 2017 report on Islamophobia, the men that stick their butts into TV cameras right next to the Karl Marx bust, as they did in Chemnitz, and yell racist stuff whilst hunting people of colour through the streets.

Today, I no longer engage in public discussions in which people will sadistically demand that we let ourselves be violated psychologically. We need to be resourceful with our energies and I don’t owe it to anyone to appear anywhere and “talk to them”. In order for us to not become “objects to be used” as Mbembe articulated it, we need to mobilise silence as a form of protest to powerful structures and institutions, too, and not just “be silenced” or told when to talk and how and to whom and through what lens. We need to find our own modes of public representation, radical self-promotion through new types of media, for instance. Why can some people decide when we are allowed to speak, and about what, and to whom, but not us?

We need to mobilise silence as a form of protest to powerful structures and institutions. We need to find our own modes of public representation.

NBWhat do you mean when you say that you no longer accept to be violated psychologically?

AYWomen and people of colour are constantly expected to be bodies that can be violated and hit, in the name of democracy and freedom of speech, whilst being continuously told that we are not smiling enough or are not being nice enough. The interpellation goes like this: “If you wanna change things, you have to accept that all powerful structures will descend upon you. You will suffer from it, and we all need to see you suffer in order for us to recognise it as real and finally stop harassing you. If you get angry, aggressive or stop being nice all the time, we will see you as too complicated to deal with.”

In other words, it demands from women, people of colour, and the colonised that we allow a white sadistic drive to unload itself until it is satisfied, whilst we remain calm, collected, and don’t get angry, and then we can maybe accept that we went too far. It’s more like a child playing with a toy and destroying it, and then crying to its parent that the toy is destroyed. Melanie Klein, however, teaches us that the desire to repair the object only exists if the child is dependent on the object it destroyed – Fanon follows the same logic when he argued that the white world needs the non-white world for its survival, but remains foreclosed from understanding it because of its non-relationality to the non-West due to a white narcissism. Either way, we end up being those objects, that Mbeme spoke about, that exist to have the sadistic drives to be unleashed upon them, in every way.

NBFrom your experiences and observations, what are the main strategies used to defame a person? Or, in other words, what are the main types of attack?

AYAs far as I can tell from my own experience, there are, first of all, media campaigns, like the ones against Nemi El-Hassan, Achille Mbembe, Judith Butler and others. The more you speak and publish in those moments, the more violence will be unleashed, and finding journalists to write on your behalf isn’t easy in Germany. What is worrying is that the misinformation campaigns in public create some sort of “online archive” which eventually dominates the internet with horrible news about you and your person. The algorithms are stoked against us, in a way, and we can’t produce as many articles that set the record straight, for instance.

And not everyone has the possibility of falling back on a career in medicine, the law, or psychology, for instance. For academics in the humanities or other fields, this is a big problem, or for a regular worker or middle-class employee where precarity is looming over our heads anyhow, no matter what ethnic background by now. Essentially, this entire battle today is a class issue, and through the already existing precariousness, the voices that appear too threatening to a structure invested in maintaining itself will simply be “kicked out”, either through bureaucratic violence where simple clerks or fearful colleagues just “watch” or can’t do anything, or else, in the colonies, chances are higher that you can also be physically threatened or potentially killed.

Secondly, institutionalised framings are another strategy. There are concerted efforts on the policy level that usually happen behind closed doors: a secret file about me got me disinvited from a podium discussion on racism and right-wing extremism, and thankfully ended up being leaked to me. We assume there are more files like this. The file was sent to members inside of the party Die Linke (The Left) by an organisation also working on the German and EU policy level, called RIAS2, which usually works around promoting the IHRA working definition and monitors anti-Semitic movements and people.

So far, we appealed to the Data Protection Officer in June 2020 about the violation of my personal data, collected from Facebook, and my academic work, which was totally misconstrued, essentially to label me a sexist, Islamist, and anti-Semite. As of today, the case still has not been decided on the merits. In those institutional cases, no-one talks to you, people disappear on you, you get some bogus explanation for being disinvited or unhired, you are told that it’s essentially your doing for being “too radical” or stuff, but most of the time no-one speaks to you directly: it’s a type of collective silence and gaslighting. First, you are smeared, which essentially singles you out to become an individual and then you become individualised through the collective fear and silence around you. As I said, the accusation is the end of the trial, not the beginning. The people involved pretend nothing out of the ordinary happened. People you worked with once start greeting you in public from a safe distance and pretend to not really know you, stuff like that. It’s this numbing silence, along with “the will to finally speak up atrophied by permanent compromises.”

First, you are smeared, which essentially singles you out to become an individual and then you become individualised through the collective fear and silence around you. The accusation is the end of the trial, not the beginning.

And then you have a third strategy, which deploys social media and apps, such as Act.IL. There people harass others online and write comments in swarms to a post on Palestine or something critical of Israeli politics, for instance. It’s a war there too, or, as some people call it, “techno-colonialism”.

Finally, it is important to note that more and more people are trying to understand what’s going on right now. However, repressive mechanisms are always tested on the powerless first, and are then introduced into the (liberal) mainstream. We have to realistically assess what stage we are at in this process, and then assess our tactics accordingly. I think we are already very far on various levels of governance and anti-democratic tendencies.

NBIn your capacity as a researcher, you wrote the Islamophobia reports on Germany for some years, which also included analogies to other types of racism such as anti-Semitism or anti-Black racism. What was the most emblematic case of anti-Palestinian racism in the context of German memory politics that you encountered there?

AYThe most shocking case for me was the case of a Palestinian woman and her mother, who uses a wheelchair, and who had come to Germany to escape war in the Middle East. She organised a small-scale, peaceful demonstration to protest against one of the many horrible policies against Palestinians, after which she was torn apart in the media, lost her job, and lost the funding for her Arab-German cultural exchange association, which she had to close as a result.

The worst thing, however, was that for around a month, members of the Anti-Deutsch movement broke into her house every morning to vandalise her wheelchair—wrapping it in Israeli flags with duct tape—and covering the walls in the hallway with posters saying “Anti-Semites out of our neighborhood.” The police, who were supposed to be there to watch the house and protect her, never noticed any strange activities, apparently.

When I talked to her and wanted to hear about what happened, she repeatedly stated that she is not a racist and has nothing against Jews, as though she still has to prove something of that sort. These methods break people psychologically – especially if they are refugees or asylum seekers, don’t command German in the way we do, and don’t have a political language for what is happening here to begin with. In our final conversation, she cancelled our meeting – she was afraid that even with anonymisation they would find her and do it to her all over again. She apologised by stating that she just wants to forget – a typical sentence of a traumatised person. They moved to another city, too.

In my experience, the worst cases seldomly make it into the public eye, and the people affected are not defended in public – again it’s class and connections and possibilities of representation. The people we know about already have certain social and cultural privileges. Most people, however, are helpless against such media attacks and psychological torture, especially if you are not politically active, or you live in the middle of bumfuck nowhere in Germany, where people literally do not understand what is happening generally. I think her example also shows the racialised and gendered hatred and what Arab or Middle Eastern “freedom of movement” really means here. Leaning on Fred Moten, I would argue that people don’t want mobile Arab sociality walking or rolling down the street. People want us to be busy with licking our wounds, our trauma, and to be silent, rather than mobilising the street for peaceful protest or for executing our ostensible “human rights”. Jasbir Puar wrote a book about maiming and debilitation as part of racialised capitalism, which is a great read and falls right in line with what I just said. But Puar was also again recently attacked for being anti-Semitic in Germany, by the same journalist who already attacked me and my co-curator as anti-Semites in 2016 – so there is that, too. In Germany, this could be framed as me citing an anti-Semite by, for example, a journalist called Schindler, or an anti-racist organisation called Amadeo-Antonio-Stiftung. It’s embarrassing, sad, and discursively dangerous.

For around a month, members of the Anti-Deutsch movement broke into a Palestinian woman's house every morning to vandalise her wheelchair. These methods break people psychologically.

NBYou mention the need to remain ‘psychologically well’. Yet, as the examples attest, the attacks can become quite literally lethal. Have there been moments in which you felt threatened or scared?

AYThe question might rather be: is there anyone who writes or speaks up without fear? (laughs) I write despite my fear, but definitely not without it, but it is of course debilitating, as Jasbir Puar writes. It takes space, care, and time to get back up each time. For me it’s important to not act out of my gut primarily, but to take the time to analyse the structures of debilitation in such control societies and then find ways of acting that do not “respond” to their demands or accusations but to find ways to establish our own discourse: to “act” differently so to say. It’s draining and I need a lot of “alone-time” for that – to think.

But, for instance, in 2019, when Die Linke disinvited me from a podium where I was supposed to present my work on anti-Muslim racism and right-wing extremist networks, their head in Berlin made an indirect allusion to me as someone similar to the white supremacist shooter in Halle who shot two people (one in front of a Synagogue and one at a Döner Shop) – in front of a public audience! That’s when it got really scary. The accusations get worse each year. I mean, people allude to you as some new type of Nazi in this contemporary climate when there are actual white supremacists literally sitting in our parliaments. We know from history and from colonial reality that demonisation precedes physical violence or worse. So, that’s when it gets scary – when you realise how far misinformation campaigns, surveillance, and intimidation can go, and you realise that there is no room to manoeuvre anymore in public. I am very grateful to my lawyer and the work of the ELSC (The European Legal Support Center), which have successfully defended many people, including me, against demonisation and unjust accusations of anti-Semitism. But again, I am not the only one who is framed like that in Germany or beyond!

NB(laughs) thank you so much for this very insightful exchange, Anna! To paraphrase Angela Davis from the book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: it is in collectivities that we find reservoirs for hope and optimism; even if it is only optimism of the will, and pessimism of the intellect, as Gramsci once said. As feminism must, first and foremost, be approached as an anti-hegemonic project aimed at deconstructing mechanisms of oppression, Palestine inherently is a feminist issue. Let us show them that their attempts to ‘banish’ our anger are in vain when we unite ourselves in intersectional communities of solidarity and care. Indeed, let’s fight and turn feminism into a threat again!

AYThank you so much, as well, and to the most wonderful Angela Davis, of course! May her transnational feminism inspire many more generations to come. And I am obviously looking forward to hearing more about your research in the future.

  1. German: “Wir sollten unbedingt auch das Signal geben, dass wer sich hier erfolgreich bewegen will in unserer Gesellschaft, muss auch unsere Geschichte kennen und unsere Sensibilität was Antisemitismus angeht. Und wenn dagegen verstoßen wird, dürfen wir null Toleranz zeigen und ganz klar die Härte unseres Gesetzes anwenden.” (from 09:20 onwards). 

  2. The Untitled Anarchist Seagull Channel already published a critical online video explaining (in German) how deeply problematic and in fact anti-Semitic RIAS statistics are. 


Noor Blaas

Noor Blaas is a student of the research masters in cultural anthropology at the University of Utrecht and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin on intersectional Palestinian solidarity and the role and relationally of differently raced subjects in the project of white-washing German history and the German state.

Anna-Esther Younes

Dr. Anna-Esther Younes is an independent researcher interested in Race Critical Theories, psychoanalysis, and Germany/Europe. Younes’ focus is on figurations of Jewishness and Muslimness and how they connect to racialising tropes around Blackness and Indigeneity in settler colonial contexts, as well as in Europe. She has written the Islamophobia Country Report on Germany for several years and coined the term “War on anti-Semitism” as a “secret-sharer” (Edward Said) of the “War on Terror” in her 2015 PhD “Race, Colonialism, and the Figure of the Jew” (IHEID). Her work can be found on or on her website.