One example, among so many, of justice turned upside down: in the state of Hanover, in Germany, many dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators turned out to denounce Israel. In response, eight pro-Israel demonstrators then arrived. They did not speak, but confined their own demonstration to silently waving an Israeli flag. For their pains, one of their number was attacked and knocked down by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator. The police decided to arrest one of the pro-Israel demonstrators on the slimmest of pretexts. The story of this miscarriage of justice is here: “German Police Fine Jewish Activist For Staging Pro-Israel Counter-Demonstration at Palestinian Rally,” by Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, September 9, 2022:
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.
There were apparently many dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, and only eight people who came to silently bear witness against them. Two of the six were Rebecca Seidler and her father-in-law, Michael Hontsch. Hontsch, who is disabled – he uses a cane — said nothing, but silently waved an Israeli flag. He was then shoved violently to the ground by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator. That demonstrator was arrested. But the police did not shut down the rally, as they ought to have.
However, having arrested Hontsch’s assailant, the police apparently wanted to appear “even-handed” by charging Seidler as well. Her offense? She had failed to notify the police in advance about her own, tiny, eight-man pro-Israel demonstration. Did that merit a fine? Eight people had turned out to offer a silent protest while the dozens of pro-Palestinians shouted their clearly antisemitic slogans. It sounds as if the eight had not even planned to appear, but quickly assembled once they received news from Rebecca Seidler of the pro-Palestinian demonstration. Their silent witnessing was the extent of their own protest. The aggression was entirely one-sided.
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.”
The police did not protect Michael Höntsch. How diifficult was it for the police to keep would-be attackers away from the small pro-Israel contingent? How was it that a demonstrator managed to breach the police lines separating the two groups and violently shove the elderly Höntsch? And once that unprovoked attack had taken place, why did the German police allow the pro-Palestinian rally to continue? Were they afraid of eliciting a violent response if they ordered demonstrators to disperse following that unprovoked attack? The violence, remember, was only from one side, that of the pro-Palestinians. At no time did the eight pro-Israel demonstrators say or do anything, much less try to attack anyone. They only showed up to stand in silent reproach, save for the one elderly man who had quietly waved the Israeli flag.
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.”
The pro-Palestinian demonstrators had been warned by the police not to utter antisemitic slogans, but they promptly ignored the warning. No one was arrested by the police for violating the rules that the police had themselves clearly set out.
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.
The anti-Israel rally had been “peaceful” until the counter-demonstrators showed up? Is this true? If by “peaceful” is meant that the pro-Palestinians had no one to attack, then yes, it was “peaceful” in that sense. But the shouting of such bellicose and antisemitic slogans as “child murderer Israel” and “Zionism is racism” were part of that demonstration. Should those shouting such slogans be described as “peaceful”? Why aren’t those pro-Palestinian demonstrators being blamed by the police, rather than the soon-to-be-fined Rebecca Seidler, when it was they who not only uttered antisemitic slogans, but were the ones who engaged in violence by shoving to the ground an elderly man who had only been waving the Israeli flag?
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.”
The police ought to have shut down the demonstration against Israel just as soon as the violent attack on Höntsch took place. The demonstrators had already violated the rules clearly set down by the police, by shouting antisemitic slogans; if that was not enough of a reason to force their dispersal, surely the shoving to the ground of Michael Hönsch should have caused the police to act. Instead, they did nothing, allowed the pro-Palestinian demonstrators to continue to shout their antisemitic slogans, and instead of protecting the pro-Israel group, they made clear they were going to fine Seidler for not having given the police notice of the six-man pro-Israeli group’s appearance at the pro-Palestinian rally.
Will the police now do the right thing? Will they drop that absurd charge, and the fine that goes with it, against Seidler for not having let them know in advance that a handful of people intended to attend the rally, as silent witnesses standing in support of Israel? It’s possible that Seidler did not herself know who would be showing up after she sounded the alarm. If she is to be fined for that trivial breach, what do the police intend to do to the demonstrators who yelled antisemitic slogans? Anything? Nothing?