Politicians are calling on people of Arab and Muslim descent to distance themselves from terror. That rules them out, says Raid Naim.
I’m not feeling well. I am extremely tired. And torn between anger and fear, fight and surrender.
My entire life is shaped by my relationship to the Middle East conflict and to Germany. In every war between Israel and Gaza, there has always been a way for me to come to terms with the contradictions. I saw points in the German discourse that I could build on. I had the impression that you could understand how I feel as someone with close family in Gaza. But this time there is complete darkness.
For the first time I have the feeling: I am not seen as the person who has lived in Germany for the last 45 years. As the person who helped shape German society. Politics addresses me as part of a collective and attacks it violently: Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier calls for this at a round tablethat people “with Palestinian or Arabic roots“should personally distance themselves from Hamas and anti-Semitism. Why? Because me and Hamas have the same skin or hair color? Nobody has after the revelations about Aiwanger demanded that Bavarians distance themselves from anti-Semitism. There will always be a difference between Germans from Bavaria and Germans with Arabic roots.
In the 90s I demonstrated against deportations, alongside politicians like Claudia Roth, who are now the decision-makers in the parties. But now something is breaking out: When the CDU chairman Friedrich Merz demanded that Naturalizations of confessions and then generally accused all “young men” from Gaza of anti-Semitism, I thought I’d report that! Then one morning I wake up and see Olaf Scholz on that Mirror-Cover. At first I thought it was a montage.
The big break for me is the lack of empathy
Out of from the FDP they are now demanding a choice between “fundamental rights for German citizens” and “everyone’s rights”. Also Aiwanger can rehabilitate himself again. He can talk about imported anti-Semitism and no one protests. The racist, vicious, extremist discourse has become mainstream in just a few days. The Columnist Jan Fleischhauer talks about “aggro-Arabs”, Politicians praise the right-wing extremist statements of Douglas Murrayand Jens Spahn classifies hatred of Jews as part of migrant culture.
The German discussion is currently taking place independently of what is happening in Israel and Gaza. Something like this happened before, for example after September 11th. There was real discourse. Now I don’t believe in it anymore. We are beyond the point at which we can meaningfully enter, argue and turn the discourse around. We have already arrived deep in reactionary Germany.
The big break for me is the lack of empathy. There is hardly any reaction from my German network when I speak out. I get a lot of questions and sympathy from Israeli and Arab friends or from an international context. They acknowledge that I am experiencing terrible things.
But from the official side it was said Federal press conference on the question of 10,000 Palestinians killed just: “We can’t say anything about the numbers.” They don’t want to see us. Not alive, not dead either. We have become invisible. There would have been dozens of diplomatic phrases that were just as meaningless, but they would have been more humane. We’re not even worth that.
“You” care about yourself
A friend told me this is helplessness. When in doubt, take one side because you’ve done well with it so far. But the helplessness in politics does not explain the lack of empathy on a human level. My theory is: It’s helplessness for some. For others, it satisfies a desire for a national identity. For parts of society there is a projection onto Israel and Israel now has to serve as an identity that can be celebrated without borders or even fanatically. “You” don’t care about Jews or Israel at all. “You” care about yourself.
Until about three weeks ago, when there were problems in Germany, my thought was always: That’s my problem too. Now I think: That’s your problem. A very German problem. And you have to solve that. Because it was precisely this “problem” that I was never allowed to have a say in.
It’s not like I have a different allegiance or a different home. I have never lived in Gaza. But the way it is now, I have to build something different, new. No national identity, I don’t need or want that. I need a cultural and intellectual reference that doesn’t exclude me collectively.
This Steinmeier’s speech calls for people to distance themselves, means that I am also arrested. As a German citizen, I am not safe from being taken into custody. We must understand that the majority society does not always have the right to demand that an ethnic minority take a stand or distance itself. The assumption behind this is that you are connected to something from birth, through your DNA or your identity. Such assumptions should not be possible in a democracy.
The question is more fundamental than many people think. It’s about whether we can live together as individuals – or not.
Protocol: Uta Schleiermacher