20. April 2024 | EDP Wire | Benjamin Schütze

Supporting plausible acts of genocide: Red lines and the failure of German Middle Eastern Studies

19 April 2024. In this essay Benjamin Schütze discusses Germany’s support for Israel’s onslaught in Gaza following the January 26, 2024 ICJ ruling, the emergence of several “red lines” in German discourse surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict and the role of German Middle Eastern Studies for largely failing to challenge these red lines and engage in public discourse.

This EDP Wire is a repost from MEPOS, the Project on Middle East Political Science, where the original article was published. 

Since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on January 26, 2024, it is official that Germany, the perpetrator of the largest genocide ever deliberately executed, is one of the primary supporters of what the principal judicial organ of the United Nation has described as plausibly amounting to genocide.[1] German support for Israel’s onslaught on Gaza stretches from an intervention in front of the ICJ; a 10-fold increase of German military exports to Israel,[2] including tank ammunition;[3] an unparalleled crackdown on pro-Palestine protests due to ‘possible antisemitism’;[4] the decision to not approve new funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza in light of unsubstantiated Israeli claims that employees had aided Hamas;[5] and the assurance of unconditional support for Israel by effectively the entire German political elite – as expressed in the unanimous parliamentary approval of a motion that assures Israel of Germany’s ‘full solidarity and any support needed’.[6]

It is hard to overestimate the scale of human suffering that Germany’s unconditional backing of Israel has enabled and caused, and continues to do. First and foremost, Germany has willingly made itself complicit in the killing of – at the time of writing – at least 31,045 Palestinians, including more than 12,300 children, in the destruction of more than half of Gaza’s homes and all of Gaza’s universities, and in the forced displacement of more than 85% of the total population of Gaza.[7] It would take four times the space of this essay to merely spell out the first names of all Palestinian children killed by the Israeli military over the past months. While German political and military support for Israel is nothing new, the audacity with which German politicians and members of the public legitimise said support with claims of moral authority, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of Israeli war crimes, and criminalize any criticism of those crimes, is new. The latter include indiscriminate attacks on civilians, deliberate starvation, looting, torturing and genocidal language.[8] Evidence for it is abundantly available for everybody to see, including via videos, tweets and testimonies by Israeli soldiers, who proudly record themselves blowing up Palestinian homes in honour of the birthdays of their loved ones, and who use tanks to deliberately run over civilians alive, mutilate dead bodies, and shoot unarmed civilians.[9]

This is remarkable because for decades Germany has celebrated itself for its culture of remembrance and its acknowledgment of responsibility for the Holocaust. However, Germany’s culture of remembrance is first and foremost about Germany itself and about desired self-understandings. German atonement for the Holocaust did not emerge from, nor does it go hand in hand with, a full and unconditional embrace of international human rights, regardless of the current government’s claims of pursuing a value-based foreign policy. The ongoing colonial amnesia and widespread ignorance vis-à-vis ‘Germany’s other genocide’ – the killing of 75,000 Herero and Nama in today’s Namibia – are a case in point.[10] Germany’s almost exclusive focus on the Holocaust has enabled blatant ignorance of German colonial crimes. Insistence on the Holocaust’s singularity or exceptionality – while emotionally understandable given its monstrous scale – is analytically problematic, as it takes the Holocaust out of ‘normal history’, separating it, as remarked by Raz Segal, from ‘the piles of bodies and destroyed cultures that European imperialism and colonialism […] had left around the world in the preceding few centuries,’[11] and ignoring the prevalence of genocidal tendencies in Germany long before 1933, as well as racist continuities that stretch until today. Also, as stated by Michael Wildt, it ‘blocks an appropriate culture of remembrance, which should be open and ‘multidirectional’.’[12]

You can access the full article here.


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