Jews But Foreigners

The German Contradiction

Over the last four years, I have collected countless pieces of evidence of how the idea of Germany – whatever Germans tell themselves about what Germany was, what it is, and what it should become – is interwoven with narratives claiming ‘Jews’ and ‘Arabs’ are different from each other, and deeply rooted in a state of enmity.

Israelis in Germany. Sheikh Jarrah protest, Rathaus Neukölln.

I have also been privileged to talk to individuals who counter such narratives. Especially with Arab Jews and/or non-Zionist Jews.

These are Jewish Israelis who were celebrated a decade ago by many Germans as the ‘returning Jews’ and as proof of Germany’s successful attempt at Wiedergutmachung (reparations). I am one of them.

Many of us escaped cities such as Haifa, Tel-Aviv, and Jerusalem, from the brutality of a warzone, leaving our homes and loved ones behind. Many of us came here with no social network and no German language skills in exchange for the possibility of regaining a sense of sanity.

But we arrived in a place that celebrates us as Jews while rejecting us as Ausländer (foreigners).

We arrived in a Germany that insists that we belong to Judeo-Christian Europe and not our own landscape of the Middle East, Islam, and Arabness.

We arrived in a country that loves our Hummus but hates its origins.

We arrived in a place where we finally could meet with our neighbours, Palestinians, Syrians, Kurds, and Iranians, without walls, borders, and nationalist restraints.

We arrived in a Germany that listed us as Antisemites for trying to understand how the world looks from the perspective of the colonised.

We educated ourselves on what has been done to Palestinians over the last 75 years in the name of Europe and Judaism: Of Zionism.

And we acted accordingly: We raised our voices and screamed as loud as possible.

Then, the German government censored us, sanctioned us, and sent its police after brothers and sisters, Palestinians and Jews.

We arrived in a Germany ruled by the CDU and now ruled by the SPD. And, let me tell you, it’s just getting worse.

We arrived in a country that insists we are enemies.

But we never had any other choice but to insist on justice, freedom, and democracy for everyone, despite the idea of Germany.

Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.