A while back I wrote an essay in German titled “What it means to be a leftist today. And what that has to do with Israel.” It dealt with the overall hypocrisy of the German left (social democrats, Greens, socialist leftists, anti-fascists) with regards to their anti-racism credentials in general and their blind spot with regards to Israel in particular, extensively arguing the case that you cannot call yourself an antiracist if you willfully exclude Israel from the discussion.
Why? Because Israel — lauded by Western narrative construction as “the only democracy in the Middle East” is, in reality, a textbook example of an apartheid state: one founded on the exclusionary ideology of Zionism (which the United Nations Human Rights Council has designated as racist) and built on stolen lands ethnically cleansed of indigenous Palestinians in what historiography has rightfully named the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”).
While it took me three days to write the piece, I spent weeks trying to get it published, sending it in to a dozen or so left-leaning German media outlets, small and big. Of the ones that actually did write back, all of them refused to publish it. Not because the piece lacked merit, but explicitly citing its criticism of Israel as the reason.
One lesser-known German media outlet which has in the past published pieces surprisingly critical of Israel refused to run it simply because I sporadically write for RT‘s (Russia Today) German-language news website, saying that they were not bent on being associated with RT.
This makes me wonder what kind of press freedom we have in Germany, where writing for an international news organization as an independent freelance journalist can stigmatize you and keep your work from getting published.
After weeks of trying to get the piece out there, to no avail, I decided to translate the parts of the article that dealt with Israel into English and amalgamate them into a separate piece which I would then try to get published in English language media. And lo and behold: within a mere 48 hours I not only got an answer, but also a positive one.
The Palestine Chronicle, a non-profit publication in the U.S. associated with renowned journalists, scholars, and activists such as Ramzy Baroud (editor-in-chief), Hanan Ashrawi, and Noam Chomsky (both contributors and honorary editorial board members), willingly ran the piece under the title “German Hypocrisy: The Left & Israel”.
The fact that it is easier to get an antiracist opinion piece published in Trump’s America than in oh so liberal Germany is quite fascinating and says a lot about the alarming state of press freedom and independent news in my country where (pro-) Palestinian perspectives are routinely silenced by exclusively pro-Israel opinion-making churned out by the sheepish automatons of status quo abiding lefty-liberal German media, be it fringe or mainstream.
Among the media outlets that refused to publish the initial German-language piece was the award-winning MiGAZIN, an online news portal that I have regularly contributed to and which defines itself as “the magazine for migration and integration.” It is one of the handful of publications (the “MiG” in MiGAZIN stands for “Migration in Germany) within the shamefully exclusivist white world of German journalism that is run by BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) Germans: its founder and editor-in-chief, Ekrem Senol, is a German of Turkish descent and the editor I have always sent my submissions to — judging by her typically Turkish name at least — is as well.
Therefore, this made it doubly troubling that in a country where the lack of diversity and minority inclusion is already criminally low, especially in journalism, a magazine that is basically “for us, by us”, would refuse to include an antiracist opinion piece and thus give in to the external pressures of a discursive climate in Germany where weaponized anti-Semitism smears are routinely mobilized in order to silence any legitimate criticism of Israel’s human rights violations and racist oppression of Palestinians.
My piece not only criticized racism in Germany but also the German discourses surrounding racism which are also exclusively white-dominated and therefore qua natura marginalize the voices of people of color and ethnic minorities and — in the context of Palestine — willfully exclude Israel’s systemic racism and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians on their own land stolen or illegally occupied by the self-appointed “Jewish State.”
The fact that the same people who are probably no stranger to experiences of racism were not willing to publish an antiracist piece and instead chose to sheepishly toe a line that basically delineates supporting every injustice and violent act Israel chooses to commit and excusing them wholesale with the Holocaust had me so chagrined that I wrote an e-Mail to MiGAZIN in June voicing my disbelief and disapproval.
Despite an instant reply from the editors that they would get back to me with a statement, they never did. The letter — which I have translated into English and include here in its entirety — is a stark indictment not only of the backwards state of diversity politics in Germany where ethnic minorities — unlike in Britain which I reference multiple times in the letter — have next to no say in political and social matters, but also of the hair-raising hypocrisy that is antiracist discourse in Germany.
I have added additional parentheses in square brackets where something might be unclear to the reader:
Dear M**** [editor who I send my submissions to],
I am deeply disappointed by your decision. You could have run the piece in an abridged and “softened” version, and your refusal to do even that I cannot quite fathom: if MiGAZIN is not “the right medium for this topic” as you say, where does antiracism belong then?
Antiracism also includes criticism of Israel and criticizing the German discourses surrounding Israel, despite what white Germans with their half-assed guilt complex might think.
“When it comes to this topic, MiGAZIN is a bigger target [for anti-Semitism smears] than other media outlets which due to their backgrounds and composition of personnel [referring to the Turkish/Muslim backgrounds of some of its editorial staff], are not a priori under suspicion of being anti-Semitic,” you said.
Meaning: Germany is so cerebrally racist and Islamophobic that people of Turkish background — like some of you at MiGAZIN — are qua natura deemed anti-Semitic. Do you realize how insulting that is? Are you just going to sit back and take this kind of racist and slanderous blanket suspicion?
With your refusal to publish my piece — even parts of it — you are doing nothing else than knuckling under to one of the key tenets of German supremacist consensus: blind fealty to Israel. And all that despite you saying that my text has “very good and strong passages that we really would have wished to publish.”
For a publication that is supposed to represent my perspective (and by “my” I mean that of the overwhelming majority of Germans with an “immigrant background”), your core target groups at the end of the day seem to be the Moritzes and Anjas of this country rather than the Murats and Aylins.
I understand if news desks that are exclusively run by and populated with white Germans refuse to publish the piece and explicitly cite its criticism of Israel as the reason for doing so. I expect nothing better from them. But from MiGAZIN, whose editor-in-chief is of Turkish descent? Does the “M” in MiGAZIN still stand for “migration” or does it stand for “mimicry” by now? Come on, you’re better than that!
You write that my piece “could have much more of an influence if it appears in other media.” I personally think an article doesn’t have the biggest influence where readers are of the same opinion as the author, but where the former might hold a differing view and be encouraged towards (self-)critical thinking. Which is why I believe your argument to be utter nonsense you yourself probably don’t even believe to be true.
I would have loved to send you a revised draft, but got the impression that in your conformism you do not even wish to handle the issue of Palestine/Israel with kid gloves. Even though you as the mouthpiece of “immigrant” Germans could make an important contribution to finally ending this white German indecency of self-censorship whenever criticism of Israel is involved.
No wonder that nothing ever sustainably changes in Germany and that a person like Ai Weiwei took to his heels a short while after having moved to Germany and left for England because he found our country so utterly backwards and beyond improvement.
In the U.S. people of color are and their white allies are currently challenging authority and racist structures at an unprecedented level, and partially with immediate success, whilst in authority-abiding Germany where white people are rarely allies and much too often patronizers you cannot even get an antiracist article published when it is too critical of Israel.
And even you as a magazine for “immigrants” are not exempt from kowtowing to hegemonic narratives constructed by white people for white people. Even in Israel, there is more freedom to criticize Israel than in Germany, as Haaretz-journalist Ofri Ilany found out to his amazement when researching an article about the left-wing fascist Antideutsche movement [a radically pro-Israel wing within Antifa in Germany and Austria which is ideologically divided over the issue of Palestine/Israel].
This is why for years on end we keep talking about the same old things in Germany: Is Islam a part of Germany? Are we a multicultural society? Should female teachers be able to wear the hijab? Does Germany have a problem with racism? The UK, Canada, New Zealand, and even a systemically racist United States currently afflicted by mass uprisings against racist police brutality are light years ahead of us in these matters.
One reason why we are not moving forward in Germany is that “migrant voices” like yours don’t speak out confidently enough. Narrative construction is already primarily the domain of white Germans: if guys like you keep opting to yield the floor to them and keep dancing to their Leitkultur-tune, then they have already won [Leitkultur means “guiding culture” or “core culture”, a German term from sociology weaponized in issues of diversity politics by conservatives and liberals alike to mean that white German culture should be the dominant culture in multicultural Germany; interestingly enough the term was coined by one Bassam Tibi, a Tunisian-German academic and quite unfortunately your run-of-the-mill self-hating colonial “brown sahib” who routinely advances the agenda of organized white German Islamophobia and xenophobia with his inflammatory rhetoric against refugees from countries like Afghanistan or Eritrea].
After your e-mailed rejection I went and not only got a second opinion, but three different ones: a Palestinian-German one, an African-German one, and a Jewish-German one: all three of my friends were unanimous of the opinion that you should have published my piece, especially since you claim to represent the “immigrant” perspective. And my African-German friend, a doctoral candidate in African History, explicitly asked me not to drop the Rwandan genocide/Holocaust comparison from the article that you said you could not publish. Is she an anti-Semite for doing so?
[In my piece I had written: “In the Rwandan genocide 800,000 people were killed in the course of six weeks: on average that is a number that exceeds the death toll of the European Holocaust — 6 million killed between 1941–45 — by far. But no one would ever dream of granting the Rwandan genocide the principle of singularity under which the Holocaust is treated in this country.]
The fact that you would have edited out my criticism of this principle of singularity that elevates the Holocaust [above other equally heinous genocides in modern human history, like Rwanda in 1994 or the Belgian colonial genocide of 10 million Congolese people between 1888 and 1908] just goes to show that even you as an “immigrant” magazine bow to political pressure and comply with this white German indecency of hierarchizing victims of genocides and putting Jewish suffering above Black suffering, exactly what I criticized our German discourses surrounding Vergangenheitsbewältigung for in my article [Vergangenheitsbewältigung is an idiosyncratically German compound word meaning “coping with the past”, the specific past to be coped with being Nazi Germany and the Holocaust].
Do you know what else my three friends have in common apart from being German? All three of them moved to England at one point in their lives. And all three of them find German racism and the underdeveloped discourses surrounding racism so utterly unbearable and mentally deranged (this is what Ai Weiwei and Mesut Özil must have felt like) that they have no regrets whatsoever with regards to their emigration.
And why should they? England is not a country where immigrants are constantly forced to accept a subordinate role within the hegemony of white opinion-making and are only allowed to open their mouths under the stipulations of this status quo – unlike in Germany where immigrants are supposed to keep their traps shut and be grateful that they are allowed to be there. And should they get too critical, they are gaslighted into oblivion.
That it is today’s anti-immigrant Britain, run by a conservative government, that is the preferred destination of racism refugees from Germany, says a lot about the abysmal state of multiculturalism in my country of birth. An Indian Chancellor of the Exchequer, an Indian Home Secretary, London’s Pakistani mayor: that right there is a level of diversity and inclusion our own Turks as the single largest immigrant community in Germany can only dream of while they desperately pound their fists against the German glass ceiling of social immobility and racialized exclusion.
In Germany, criticism of its inherent racism is only allowed to be voiced as long as you don’t rock the boat too hard and don’t question two fundamental tenets: white German Leitkultur and unconditional solidarity with Israel, no matter how systematically the self-acclaimed Jewish State (isn’t such an exclusionary and ethnonationalist self-designation racist in itself?) violates human rights and commits war crimes with impunity and invariably legitimizes its actions with an unvoiced reference to the Holocaust.
You at MiGAZIN seem to voluntarily play by this sanctimonious rulebook which renders structural changes in German society a matter of impossibility.
It is this German stagnation and incorrigibility that made me leave Germany for Britain myself last year. As a person of color one doesn’t have to bend over backwards there to get ahead in life. Members of Britain’s BAME communities don’t need to do that, and they don’t. Which is why they are taken much more seriously by their fellow white citizens than us PoCs in Germany where people of color walk with a stoop, not only metaphorically, but quite literally: you should check it out sometime on the streets, it is fascinating how structural racism can weigh down on your physical posture and influence your body language in Germany if you’re not white.
One of the first things you realize when walking the streets of London: that people of color go about their business with their heads held high, exuding a level of self-confidence that we in Germany who have so gotten used to our subservient role that we have finally accepted it, couldn’t picture in our wildest dreams.
In Germany, you can only get ahead if you are an Uncle Tom. And “Uncle Tom” pretty much sums up my current opinion towards your magazine with regards to your refusal to publish my piece. Instead of choosing the path of “migrant” self-determination, you have opted to do the white man’s bidding in this matter. And that is pretty sad.
That to you, it is much more important if white Germans think of you as anti-Semitic instead of courageously going your own righteous way is symbolic of our infantile and heteronomous discursive culture in Germany. There is a word for this typically lefty-liberal and bourgeois phenomenon of voluntary complacency: cowardice.
Be that as it may, I thank you, dear M**** for your time and will be happy to submit in the future written pieces that don’t dare to question the consensus of white German supremacy, so that no one can call you — who by the way have the same inalienable rights guaranteed by our constitution as your fellow white Germans — anti-Semitic.
Article 3 of the constitution states:
“No person shall be favored or disfavored because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavored because of disability.”
“No person” also includes people who wish to criticize Israel.
Should you actually value a flourishing culture of discourse and a plurality of opinion, the least you can do is publish this letter. I believe people have a right to know in what poor shape freedom of the press and freedom of speech are in Germany when even a respected “immigrant” magazine like yours cannot publish legitimate “immigrant” perspectives on antiracism for fear of racist accusations of anti-Semitism.
Looking forward to your reply and best regards,
To this day, MiGAZIN has not responded to my letter, let alone published it on their website.