Germany blocks ‘Gaza hero’ Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah from attending Berlin Palestine conference

Renowned Palestinian-British doctor Ghassan Abu Sittah was barred from entering Germany on Friday where he is due to speak at a now cancelled pro-Palestine conference in Berlin about the challenges faced by medics in Gaza.

The New Arab correspondent Rabeea Eid, who is covering the conference, spoke to Abu Sittah who confirmed “they didn’t let him in and he cannot now make a statement until the evening”.

Abu Sittah, who was recently appointed rector of Glasgow University, is currently being held at a Berlin airport and will not be able to make the conference.

“Invited to address a conference in Berlin about my work in Gaza hospitals during the present conflict,” he tweeted.

“The German government has forcibly prevented me from entering the country Silencing a witness to genocide before the ICJ adds to Germany’s complicity in the ongoing massacre”, he said regarding the legal case filed against Germany due to its support for Israel.

Abu Sittah braved bombings and other hardships to return to Gaza on 9 October, just as Israel began its devastating assault on the enclave, which has killed more than 33,500 Palestinians.

He became one of the most high-profile and respected medical professionals working in Gaza, speaking to media about the challenges endured by the Palestinian people stranded in the enclave.

During his 44 days treating the Palestinian victims of Israeli bombs and bullets, Abu Sittah highlighted the devastating medical shortages faced by doctors, who resorted to vinegar and other household items to conduct surgery.

He was due to speak of his appearances at ‘The Palestine Conference. We will put you on trial’, which has been targeted by German pro-Israel organisations and media outlets.

The event’s location was kept secret until this morning due to successive attacks on the conference in recent weeks and calls for it to be banned.

However, it now emerges that the conference has been cancelled after Berlin police shut the event down after, with only Palestinian journalist and activist Hebh Jamal being able to speak before authorities ended the event. A correspondent reporting for The New Arab’s Arabic language sister outlet Al-Araby-Al-Jadeed, reported that Berlin police cut off electricity to the hall where The Palestine Conference was being held, and warned pro-Palestine attendees and speakers that “we will prosecute you”.

An aggressive anti-Palestinian atmosphere has pervaded Germany since the events of 7 October and Israel’s subsequent assault on Gaza, described as a genocide by leading legal and rights experts.

Germany has imposed severe restrictions on demonstrations in support of Palestine, going so far as to ban displays of the Palestinian flag, or wearing the keffiyeh.

“There has been a reflexive and kneejerk dismissal of the idea that Israel could be committing genocide,” Wieland Hoban from Germany’s Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East group told The New Arab reporter, Rabeea Eid.

“Although we see politicians and others constantly using moral grounds to justify support for Israel … this is also a disguise for concerns which are very much about realpolitik, which are about arms deals, and also about the possibility as Nicaragua is now claiming, Germany might be an accessory to genocide. So the German government is also defending itself by defending Israel.”

The conference was due to start at noon, with over 800 tickets sold, but police, who have turned out in force outside the venue said that only 250 would be allowed entry.

Speakers at the conference planned to address a range of issues related to Israel and Palestine including the ongoing Nakba, anti-Semitism accusations, the global solidarity movement, and networking sessions. Activists and speakers have come from outside Germany to speak at and attend the conference.

A statement released by organisers prior to the conference read: “The continuing and ongoing crimes in violation of international law committed by the Israeli army against our people in Gaza require our solidarity and effective participation for Palestine’s sake […] German public opinion can no longer remain silent.”

A number of prominent speakers have been invited alongside Ghassan Abu Sittah, who was just elected rector at Glasgow University, including the Greek ex-Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, Irish politician and activist Richard Boyd Barrett, German-Palestinian lawyer Nadija Samour, anti-Zionist Jewish director Dror Dayan, Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta, and Palestinian-American author Noura Erekat.

(Source: The New Arab)