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12 Oct, 2023 19:34

Germany vows to prosecute burning of Israeli flag

While defiling foreign flags is already illegal in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has further criminalized burning Israel’s
Germany vows to prosecute burning of Israeli flag

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a formal ban on any activity honoring Hamas’ attack on Israel, vowing on Thursday to prosecute anyone who used the militant group’s symbols, praised their violent acts, burned the Israeli flag, or otherwise attempted to incite criminal behavior.

These means expressly include bans on associations and activities. The Federal Ministry of the Interior will issue a ban on Hamas activities in Germany,” Scholz told the Bundestag. The Palestinian militant organization, which controls most of Gaza, was already classed as a terror group by the EU.

Scholz said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Berlin would fulfill any wartime need that arose, declaring, “There is only one place for Germany — the place at Israel’s side. Our own history, our responsibility arising from the Holocaust, makes it a perpetual task for us to stand up for the security of the state of Israel.”

Insisting there would be “zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” the chancellor urged all German law enforcement agencies to prosecute violators “with all the means that our defensible constitutional state offers.” 

First on the list was Palestinian prisoners’ advocacy group Samidoun, which apparently earned Scholz’s ire by distributing pastries in the streets of Berlin on Saturday to demonstrators who later celebrated Hamas’ actions. The group has vowed to fight back, accusing German authorities of having banned overtly pro-Palestinian demonstrations for years before Hamas’ latest attack.  

Scholz also lashed out at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his West Bank government over their “silence” in failing to condemn Hamas’ incursion into Israel, calling it “shameful.” Abbas affirmed on Saturday that Palestinians had the right “to defend themselves against the terrorism of settlers and occupation forces.

Like many of Germany’s allies, Scholz also attempted to blame Iran for the violence, declaring “it is clear to all of us that without Iranian support over the past several years, Hamas would not have been capable of these unprecedented attacks on Israeli territory.” However, he acknowledged there was “no tangible evidence that Iran gave concrete and operative support” to the militants. 

Burning foreign flags has been illegal in Germany since 2020, classified as a hate crime carrying up to three years in prison. The controversial flag-burning law, which also includes defilement of other national symbols, was passed in response to an earlier Israeli flag-burning incident in Berlin in 2017, during protests against the US moving its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was previously only illegal to burn foreign flags if they were displayed in a ceremony or official function, though burning the German flag has long been illegal.