In Berlin, Some Israeli Ex-Pats Organize Against Germany’s Support for Israel

By | Jun 28, 2024
A white man with thick brown hair and a dark jacket looks directly at the camera in front of a quaint urban background. A man in a blue jacket and dark sunglasses wrides a bicycle on the left of the frame and also looks at the camera.

Friday, May 31. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, under the canopy of two enormous plane trees, dozens of Israelis gather across the street from Germany’s foreign ministry in the heart of Berlin. They are part of Israelis für Frieden, Israelis for Peace, a new organization composed of left-wing Israeli expats in the German capital.

The previous weekend, Israel had faced widespread international condemnation after at least 45 people were killed and more than 200 injured following an air strike on Rafah that triggered fires and explosions at a displaced persons camp. Behind a banner calling for an immediate cease-fire, the protestors chant a melange of slogans in English and Hebrew: Recognize Palestine! Stop funding Israel! No one is free until everybody is free!

At the center of the protest, holding one end of the black Ceasefire Now! banner is Nimrod Flaschenberg, one of the protest’s main organizers and the founder of Israelis for Peace. The 33-year-old moved to Berlin from Tel Aviv two years ago with his wife, who’s a writer, and he now studies history in the German capital. Prior, Flaschenberg worked in the Knesset as an adviser to Aida Touma-Suleiman, an Israeli Arab MK from the left-wing Jewish-Arab party Hadash.

Flaschenberg is one of around 10-30,000 Israelis living in Berlin. (The exact figure is hard to pin down, for many Israelis live in Germany on a European passport.) Israelis for Peace, while it represents only a fraction of those Israelis (it has a core of around 20 activists and its demonstrations regularly attract 50 to 150 people) is significant nonetheless because it offers Israelis a way to organize outside of the structures Jewish institutions in Berlin can offer them.

“I don’t feel politically connected to any notion of global Jewry: not in Berlin and not in New York,” Flaschenberg explains. “When you look at the Zentralrat”—the Central Council of Jews in Germany, German Jewry’s main representative organization—”I’m obviously not represented by it. It is one of the engines behind the unconditional support that Germany gives Israel.”

A man holds a sign which says "Palestinian State Now" in black text on white paper. It's a rainy day, and a few other people stand in the background.

Flaschenberg at a demonstration in front of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin.

Germany-Israel relations are strong. In a speech to the Knesset in 2008, then-chancellor Angela Merkel declared Israel’s security was Germany’s historical responsibility and even a raison d’état. That idea remains the cornerstone of Germany’s approach to Israel. It supported Israel’s right to self-defense after October 7, continues to export arms to the country, and is defending Israel against genocide charges brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice.

“Germany should stop sending arms to Israel completely,” says Flaschenberg, outlining the group’s demands. “Germany should act decisively against the Israeli settlement project and Israeli criminals in the West Bank and Gaza. Germany should recognize a Palestinian state as a way to advance a peaceful resolution of the conflict [and it] should resume funding for UNRWA [the United Nations’ Palestinian Relief and Works Agency].”

“After Washington, Berlin is the most important city in terms of diplomatic influence on Israel,” Flaschenberg emphasizes. “We don’t want Germany to become Ireland,” he says, with reference to one of Israel’s fiercest critics in Europe, “but we want it to make several significant steps and understand that it is dealing with a fascist government in Israel.”

Flaschenberg and I are meeting the day prior to the demonstration at a café-cum-bar in Neukölln—the kind of boho place where the Free Gaza graffiti in the bathroom stall is etched next to a sticker advertising the virtues of Queer Couch Surfing. The neighborhood in southeastern Berlin has been undergoing gentrification since the 1990s, but continues to attract artists and students—including many Israelis—looking for lower rents and a lively social and cultural scene. It is also home to large Turkish, Kurdish and Arab communities.

Flaschenberg arrives at the café by bike amid a torrential rainstorm wearing a long waterproof anorak. “I perceive myself as an anti-Zionist, but I do not subscribe to the way many anti-Zionists describe themselves,” he explains carefully as we discuss how he came to found Israelis for Peace.

His objection is to “the Zionist project as a project of colonization, but that does not mean Jews don’t have a right to self-determination in Israel. That right was realized, but the right of the other, the Palestinians, is still missing.” Hadash’s position is for the two-state solution: the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, as described in the party’s platform.

The idea of organizing the Israeli left in Berlin—a mix of anti-Zionists such as Flaschenberg as well as liberal Zionists and non-Zionists opposed to Israeli government policy if not the state’s existence—came to him and his circle of friends before the war. A formative event for them was Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to overhaul the country’s judicial system, which gave birth to the largest counterdemonstrations Israel has seen in a decade. Flaschenberg and his friends were out on the streets too, protesting in Berlin.


“We thought that an organized voice of people who were against the occupation and the unconditional support that Germany gives Israel could be effective in German politics,” he explains. Israelis advocating for those policies cannot, Flaschenberg thinks, be “easily marginalized” in the way other left-wing groups in Germany might be. “The goal is to be a destination for German political leaders who want to speak out against Israeli policy,” Flaschenberg says, conceiving of the role of Israelis for Peace, in part, as a “kosher certificate” for opinions that may be perceived as too critical or controversial in Germany, such as pushing for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

After October 7, “I was shocked and I was depressed for a few months,” he reflects. “It has changed my life very significantly. In a sense, I feel it changed my character as a person. I’m much less of an optimist and I have much more anxiety.” He also felt alienated from the international left at that time because of their reaction to October 7, though those feelings have softened over time.

Yet Israel’s counter-operation in Gaza gave the Israeli left in Berlin fresh impetus. On December 29, Israelis for Peace held their first demonstration. Standing outside in the snow, they called for an immediate cease-fire, the release of all hostages, and a diplomatic solution guaranteeing a sustainable future in Israel-Palestine.

The protests outside the German foreign ministry quickly became a weekly gathering as Israel’s counteroperation against Hamas in Gaza progressed. These endeavors have garnered some interest from the Israeli and German media—newspapers such as Haaretz and the German center-left daily taz—and members of Israelis for Peace have recently met with German politicians from The Left, a far-left party in the German parliament.

“Obviously, the discourse has become a lot more polarized” since October 7, Flaschenberg concludes as the rain continues to fall outside. “But I think that enabled us to break through, in a sense, because we’re speaking in a way that no other group is speaking in Germany right now. Although we’re a small group, people notice us, whether in politics, civil society, or journalism, because our voice is unique.”

One thought on “In Berlin, Some Israeli Ex-Pats Organize Against Germany’s Support for Israel

  1. Rose Rahmani -braude says:

    i am the child of a survivor of the shoah .i thus hate gong to Germany in any event .
    this however is aggregious and disgraceful .

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