This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting a friend in the historic city of Münster, Germany – a university town with 50,000 students and famous as the site of the Rathaus where the Treaty of Westphalia was signed ending the Thirty Years’ War in 1648.
What was not so appealing this weekend was the protest outside the historic Rathaus by a group of supporters of the Palestinians shouting quite frankly repulsive and anti-Semitic slogans while the Police looked on with cold eyes.
The rally had been called by the “initiative of the Friends of Palestine in Münster”. Bearing banners and pamphlets to express their protest the participants were mainly women with headscarves and children.
They also chanted slogans such as “child murderer Israel” or “mass murderer Netanyahu”. In a pamphlet stated: “We do not hate the Jews, but the terrorist state of Israel.”
On the opposite side of the street, under the arches, demonstrated a significantly smaller group of people for self-defense of Israel.
It was quite clear to all concerned that the Police were not there to ensure the demonstrators didn’t get out of hand (as occasionally happens with environmental and Neo-Nazi protests in Germany), but rather to ensure that the demonstrators themselves were protected from the public at large.
Marcus, my host for the weekend, is an educated native German with a doctorate in physics who spends his summer vacations building village schools in rural India, so not exactly a little-Deutschlander, but he was outraged to the point of anger that the “…spectre of the anti-Semitism of the Nazi era…” (his exact words) should be displayed again on the streets of Germany.
I pointed out to Marcus that if the right to free-speech means anything, it means the right to make statements which others may find offensive and that there is no general right not to be offended.
“Quite correct”, Marcus said, “but if the protesters had been ethnic German’s rather than immigrants, then they would have been dragged away by the Police at the first anti-Semitic outburst” - this was in relation to an anti-immigration protest at the Münster Rathaus some months ago, which the police had broken up for exactly that reason.
“The police are afraid to intervene because they are Muslims” was Marcus’ final word on the matter.