In a silent gesture that raises more than a few questions, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation – North Africa announced that it is “suspending all events until further notice out of respect for all victims in the Middle East.” The decision of the foundation’s office in Tunisia to remain silent regarding the resistance of the Palestinian people coincided with the resounding pro-Zionist stance of the mother office in Germany, which said on its official website after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, “October 2023 is a turning point… Because of the terrible massacre committed by the Islamic Hamas movement against Israeli civilians.”
This is how the foundation presented its explicit support for the Zionist occupier, and in doing so, it ignored 75 years of brutal Zionist settler-colonialism, apartheid, sieges, ethnic cleansing, forced displacement, arbitrary arrests and the ongoing denial of the legitimate right of return for Palestinian refugees. Until 15 November, the foundation continued to describe the systematic genocide of the people of Gaza on a daily basis, and the killing of children and women before the eyes of the entire world as “a shocking and disturbing escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine,” thereby equating the coloniser with the colonised, and comparing those who commit mass ethnic cleansing to those who are subjected to that mass ethnic cleansing on a daily basis.
This is a position that would have passed unnoticed, not deserving of attention in a world numbed by the international community’s double standards, had it not been for the institution’s 18 regional offices spread around the world, including Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan and Israel. It is a left-wing institution with local partners in the aforementioned countries who are active in multiple fields, including academia, logistics and finance. It cooperates in a wide variety of political education projects globally, funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Ministry for Development and Cooperation. The foundation says proudly, “We cooperate with people and political representatives from the region and work with progressive NGOs, unions, social movements, think-tanks and alternative media platforms.”
It is linked to a left-wing German party, but its funding comes mainly from the federal government budget. Its budget report shows that government contributions increased from €30.6 million in 2010 to €67.4m in 2018. In that year, nearly 50 per cent of all contributions, almost €33m, came from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. It also received €11.9m from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, €12.1m from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and a total of €7.2m from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This means that the institution’s policy, no matter how independent it claims to be, can only reflect German government policy.
As for the North Africa Office, established in July 2013 in Tunisia, the Foundation emphasises that its overall goal is the promotion of “innovative and creative initiatives in the region, to support social justice, bottom-up political participation, and cross-societal dialogue,” and that it stands with the norms of the labour women’s movements, as well as against fascism and racism.
Why is the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation standing so strongly by a racist settler occupier?
This takes us to the foundation’s position and the position of its branch in North Africa regarding the genocide campaign in Gaza. If these leftist socialist goals and opposition to fascism and racism are actually real, then where are they in Gaza today? Why is the foundation standing so strongly by a racist settler occupier, whose streets are crowded with free demonstrators condemning its crimes? Why did the foundation’s office in Tunisia choose to remain silent with the occupier, on the one hand, and with the main parent foundation that supports an occupier which enjoys killing children and women and whose racist policy involves the massacre of the Palestinian people? How does the Tunis office justify its silence when it read the letter of many of its colleagues working in the Palestine and Jordan offices, which was addressed to the main office, and published after it was leaked in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper?
“How can this silence be consistent with our shared commitment to justice, human rights and the fight against injustice?” asked the signatories. “How can an organisation that has consistently stood against injustice and oppression hesitate to take a firm stance against the grave crimes committed against our people?”
They described how the foundation’s website was flooded with narratives of racist occupiers and how the foundation’s main statement, on 10 October, refrained from addressing the enormity of the injustice. “They spoke on our behalf using the rhetoric of ‘both sides’, avoiding terms like “war crimes”, “colonialism”, “genocide,” or “siege” in relation to the ongoing atrocities against the Palestinian people.”
At a time when the voices of the foundation’s protesting employees are being silenced in Palestine and Jordan, we find that its arms are generously open to the office of the occupier, boasting that it aims to focus in particular on German-Israeli relations, over which the Holocaust casts its shadow. The office supports the forum and dialogue of experts, academics, activists and German and Israeli politicians. As Palestinians are being subjected to ethnic cleansing, the institution stresses its rejection of manifestations of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has become the accusation of the era, ready to be directed at anyone who tries to question the Zionist narrative or the practices of the Zionist state, and has nothing to do with their position on Jews.
In light of all this, why is the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation – North Africa office in Tunisia still hiding behind the veil of suspending its activities “out of respect for ‘all’ the victims of the Middle East”? Why didn’t “all the Foundation’s partners” announce they would not associate with it, intellectually and financially, after three organisations — Citizen Cartography, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights and the Observatory of Food Sovereignty and Environment — announced that they were severing relations with the foundation due to its position on the Palestinian cause and its bias in favour of the official positions of the European countries that support the occupation.
While the silence of the rest of the partners, including individuals, organisations and associations is deafening in the foundation’s various branches, what did we learn about the role of intellectuals. Don’t they have the duty to search for the truth hidden behind the veil of distortion, falsification, ideology and class interests? Isn’t the responsibility of the intellectual much deeper and greater than that of the rest of the people?
In the spring of 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the civil rights movement in the US, gave his first major speech about the American war against Vietnam. In a loud voice, and at great risk to his life, he addressed those who remain silent in the face of injustice, invasion and aggressive wars, reminding us of human moral values: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Rosa Luxemburg Foundation please take note.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 27 November 2023
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.