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Germany bans Greece ex-finance minister from speaking at events over pro-Palestinian views

Germany’s Interior Ministry has issued a ban against former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis from entering the country in what has been condemned as an attack on free speech and an authoritarian overreach by the government. Varoufakis was set to speak at the Palestine Congress in Berlin. German authorities extended the ban to digital participation, preventing him from delivering his speech via Zoom or a video recording as German police cracked down on the event and eventually cancelled it. Varoufakis has, nonetheless, posted his speech online advocating for universal human rights in Israel-Palestine. British-Palestinian surgeon and rector of the University of Glasgow Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, as well as Palestinian academic and historian Salman Abu Sitta have faced similar bans on participation in the event. On his way to Germany to take part in the event, Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta was detained at Berlin Airport and subjected to a three-hour interrogation.

April 14, 2024 at 10:18 am

Germany has banned Greece’s former finance minister from speaking in the country even through online means, amid Berlin’s increasing crackdown on freedom of speech regarding Palestine and Israel.

In a statement on X, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis announced that “Germany’s Interior Ministry has issued a ‘Betätigungsverbot’ against me, a ban on any political activity. Not just a ban on visiting Germany but also from participation via Zoom.”

The ban was reportedly caused by a speech Varoufakis published on multiple platforms including X, in which he advocated for the rights of Palestinians and condemned Israel’s ongoing offensive on Gaza and the genocide it is committing there.

“Universal human rights are either universal or they mean nothing”, he said in his speech, which he was meant to read out at the Palestine Congress – set to take place in Berlin from April 12 to April 14 – before the event was shut down by German police.

“You accuse us of antisemitic hatred. We accuse you of being the antisemite’s best friend by equating the right of Israel to commit war crimes with the right of Israeli Jews to defend themselves”, he stated. “You accuse us of supporting terrorism. We accuse you of equating legitimate resistance to an apartheid state with atrocities against civilians which I have always and will always condemn, whoever commits them — Palestinians, Jewish settlers, my own family, whoever.”

Greece’s former finance accused critics such as German authorities “of not recognizing the duty of the people of Gaza to tear down the wall of the open prison they have been encased in for eighty years — and of equating this act of tearing down the wall of shame, which is no more defensible than the Berlin Wall was, with acts of terror.”

Varoufakis further said that he defends the Palestinian cause because “we cannot rely on the silenced who are also massacred and starved to tell us about the massacres and the starvation”, as well as because “a proud, decent people, the people of Germany, are led down a perilous road to a heartless society by being made to associate themselves with another genocide carried out in their name, with their complicity.”

Germany’s ban on Varoufakis was issued alongside bans on other prominent pro-Palestinian figures such as academic Salman Abu Sitta, as well as the surgeon and University of Glasgow rector Ghassan Abu Sittah, who was arrested and subjected to a three-hour interrogation at Berlin airport on Friday.

READ: Germany, Gaza and the World Court: Broadening the scope of genocide