Inverted Iconographies
The Weaponization of the Accusation in Germany
This text was written one morning after finding time to reflect for the first time since moving Germany. Given how busy everything has been since the process of emigrating and releasing two books in the last months, I haven’t had time to properly react to what’s happening, and the uniquely strenuous context of Germany in regard to the topic of Israel and Palestine.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish this, as the process of writing it was more about taking time for me to properly think through what I have been seeing out of the corner of my eye for the last months. The decision to publish this comes in response to the call from three Jewish speakers at a lecture at Oyoun, the cultural centre that had its funding revoked due to their solidarity with Palestine, for English press to help bring some awareness to the situation in Germany, as it is generally kept under the wraps of German language, making it difficult for people outside of Germany to understand the kinds of contradictions they’re seeing here. It is only for this reason that I believe this text may be helpful to the situation somehow, and support Oyoun’s cause and to show solidarity to the three speakers who, in a way that is indicative of the content of this text, are now experiencing what it is like to be simultaneously the victim of antisemitism while being accused of it. 

Part I & II is mostly some context about the position I speak from, for the sake of transparency, through the process of thinking through the internal contradictions in my identity as a speker. Skip to Part III if you like.

           The contradictions of my position
We recently moved to Germany, as a kind of exit-strategy for getting out of Cyprus, somewhere we were quite uncomfortable for many reasons. We came to Germany because it was mutually agreed upon as a potential place to elope to — and I can ground my position in this text by first discussing from what body-position I speak from. My Grandfather was a denaturalised German-citizen who were evacuated out of Germany at 14 years old, to England, where they learned to speak English through watching movies in the cinema, and working on building sites as a teenaged bricklayer. It is not clear to my family why they evacuated, primarily because they’re all dead, and German records are notoriously difficult to trace, but it was an evacuation, either they were somehow Jewish, or Slavic even, or poor serfs who didn’t feel safe in Nazi Germany.  
            Yet, because my Father, born 1964, was socially ostracised because of his German family (even if they gave up their German nationality and spoke English), he was left in a position of feeling a need to identify as a German, while being entirely disconnected from any concept of Germanness. So, I was raised as someone who was bought German national football shirts, and raised to see Germany as something we have been disconnected from as a result of Fascism, we are a weird, disconnected, socially ostracised family of working class brick layers and mechanics — I experienced a kind of stunted surrogate nationalism; it was clear we were disconnected from the English, and we were raised to fill that void with our German background, of which we knew virtually nothing about because my Grandfather did not want my Father to be German, it wasn’t safe to raise him as German.  
            I am also a transgender person, and the combination of the being closeted in a deeply transphobic place, and carrying a name that invoked racist jokes about nazis, left me feeling very isolated and confused — but I never really took offence to the jokes because I didn’t really identified with the German in me that they were insulting, honestly, what do I know about Germany except what I was taught about it through my cheap English public school history GCSE and the few fragmented remnants about supposedly being German without knowing anything about it. It wasn’t that anyone in the family was being deliberately secretive, it’s just that my grandfather in his old age was quite disoriented and spoke mostly German despite no one else speaking it, and from 7-14 years old my mother was terminally ill with Motor Neurone Disease, so when she passed away, I wasn’t emotionally in a position to take anything seriously, and I dissociated for years. Anyway, I was always told my grandfather was evacuated from the Nazis at 14 (the age I was at the time), so I never really felt that people were being racist to me, just to some ghost that they were seeing where my body is.  
            These paradoxes do at some point become toxic. For example, in England, I was called a both a nazi and a jew at school because of my surname: “Herzberg? Are you a nazi German!?”; “no, I think my grandfather’s mother or grandmother was Jewish and they had to run away”; “ah… fucking jew”. I’ve been called ‘Hamburger’, ‘Heisenberg’, ‘Heebsberg’, and, believe it or not, ‘Herzkreig’. In those moments where British teenagers get twitchy and try to kill each other, I’ve sincerely had someone shouting at me that “my grandfather should have fucking killed your nazi family in the war”; we’re talking about 14–15-year-olds. It is, if not anything else, weird, to have a gang of far-right EDL boys who are known for depraved antisemitic conspiracy theories, calling me a nazi. In the gaps between being neither Jewish nor without-Jewishness, both German and not-German, both English and not-English-enough, I have never really been able to ground my identity anywhere. I am just born and raised in England by those who also don’t necessarily understand their own identities. The more recent friends that I made while living many years in Cyprus (though always maintaining a clear distance from the British expat communities in Cyprus), find it very funny that now, in Germany, I tell people ‘Ich komme aus Zypern’. I’m obviously not Cypriot either, but 5 years on acid in the desert and I have something palpably Cypriot in me, alongside a crude but working-level of Cypriot Greek language. I’m not a “Charlie” either, as I wasn’t born British in Cyprus, nor born Cypriot in England—in Cyprus I am simply English, but in England that was always debatable.  

            The Contradictions of Germany
Given all of this, it shouldn’t be so surprising that we ended up moving to Germany, and in general we feel safe here, comparatively, with one major exception: I could not understand the German discourse about Israel & Palestine, and to arrive here in this specific moment, was very disorienting. Trying to keep up with the developments in Palestine from within the stressful maze of German visa bureaucracy (I’m not European anymore post-Brexit), while attempting to launch two books and participate in events, has been difficult, and being in Germany, specifically, at this time, has complicated it further. As a non-European non-German ex-German-non-British now living in Germany, I feel quite some urgency to ground myself somehow and understand the discourse here as much as possible, as, even if I do not feel any connection to the identities that pass through me, these disconnected or fragmented identities are part of me. I both collect a unique set of privileges that I must acknowledge, yet I am subject to a unique set of difficulties that, whilst simultaneously acknowledging my whiteness and what role that plays in my experience in Europe, drive me towards a strong feeling of solidarity with working-class or oppressed people. For example, during covid I lost my job, without any savings, without any chance of state-support because the café I worked in was technically inside an NGO that operated in the literal semi-militarized U.N. buffer-zone between the divided sides of Cyprus, and despite having worked in a cafe my whole life, I quickly found myself in a plexiglass factory alongside workers from Pakistan, Romania and so on, or alongside migrants from Nepal and India at a bar in the city centre. I wasn’t Cypriot enough or European enough to be protected during COVID, but I couldn’t delude myself into pretending that I could identify with these Nepalese friends, as I was able to get DJ gigs on the side, they weren’t, which is more-or-less just a product of being white, because my mongrel illegitimacy is concealed by my blue eyes and Dracula/Basement Dweller-white skin. Even five years raving in the sun in Cyprus couldn’t make me any less White. It is a humble reminder that no matter how disconnected from everything I often feel, or how much I attempt distance myself from my whiteness, I am deeply privileged, in spite of everything. I am not Buddha; whiteness is not a palace that one can leave behind.  
           While I fell through the gaps during COVID, after the lockdowns ended, I was able to minimum-wage myself out of debt in a posh coffeeshop and effectively fuck-off to Germany. I recall waiting in the “rest of world” immigration queue at the airport in Berlin as we landed, and every brown and bearded person in front of me was being subjected to extensive questioning, providing all kinds of explanations and documents — I was panicking, but when I finally approach the counter, the police agent took one hard look at my tattered British passport, then one hard look at my eye colour, and said to me, albeit begrudgingly, “Herzberg? Ok”. No questions asked. After what I had been watching in front of me, I suddenly felt extremely white, yet let’s not forget the one fundamental contradiction to this: I am only allowed to live and work in Cyprus because I moved to Cyprus before Brexit and secured a 5 years Yellow-Pass that endured Brexit—I am only allowed to live and work in Germany because of my marriage to a European, a Cypriot. I was allowed to enter Germany without question because of my whiteness and name, this one particular police officer made his own judgement not to question anything about my visit to Germany with no return-flight, but I am only allowed to stay here as a plus-one to my partner. I am a guest in Europe, by some miracle. There are so many contradictions.  
           I don’t know if this will upset anyone I know, but I feel that I cannot understand either the standard political positions of the CDU, CSU, or SPD, for example, but neither can I understand a lot of the leftist discourse either, partly because it is all happening under the wraps of German language, but also because of the German-specific framework of contradictions and tensions that discourse here happens within, which understandably has a lot to do with the Holocaust and the absolute defeat Germany faced in WW2. A lot of politics here, even today, is factored into that matrix, but nothing more than the topic of Israel. Zionism is not just prevalent here, it is almost unquestionable, and somehow, by some mysterious forces, Germany, a nation that could never dream of speaking univocally, seems to have found a single voice on the matter of Israel’s immunity to criticism. I can rationalize how German people may feel especially loyal to anything they perceive to be in the interests of Jewish people, but there comes a point where this backfires or toxifies. In the initial period of being in Germany, I was trying to maintain some kind of superposition that would satisfy my initial interpretations of the context I had, admittedly, unwittingly entered into, as well as stay consistent with my own understanding of geopolitics and Global Capitalism. I attempted to do by joining conceding certain ground to pro-Israel positions, through the rhetoric of “don’t focus on Israel, focus on American/European authorisation and the weaponisation of antisemitism”, as that somehow seemed to satisfy this deeply German need to fear being accused of antisemitism, while also not losing complete sight of myself as a Marxist from a post-colonial studies background who had always been loudly anti-capitalist and diabolically cynical of the West’s vision for, well, anything; let alone the middle east.  

Yet, after finally finding some time off from working, all these images and video footage of the IDF lining Palestinian men up in the streets started really setting in, and my interest in sympathising with any pro-Israel position waned. As someone who has very few actual contacts in Berlin, living in relative isolation, I could not talk these ideas through, so, like Adorno in New York, I wanted to write out my position as a way of finding myself again.  

           Nie Wieder ist Jetzt
Having just arrived in Germany, we had been watching a lot of Documentaries and reading a lot about German history, Berlin history, and we undoubtedly came across a lot of documentation of life in Berlin in the 30s. The iconography of fascism is distinct, the way symbols are used and displayed, such as these infamous images of Unter-den-Linden lined with Swastikas, and crowned with a Swastika monument besides Brandenburg Gate. It was quite dystopic to step out of the U-Bahn the next day at Unter-den-Linden and see a huge Star of David dominating the Brandenburg Gate. The presence of Israeli flags in that particular scene was arresting, having a head filled with British or American-made documentaries about Nazism in Berlin and seeing the use of flags and iconography at the Brandenburg Gate. It was a key moment where this univocal German statement of “never again is now”, effectively a declaration that any criticism of Israel in this moment would be the very moment that Germany fails its promise of “never again”. To observe the juxtaposition of “never again is now”, in a moment where Germany looks eerily reminiscent of those pre-war documentaries, just with a particularly salacious twist, where the symbol of those who suffered so much under the Nazis, was now being used maliciously as a means of suppressing pro-Palestine voices in Germany, which is made up of, by and large, non-white German citizens, including Jewish people. Germany, for whatever reason, has the highest number of Palestinian people outside of Palestine, and they are not allowed to mourn the Nakba without being accused of antisemitism. Jewish, Israeli-born-and-raised Citizens of Germany are not allowed to criticize Israeli war crimes being committed in their name.
           This is particularly difficult to process, and attempting to describe it accurately is a nervous, finnicky matter, especially within Germany, but it appears that the symbol that once represented the group who suffered so unimaginably badly at the hands of Fascist ideology, has, today in 2023, been transformed into a cryptic symbol of Neo-Fascism, a tragedy that once again, ends up harming the Jewish community more than anyone. It is harrowing to see what is being done to the Jewish community and the symbolism of their religion because it is something that is not happening by the sole hand of, say, Hamas, but by primarily by Israel, or rather through Israel by the West.
           Take, as a non-German example, one of the most shocking displays of this inversion that has been exhibited so far, which has to be the far-right in England mobilising in defence of Israel. It is indicative of the phenomenon I am describing to watch and listen to English Defence League acolytes (White Supremacist Fascists) basically «sieg heil »-ing and saluting in the name of Israel. Just as I had experienced in school, the very people responsible for the most puerile antisemitic ideas in England were wearing Israel flags. It is a moment of delirious nihilism, where first symbols become detached from their meaning, then somehow get reattached to their opposite meanings. In the same way, we are seeing the very situation that “nie wieder ist jetzt” should be resisting being authorized in Germany under the pretext of “nie wieder ist jetzt”. The gradual weaponization of antisemitism accusations worldwide has been well documented, but it is becoming an alarming situation within Germany, where, for example, important cultural organizations like Oyoun are being left destitute if they refuse to make some kind of pro-Israel declarations. People are scared to display any solidarity with Palestine for fear for losing their jobs or even having their bank accounts seized, which has happened recently here, and as I have said before, Jewish Israeli’s are being silenced as much as Palestinians are being banned from mourning the Nakba. On top of this, there is a need to remember that statistically, 80% of antisemitism in Germany is coming from White Nationalists on the far-right, but if you were to read the news or engage in political discourse here, it would seem that 80% of antisemitism is somehow the fault of queer, black, and brown people, and, of course, many Jewish people.  
           The position I am left in is one that sees an experimental US military technology called Israel being used to immunize Western foreign-policy in the middle-east. One of my contentions is that antisemitism never went anywhere, but it transformed, and I have become preoccupied by the non-Zionist Jewish Israeli arguments that there is subversive power in being stateless, and the idea that, through the creation of Israel, the Jewish community was displaced out of Europe, housed inside an idea drawn up by the likes of Winston Churchill and the American Intelligence Services, or at least drawn up in line with their foreign-policy visions. The reason why I maintain absolutely that the criticising Israel in the way that I intend to in this text is far from antisemitic is because one has to recognise that cruel violence that Jewish people are being subjected to through the West’s instrumentalisation of Israel in maintaining control of the Middle-East. It is antisemitic because much of this technology depends upon the deliberate conflation between two very different concepts, “Israel” and “Judaism”. By conflating these two terms, any criticism of Israel’s actions is seen as a criticism of Jewish people, and thus US foreign-policy can hide behind the Jewish community in the form of Israel, effectively using them as a shield, as a means of immunisation.  
           To escape the horrors of Auschwitz in a state of unimaginable shock and distress, only to be given Israel as the primary means or framework through which to post-traumatically rehistoricize and relocate oneself and ones identity — this seems like an unjustifiably cruel fate for people escaping tyranny. Gaza is an open air prison of desperately poor conditions, but Israel is itself is like a NATO War Ship that the Jewish community is doomed to operate under the command of the interests of Western Capitalists, doomed to go down with their ship as a result of someone else’s war. Jewish people are chained to Israel just as the homeless child is chained to Schlesisches Tor by their addicted father — yes, that is the reality of Berlin in 2023, a city where millions of people wait for their U-bahns while simply ignoring a literal homeless child, or ignoring the black man with open-wounds on their legs and arms who lies dead on the seats at the end of the last carriage of the U3 Krumme Lanke, and yes, I feel it is extremely necessary to highlight this aspect of Germany within this specific criticism of, amongst other things, the German State’s immaculate support of Israel. I say this because of something that was repeatedly highlighted in US and British documentation of 1930s Berlin, where the city itself was depicted, even by US sources, as some kind of perfect society, where conservatives would happily sit for brunch along the Swastika-lined Unter-den-Linden. Such internal conditions were created through some dialectical relationship between Goebbel’s propaganda and the public willingness to stay silent and simply ignore what is happening outside of their borders, either out of fear of Nazi violence or out of a propaganda-induced identification with the third-reich and its goals. We see even today that US violence across the world has been justified through pink-washing or white saviourism — citizens of the West have historically shown themselves to sincerely believe that Western foreign-policy and intervention is somehow righteous, justified or even morally sound. In this reality, I can certainly believe that powerful propaganda and extreme violence can condition citizens into somehow supporting war crimes, crimes against the world, and crimes against humanity.  
           It was genuinely shame-inducing to consider Yemen within all of this. As many said from the beginning, the difference in media coverage and public outrage about Palestine, in comparison to Yemen, was, and still is, deeply suspicious, and rather unnerving to try and understand. The West, with me very much included, has been scrolling past advertisements about humanitarian crises in Yemen for probably almost a decade. I had, very cynically, assumed that the purpose of these adverts was not even to really generate any public response, as they are framed more like anti-smoking advertisements or NHS fundraisers, something the public finds banal. Instead, the purpose of the advertisements about Yemen is simply to make you aware that something terrible is happening there, but only to be aware, not to do anything about it. The advertisements about Yemen are distributed around the city like the homeless, positioned like Ancient Athenian korai, as warnings about the disparity between the conditions of the interior and the exterior of the Neoliberal-Fascist machine. No one was giving coverage to Yemen for all this time, and I can confess that almost every time I skipped over a Yemen advertisement, I would briefly pause to think “why are we collectively not interested in Yemen?”. Then the news broke that Yemen had captured some Israeli ships, and suddenly the pro-Palestine West knew the word Yemen again, cheering them on, calling them based. Maybe the capturing of the ships was based, but I can’t really accept this new found admiration of Yemen after years of ignoring the adverts about Yemen that are plastered to the walls above the homeless child that we also ignore as we run to catch the U3 at 8am on Sunday morning as we leave the club. This is not just a criticism of our complicity, as I have already offered a means of understand how and why the public end up tolerant of the various forms of korai that are distributed throughout reality. We, the nations that reprsent us and act in our names, are not Yemen’s allies, one can only assume that Yemeni citizens would resent our cheering. What we must look like to them, I can’t imagine.  
           I have raised this point before, but it seems clear at times that the West has developed a control system indifferent to Pablo Escobar’s Plata o Plomo — either you take Neoliberalism or you take Fascism. The idea that I’m interested in exploring again is that the two might be understood as descriptions of the interior and exterior of the same system or way of life. In 1930s Berlin, one can observe proto-Neoliberal conditions flourishing internally while, to everyone outside of Germany, it looks clearly like the rise of the epitome of Fascism. In Israel, we see Neoliberalism flourishing internally, with vegan super soldiers, americanised social media influencers, gentrification, some world class Techno clubs. Perhaps what we might learn from events of late is that Neoliberalism within Israel was working well enough for people to think its somehow appropriate to throw a rave that close to the Gazan border. Yet, the otherside of this border, outside of the ‘walled garden’, Left destitute in ruinous oblivion under the control of groups like Hamas and various paramilitaries, who at this stage might as well be understood as subcontractors of Israel, insofar as the apparent dependency Hamas and Netanyahu have on each other, Palestinians can only see a terrifying and expanding armoured fortress.  
            What we can also learn from Germany in the 1930s, is that not everyone needs to be a Fascist for Fascism to prevail. The majority of a nation need simply be complacent, either out of fear of violence or from being convinced by masterful propagandists into identifying with the cause. I am never reassured by the idea that there is only some small percentage of the population who are hardened or militant fascists, as this small demographic is more than enough, as they are but the tip of the spear, of which the long shaft, the means of handling and the means of exerting force, thus the means of realising the potential of the spear tip. The question is not how many Fascists are there, but whether there is a graspable shaft that a regime of power could use to mobilize a small number of Fascists to inflict great damage.  

           Oyouns’ struggle and Surrogate-Nationalism
  It is worth noting that the bulk of this essay was written one morning, after reaching a moment where it felt quite urgent to write out my thoughts because of the specifics of my situation as described extensively in part I. At some point I had to stop writing because I had to work; a friend wanted a copy of our newest book and we agreed to meet at a location they were going to, where there happened to be a lecture they wanted to attend. It was Oyouns, the very organization that I had read about in the last weeks, who lost over a million euros in funding due to refusing to take a pro-Israel stance. I thought that it was, if nothing else, ironic that I would be going there to give my friend this book, so before we left the house, I asked what the name of the lecture was, and it turned out to be a lecture about exactly the topic that I had been writing about in the morning, by three Jewish speakers. It was quite the coincidence, and we tried to arrive early enough, and we ended up sitting on the floor just a meter from the panellists because the room was completely packed, and it seemed to affirm the urgency of the situation. At times it felt more like a press conference about a dire situation happening right now.  
           It was uncertain to me whether or not I would share my writing on this topic when I attended the lecture, but at the end the panellists urged English speakers and those who work in the press who are less likely to lose their jobs or take on a lot of risk by advocating Palestine to speak up. In this case, the use of English would open up the possibility for people around the world to try and understand what they’re seeing in Germany, as it is all hidden under German language. Given the consistencies between what I had written and what I heard at the lecture, I made the decision to heed their call, and to offer some coverage of the situation in Germany in English, and that I would be able to do an edit of the text based on the information disseminated at the lecture. Something from the lecture that I wanted to Highlight as a way of offering how I see the situation here. The idea was this same idea of surrogate-nationalism that I had experienced as a child, where an inability to be patriotic about England made my father act patriotically about Germany, something he himself was forcibly disconnected from by his father. In the case of Germany’s policy of Israel, the inability for Germany to be patriotic, or nationalistic about Germany, has helped push many German citizens towards taking on Israeli nationalism as a surrogate. It can go to such a length that a German citizen might feel that any criticism of Israel is somehow antisemitic against them.
           Zionism has failed when one accepts that there is nowhere safe to be Jewish, even with the Shepherding of Jewish people into Israel. One might think that Jewish people can’t be that safe in Israel if they need the Iron Dome to protect them. The general argument here would be that somehow if Hamas just stopped trying to eradicate all the Jewish community, then Israel would succeed as a project. This is where the a particularly alarming problem that Israeli fascism must be held accountable for, which is the same genocidal doctrine that once targeted Jewish people: if only we can kill them, down to the very last one, the problem will be over. That is what is so regrettable, not just that Jewish people have largely been marooned in an antisemitic project, but that now the same malicious will to eliminate is now being allowed to be conducted in the name of Jewish people, but not sincerely with the safety and prosperity of Jewish people in mind, and mostly in line with NATO political interests. So much of the content produced by Israeli influencers and so much media coverage has such callous disregard and defensiveness, unanimously bitter and with such derision. Its agonising to see how all these inversions and contradictions lead people to cheer on an extermination carried out in their name.