‘You live in fear if you want to say something about Israel’ The Kamila Shamsie affair in Germany

Ruairi Casey 30/09/2019
Pro-Palestine figures say Kamila Shamsie affair demonstrates how dissent is stifled in Germany when criticising Israel.

Berlin, Germany – A German jury’s decision to strip British Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie of a literary prize, because of her pro-Palestinian activism, underscores how ignoring Palestinian rights has become normalised in Germany, according to pro-Palestinian figures in the country.
On September 18, days after its initial decision, the eight-member jury of the Nelly Sachs Prize, named after the German-Jewish Nobel laureate, a poet and playwright, withdrew its $16,000 award over Shamsie’s support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In a statement, they said the “cultural boycott does not transcend borders, but affects the whole of Israeli society regardless of its actual political and cultural heterogeneity.”
BDS was established by Palestinian activists in 2005 to exert economic and political pressure on Israel to meet its obligations under international law and is modelled on similar campaigns by the United States civil rights movement and anti-apartheid fight against South Africa in the 1980s.
“If you are talking about Israel, or writing about Israel, you are entering a no-go or a dangerous area,” Iris Hefets, chairwoman of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, a group of mostly Israeli, British and American Jews living in Germany, told Al Jazeera.
What happened to Shamsie is part of a pattern of censoring, intimidating and undermining artists and public figures for their political views, said Hefets.
Her own organisation had its bank account shuttered in June after sustained criticism from Israeli media and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation, for its support for BDS. 
“You live in fear if you want to say something about Israel. You have to say Israel is great if you want to be protected, and to be funded.”