On October 13, as tens of thousands of people rallied in support of the Palestinians worldwide, a different situation unfolded in Germany and France where all such protests were prohibited. These two European nations, home to the largest Jewish and Muslim communities within the European Union, have taken a stern stance against pro-Palestinian groups.
Their rationale for these restrictions is to maintain public order and prevent antisemitism. However, proponents of the Palestinian cause contend that these bans impede their ability to publicly express support or concern for those living in Gaza, controlled by Hamas, without the fear of legal repercussions, job loss, or immigration issues.
The ongoing conflict in Gaza has resulted in a high casualty count, with over 3,500 people killed as Israel engaged in a retaliatory bombing campaign. Simultaneously, a blockade preventing the entry of essential supplies, including food, fuel, and medicine, has created a dire humanitarian crisis.
"We are scared, we are worried about being accused of justifying terrorism, when we just want to support a humanitarian cause," explained Messika Medjoub, a 20-year-old French-Algerian history student.
Medjoub's sentiments were expressed at a protest in Paris that was banned and subsequently dispersed by the police, using tear gas and water cannons.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin imposed a nationwide ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, citing concerns about potential public disorder. Nine such protests have been banned in Paris since October 7. Over the weekend, Paris police extended the ban to include the "presence and circulation of people that present themselves as pro-Palestinian," resulting in 827 fines and 43 arrests since October 12.
In Germany, the situation differs slightly, with Berlin police granting approval for two pro-Palestine protests, both proposed as silent vigils. However, at least seven other requests, including one by a group called "Jewish Berliners Against Middle Eastern Violence" and another titled "Youth Against Racism," were denied. At least 190 individuals have been detained during these protests.