Yanis Varoufakis’ Speech at the Palestine Conference, Banned by the German Police

Yanis Varoufakis was banned not just from visiting Germany but from participating in video conferences about politics hosted in Germany.
Yanis Varoufakis

On March 13th, Yanis Varoufakis was banned not just from visiting Germany but from participating in video conferences about politics hosted in Germany. Here’s the plea for humanity and justice in Palestine that got him banned.

In the country of technological fascism, entry was denied to Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister. Conversely, the studios are open to the fascist Björn Höcke.

Besides Varoufakis, entry was also denied to Ghassan Abu Sittah, one of the doctors from Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. Ghassan Abu Sittah was a witness at the International Court of Justice in The Hague concerning the allegations of barbarism by the Israeli government against the people of Gaza. In Germany, he is not allowed to speak.

The following is the unspoken speech of Yanis Varoufakis.

* * *

by Yanis Varoufakis

Today, Germany’s interior ministry issued a “betätigungsverbot” against me, a ban on any political activity — not just a ban from visiting Germany but also from participation in Zoom events hosted in the country. I can’t even have a recorded video of me played at German events.

The trouble started in earnest yesterday, when German police burst into a Berlin venue to disband our Palestine congress, which was hosted by the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25). Judge for yourselves what kind of society Germany is becoming if its police ban the sentiments below.

* * *

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks for being here — despite the threats, despite the ironclad police outside this venue, despite the panoply of the German press, despite the German state, despite the German political system that demonizes you for being here.

“Why a Palestinian congress, Mr Varoufakis?” a German journalist asked me recently. Because, as Hanan Ashrawi once said, “we cannot rely on the silenced to tell us about their suffering.”

Today, Ashrawi’s reason has grown depressingly stronger, because we cannot rely on the silenced who are also massacred and starved to tell us about the massacres and the starvation.

But there is another reason, too: 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.

I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian. But I am incredibly proud to be here among Jews and Palestinians — to blend my voice for peace and universal human rights with Jewish voices for peace and universal human rights, with Palestinian voices for peace and universal human rights. Being together here today is proof that coexistence is not only possible — but that it is here already.

“Why not a Jewish congress, Mr Varoufakis?” the same German journalist asked me, imagining that he was being smart. I welcomed his question.

For if a single Jew is threatened, anywhere, just because she or he is Jewish, I shall wear the Star of David on my lapel and offer my solidarity — whatever the cost, whatever it takes.

So let’s be clear: if Jews were under attack, anywhere in the world, I would be the first to canvass for a Jewish congress in which to register our solidarity.

Similarly, when Palestinians are massacred because they are Palestinians — under a dogma that to be dead and Palestinian, they must have been Hamas — I shall wear my keffiyeh and offer my solidarity whatever the cost, whatever it takes.

Universal human rights are either universal or they mean nothing.

With this in mind, I answered the German journalist’s question with a few of my own:

• Are two million Israeli Jews, who were thrown out of their homes and into an open-air prison eighty years ago, still being kept in that open-air prison, without access to the outside world, with minimal food and water, with no chance of a normal life or of traveling anywhere, while being bombed periodically for these eighty years? No.
• Are Israeli Jews being starved intentionally by an army of occupation, their children writhing on the floor, screaming from hunger? No.
• Are there thousands of Jewish injured children with no surviving parents crawling through the rubble of what used to be their homes? No.
• Are Israeli Jews being bombed by the world’s most sophisticated planes and bombs? No.
• Are Israeli Jews experiencing complete ecocide of what little land they can still call their own, with not one tree left under which they can seek shade or whose fruit they can taste? No.
• Are Israeli Jewish children killed by snipers today at the orders of a member state of the United Nations (UN)? No.
• Are Israeli Jews driven out of their homes by armed gangs today? No.
• Is Israel fighting for its existence today? No.

If the answer to any of these questions were yes, I would be participating in a Jewish solidarity congress today.

Today, we would have loved to have a decent, democratic, mutually respectful debate on how to bring peace and universal human rights to everyone — Jews and Palestinians, Bedouins and Christians — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea with people who think differently from us.

Sadly, the whole of the German political system has decided not to allow this. In a joint statement including not just the CDU-CSU (Christian Democratic Union–Christian Social Union in Bavaria) and the FDP (Free Democratic Party) but also the SPD (Social Democratic Party), the Greens, and, remarkably, two leaders of Die Linke (The Left), Germany’s political spectrum joined forces to ensure that such a civilized debate, in which we may disagree agreeably, never takes place in Germany.

I say to them: you want to silence us, to ban us, to demonize us, to accuse us. You therefore leave us with no choice but to meet your ridiculous accusations with our own rational accusations. You chose this, not us.

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.

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. We accuse you 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.

You accuse us of trivializing Hamas’s October 7 terror. We accuse you of trivializing the eighty years of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the erection of an ironclad apartheid system across Israel-Palestine. We accuse you of trivializing Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-term support of Hamas as a means of destroying the two-state solution that you claim to favor. We accuse you of trivializing the unprecedented terror unleashed by the Israeli army on the people of Gaza, the West Bank. and East Jerusalem.

You accuse the organizers of today’s congress of being, and I quote, “not interested in talking about possibilities for peaceful coexistence in the Middle East against the background of the war in Gaza.” Are you serious? Have you lost your mind?

We accuse you of supporting a German state that is, after the United States, the largest supplier of the weapons that the Netanyahu government uses to massacre Palestinians as part of a grand plan to make a two-state solution, and peaceful coexistence between Jews and Palestinians, impossible. We accuse you of never answering the pertinent question that every German must answer: How much Palestinian blood must flow before your justified guilt over the Holocaust is washed away?

So let’s be clear: we are here in Berlin with our Palestinian congress because, unlike the German political system and the German media, we condemn genocide and war crimes regardless of who is perpetrating them. Because we oppose apartheid in the land of Israel-Palestine no matter who has the upper hand — just as we opposed apartheid in the American South or in South Africa. Because we stand for universal human rights, freedom, and equality among Jews, Palestinians, Bedouins, and Christians in the ancient land of Palestine.

And so that we are even clearer on the questions, legitimate and malignant, that we must always be ready to answer:

Do I condemn Hamas’ atrocities?

I condemn every single atrocity, whoever is the perpetrator or the victim. What I do not condemn is armed resistance to an apartheid system designed as part of a slow-burning but inexorable ethnic-cleansing program. Put differently, I condemn every attack on civilians while, at the same time, I celebrate anyone who risks their life to tear down the wall.

Is Israel not engaged in a war for its very existence?

No, it is not. Israel is a nuclear-armed state with perhaps the most technologically advanced army in the world and the panoply of the US military machine at its back. There is no symmetry with Hamas, a group that can cause serious damage to Israelis but has no capacity whatsoever to defeat Israel’s military, or even to prevent Israel from continuing to implement the slow genocide of Palestinians under the system of Apartheid that has been erected with long-standing US and European Union support.

Are Israelis not justified to fear that Hamas wants to exterminate them?

Of course they are! Jews have suffered a Holocaust that was preceded by pogroms and a deep-seated antisemitism permeating Europe and the Americas for centuries. It is only natural that Israelis live in fear of a new pogrom if the Israeli army folds. However, by imposing apartheid on their neighbors and by treating them like subhumans, the Israeli state is stoking the fires of antisemitism and strengthening Palestinians and Israelis who just want to annihilate each other. In the end, its actions contribute to the awful insecurity consuming Jews in Israel and the diaspora. Apartheid against the Palestinians is the Israelis’ worst self-defense.

What about antisemitism?

It is always a clear and present danger. And it must be eradicated, especially amongst the ranks of the global left and the Palestinians fighting for Palestinian civil liberties around the world.

Why don’t Palestinians pursue their objectives by peaceful means?

They did. The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) recognized Israel and renounced armed struggle. And what did they get for it? Absolute humiliation and systematic ethnic cleansing. That is what nurtured Hamas and elevated it the eyes of many Palestinians as the only alternative to a slow genocide under Israel’s apartheid.

What should be done now? What might bring Peace to Israel-Palestine?

• An immediate cease-fire.
• The release of all hostages — Hamas’s and the thousands held by Israel.
• A peace process, under the UN, supported by a commitment from the international community to end apartheid and to safeguard equal civil liberties for all.
• As for what must replace apartheid, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to decide between the two-state solution and the solution of a single federal secular state.

Friends, we are here because vengeance is a lazy form of grief.

We are here to promote not vengeance but peace and coexistence across Israel-Palestine.

We are here to tell German democrats, including our former comrades of Die Linke, that they have covered themselves in shame long enough — that two wrongs do not one right make — and that allowing Israel to get away with war crimes is not going to ameliorate the legacy of Germany’s crimes against the Jewish people.

Beyond today’s congress, we have a duty in Germany to change the conversation. We have a duty to persuade the vast majority of decent Germans out there that universal human rights are what matters. That never again means never again for anyone. Jewish, Palestinian, Ukrainian, Russian, Yemeni, Sudanese, Rwandan — for everyone, everywhere.

In this context, I am pleased to announce that DiEM25’s German political party MERA25 will be on the ballot paper in the European Parliament election this coming June — seeking the vote of German humanists who crave a member of European Parliament representing Germany and calling out the EU’s complicity in genocide, a complicity that is Europe’s greatest gift to the antisemites in Europe and beyond.

I salute you all and suggest we never forget that none of us is free if one of us is in chains.


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