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Germany: Berlin schools asked to distribute leaflet describing the 1948 Nakba as a 'myth'

The brochure aimed at high school students in Berlin's Neukölln borough also claims that criticism of illegal Israeli settlements is antisemitic
Middle Eastern restaurants, bustling markets and a large Muslim community characterise Berlin's southeastern district of Neukölln (AFP/Stefanie Loos).
People wearing protective face masks come out of a subway entrance in Neukolln district in Berlin on 22 October 2020 (AFP/Stefanie Loos)

Germany's leading Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the opposition Christian Democratic Party (CDU) have ordered high schools in Berlin's borough of Neukolln to distribute brochures titled The Myth of Israel #1948.

During a public meeting of the Neukolln district council of Berlin on Wednesday, a motion was passed stating that "the district office is asked to advocate the use of the brochure "Myths#Israel1948" in Neukolln's secondary schools to confront existing anti-Semitic narratives within the educational framework of the school".

"The expanded definition of antisemitism of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) and the German government should also be communicated", the motion added. 

The brochure is created by the Jewish association Masiyot, which was founded in 2022 and enjoys the support of the Berliner Landeszentrale fur politische Bildung, the Federal Center for Political Education. 

It seeks to unite professionals from different disciplines to "raise awareness of authoritarian ideologies through education, enlightenment and criticism", the website says.

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Neukolln is one of Berlin's most diverse and international boroughs with a large Palestinian community. 

Middle East Eye has reached out to Neukolln's district council but has received no comment at the time of publication. 

The left-wing parliamentary group of Neukolln has described the brochure as distorting history and has filed for an amendment of the motion.

The amendment asks the district office to prevent the circulation of the brochure in Neukolln's schools and urges the Center for Political Education to stop promoting the project.

'The false myth of land theft'

The brochure states there are five "myths" around the creation of the state of Israel, which are subsequently refuted in short essays by various authors.

In the first section, debunking myth #1, that Jews and Arabs lived together in peace before Israel was founded, Israel's pre-state militia, the Haganah, responsible for the destruction of 531 Palestinian villages and the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians between December 1947 and the summer of 1948, is promoted as a merely "defensive" Jewish resistance movement.  

Under 'Myth #2: Israel was established on stolen Palestinian land', Masiyot states that the acquisition of land by Jewish immigrants to Palestine took the form of a legal exchange of capital for an official title deed.

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At no point in history was land illegally conquered by Jewish immigrants, the author of the text, Michael Spaney, claims.

Even land conquered following the wars of 1948 and 1967 and the subsequent construction of settlements, which are internationally recognised as a violation of international law, did not occur unlawfully, it says.

"Anyone who uses the accusation of land theft as an argument demonises Israel and denies its legitimacy, i.e. acts out of antisemitic motives," Spaney wrote. 

"Myth #5: Israel is to blame for the Nakba", includes a text by researcher Shany Mor titled "the UN is distorting the meaning of the Nakba: its view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely one-sided".

In the text, Mor states that "displacement during war - then and now - was nothing unusual".

He also labels the UN's attention to the Palestinian cause "obsessive" and the Arab defeat of 1948 a myth. 

"In the 1948 War of Independence, 6000 Jews were killed, fully 1% of the total population (was it a genocide?)", a Twitter post by Mor reads. 

While Germany stands out with its unwavering political and military support for Israel, the German left is split over its stance on Palestine. 

While a broad segment of German leftists have joined calls for global solidarity with Palestine, the "Anti-Deutsche" (Anti-Germans) group is historically pro-Zionist.

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