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Ghassan Abu Sittah accuses Germany of 'genocide complicity' after being refused entry

The British-Palestinian surgeon speaks to MEE after being denied role in Palestine conference, which was shut down by police
British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sittah at an emergency protest in London on 12 April 2024 (MEE/Mohammad Saleh)
By Mohammad Saleh in London

Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British-Palestinian surgeon who spent weeks in Gaza treating victims of the war with Israel, has accused Germany of being an "accomplice to genocide" after he was refused entry to take part in a conference, which was later shut down by hundreds of German police officers.

Speaking exclusively to Middle East Eye upon his return to London on Friday, Abu Sittah described the circumstances of his deportation.

"This morning, at 10 o'clock, I landed in Berlin to attend a conference on Palestine, where I had been asked, along with many others ... to give my evidence of the 43 days that I had seen in the hospitals in Gaza, working in both al-Shifa and al-Ahli hospitals," he said. 

Abu Sittah said he was escorted from the passport office to the basement of the airport, where he was questioned for three-and-a-half hours. 

"At the end of three-and-a-half hours, I was told that I woud not be allowed to enter German soil and that this ban will last the whole of April," he said. 

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Abu Sittah said he was told he could not even join the conference virtually via video, as that would "constitute a breach of German law" and could result in either a fine or up to a year in prison.

In the initial weeks after Israel began its assault in October, Abu Sittah was the unofficial English-language representative of Palestinian doctors and surgeons treating Palestinians wounded by Israeli attacks.

Since leaving Gaza in late November, the doctor has been raising awareness about the impact of the war, which has killed more than 33,600 Palestinians.

Abu Sittah noted on Friday that Germany is currently defending itself at the International Court of Justice on charges put forward by Nicaragua that Berlin was complicit in genocide over its support of Israel. 

"This is exactly what accomplices to a crime do. They bury the evidence, and they silence or harass or intimidate the witnesses," he said.

"As members of a gang that has committed a heinous crime, Germany is doing its bit in that crime, which is to ensure that there is complete impunity and so that the genocide can continue uninterrupted."

'This is exactly what accomplices to a crime do. They bury the evidence and they silence or harass or intimidate the witnesses'

- Ghassan Abu Sittah

Upon Abu Sittah's return to London, an emergency protest was organised outside the German embassy on Friday evening. 

Demonstrators welcomed the surgeon with chants of "Say it clear, say it loud, Dr Ghassan makes us proud".

In a speech to those gathered, Abu Sittah said that, despite the deportation, he would continue to speak out.

"They will never silence us. What they were trying to do is get us to unsee what we have seen," he said.

"They want us to unsee the bodies of these children that were left permanently damaged by the weapons that they continue to supply to Israel."

Police shut down conference

The Palestine Congress, the conference that Abu Sittah had been due to speak at, was shut down by German authorities soon after it started. 

It was being attended by 250 people and was due to last until Sunday. 

Police wrote on social media that it was halted due to the presence of a speaker who was the subject of a ban on political activity. 

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While they did not name the speaker, those involved in the conference said it was Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta, Ghassan's uncle. 

"There is a risk that a speaker who has made anti-Semitic or violence-glorifying public statements in the past will be called in repeatedly. Therefore, the meeting was terminated and a ban was also imposed for Saturday and Sunday," Berlin's police wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

Salman's political ban is thought to be linked to a blog post in January in which he said he "could have been one of those who broke through the fence" if he were younger and still lived "in the concentration camp called the Gaza Strip". 

Hundreds of police officers, many plain-clothed, stormed the event and cut the electricity, moments after a video message from Salman was broadcast during the conference. 

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, which co-organised the event, said it had not been informed that Salman was under a speaking ban.

Two members of the Jewish group were detained by authorities, including one who held up a sign reading "Jews against genocide", according to the Washington Post. 

Seventeen people were arrested in total, according to a police statement. 

"We have made it clear that hatred of Israel has no place in Berlin," the city's mayor, Kai Wegner, wrote on X. "Anyone who does not abide by these rules will feel the consequences."

Germany is one of Israel's biggest weapons suppliers, selling equipment and weapons last year worth 326.5m euros ($353.7m) in , according to data from the country's economy ministry. 

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