JOHANNESBURG - Hundreds of activists from South Africa and Namibia staged protests outside German institutions in Cape Town and Johannesburg to protest Germany's support for Israel's war on Gaza in the wake of the International Court of Justice rulings against Israel in the case brought by South Africa and opposed by Berlin.

The ICJ on January 26 issued provisional orders compelling Israel to halt attacks on Palestinian civilians and ruled its actions constitute a plausible case of genocide. Israel has yet to comply with a single order.

Germany's actions also brought painful memories for descendants of the victims of the German genocide in the 19th century against the Herero and Nama tribes of Namibia.

In 2021 Germany acknowledged that it committed genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples in South West Africa (now Namibia) between 1904 and 1908.

One of the descendants of the victims of the genocide in Namibia is Evelyn Mswetsa whose great-grandmother survived the tortious ordeal at the hands of the Germans.

Mswetsa said, “My great-grandmother was a survivor of Shark Island Extermination Camp, a peninsula situated in colonial Luderitz near the South African border with the Orange River.

“My great-grandmother was hearded to Okawayo Concentration Camp from where the prisoners were rented out to private companies for infrastructural projects. Others were rented out to the new German settlers who had taken over the agricultural land that was expropriated from 1905 onwards during the genocide. My great-grandmother worked as a slave for a German settler family and was sexually violated by the settler to whom she was rented out.”

Anger was palpable at various German centres where the protests were held as participants demanded that Germany stop its support of Israel.

Leading the protests were artists and cultural workers who thronged the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg and German Consulates in Cape Town and Gqeberha.

African Artists Against Apartheid (AAAA, a pan African network of artists, journalists and cultural workers working towards a free Palestine said in a statement, “Germany profits richly from the discourses and spaces of reflection that cultural workers from the Majority World bring forth. We will refuse bullying and disciplining by the German state. As Gaza is annihilated while the world watches, we have a RESPONSIBILITY to fight for internationalist solidarity and the RIGHT to speak out against genocide.”

“Germany has declared it will intervene on Israel’s behalf at the ICJ, opposing South Africa’s meticulously argued case where the highest court in the world has ruled that there is a plausible case of genocide.”

“German weapons exports to Israel have increaed tenfold since the start of the assault on Gaza. At the same time, Germany saw fit to suspend its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The statement recounted the story of Germany's colonization of Namibia and its effect in the period between 1904-1908 during which it is accused of having massacred more than 70 000 people, forcing many into concentration camps where they died from starvation, thirst and disease.

“Though the Namibian genocide was Germany’s first, it was certainly not its last. Between 1933 and 1945, Germany killed at least 6 million Jews, 1,9 million non-Jewish Poles, 3,3 million Soviet prisoners of war, 250 000-500 000 Roma and Sinti people, 250 000 people with disabilities, 15000 people from the LGBTQ+ community and 1000 Jehova’s Witnesses,” read the statement.

AAAA said they were protesting to demand that Germany withdraws its military, political,diplomatic and cultural support for Israeli in the face of plausible genocide charges at the ICJ. The organization bemoaned the fact that solidarity activities for Palestinians in Germany are currently mislabelled and banned as anti-Semitic. They say activists in that country were being raided by police.

Some of their demands were

1- That German cultural instituions including the Goethe Institute refuse to police the politics of their artists and instead insist on the autonomy from state policy,invite critical discourse, and allow for dissent.

2- That the German State stops conflating criticism of the State of Israel with antisemitism.

3- That there should be no tolerance for anti-Palestinian repression, as well as the manufacturing of a climate of anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia already widespread in German society.

4- Lastly, Germany should revoke its suspension of funding of UNRWA.

Germany's support for Israel

The Vice President of Namibia National Students Organization (NANSO), Luciano Kambala told The New Arab that they were not surprised by Germany’s support for Israel.

“Particularly in Namibia they had the first genocide of the 20th century where the Nama and Herero people were slaughtered. We are not surprised that the Germany of today is still following in the footsteps of their ancestors by associating themselves with another genocide that is being orchestrated in the mordern day. It is disappointing, as we would have thought that Germany would have learned from its dark past and history.

“However, we do believe that one with a conscience would not support what is happening and what is being orchestrated by the Israeli government.”

However, Kampala hailed the agreement between the Namibian and Germany governments on the Herero and Nama people saying more should be done.

“We are happy that finally Germany has recognized the genocide for what is what it was in accepting that it was a genocide in deed. We are worried that the reparations that were proposed are not recognizing the socio-economic issues that still today stem from that genocide.They (Herero/Nama) have lived very difficult lives that one would say that Germany government would want to gve more than what was put on the table.”