German law professor upholds ban on Israeli flags during rally

Legal opinion okays German police's seizure of flags during January anti-Israeli protest in Duisburg.

israel flag 88 (photo credit: )
israel flag 88
(photo credit: )
A legal opinion submitted by law professor Jürgen Vahle to the Interior Ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia state in late April upholds the propriety of a police ban on and seizure of two Israeli flags during a violent anti-Israeli demonstration in January. The report, a copy of which was obtained by The Jerusalem Post, asserts that "the entry by force in two apartments" and "the securing of the flags was lawful." During a protest against Israel's Operation Cast Lead organized by the radical Islamic group Milli Görüs that attracted 10,000 protesters in Duisburg, two police officers stormed the apartment of a 25-year-old student and his 26-year-old girlfriend and seized Israeli flags hanging on the balcony and inside a window. According to Vahle's report, the protesters threw "chunks of ice, pocket knives and cigarette lighters" at the Israeli flags. North Rhine-Westphalia's domestic intelligence agency (Protection of the Constitution) cited in its 2008 report the anti-Semitic and militant Islamic group Milli Görüs, the organizer of the anti-Israeli protest, as a threat to the democratic structure of the federal republic. The student, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears for his safety, told the Post that two weeks after the removal of the flags "a couple of young folks" hollered in front of his apartment, "Damn Jew, come outside." He displayed the Israeli flags in January to "show solidarity with a republic [Israel] in the Middle East that is surrounded by dictators but is viewed as a pariah state. I was in Israel and find the land super." Asked about Vahle's report, the student said, "False questions were poised." Given the background of the radical Islamic group Milli Görüs, he asked, "why was a police unit of 280 officers present at a demonstration where 10,000 protesters" were present? Vahle's report drew mixed reactions from police union officials. Frank Richter, chairman of the police union (Gdp) in North Rhine-Westphalia, told the Post that the "special relationship between Israel and Germany is good" but the entry into the apartment was "legal according to the police statute." If the police unit had not removed the flags, "it could have come to a big escalation" and "jeopardized life and limb" of those present, Richter said. However, another "legal opinion could reach a different result" and there "were alternatives" to removing the flags, Rainer Wendt, head of the police union (DPolG), told the Post. Wendt criticized the Vahle report and said, "Everything that is lawful does not mean that it is right." It was "not part of police conduct to rip down Israeli flags," he said. According to Wendt, the seizure of Israeli flags should be "assessed politically and psychologically." German police had a "special responsibility" toward the Jewish state and the confiscation of Israeli flags damaged the German-Israeli relationship, he said.