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German chancellor Olaf Scholz heckled by pro-Palestinian protesters at SPD rally

Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate against Germany's Israel policy during an SPD rally in Duisburg, June 8, 2024
Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate against Germany's Israel policy during an SPD rally in Duisburg, June 8, 2024 Copyright Martin Meissner/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Martin Meissner/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP, EBU
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Scholz also said freedom of speech must be protected at all costs and condemned violence against politicians. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police say there have been 22 assaults on politicians so far this year, compared to 27 incidents in all of 2023.

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Germany's chancellor Olaf Scholz has been heckled by pro-Palestinian protesters at the final Social Democrats (SPD) rally ahead of the European elections.

Protesters are angry about Germany's support for Israel in its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza and booed the chancellor for most of his speech.

Scholz acknowledged the protesters, saying they belonged to a democracy that allows free speech, but added that the Hamas attack on Israel last October was "inhumane".

Germany has been a staunch ally of Israel both politically and militarily and the state sees a special responsibility for Israel, couched in the term 'reason of state' popularised by Scholz’s predecessor Angela Merkel.

Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate against Germany's Israel policy at an SPD rally in Duisburg, June 8, 2024
Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate against Germany's Israel policy at an SPD rally in Duisburg, June 8, 2024Martin Meissner/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

German arms exports to Israel have increased tenfold since 2022 and government officials have admitted that of the 2018 arms licenses granted last year, 185 were approved during Israel's military campaign.

Scholz also admitted he had told Israeli leaders to request "whatever support is needed".

But Israel's military offensive in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people, mostly women and children, and protesters are asking how Germany can continue with its unquestioning support.

It's not the first time the German chancellor has faced criticism for backing Israel. Scholz was heckled at the opening of the Leipzig Book Fair in March, but applause from the audience largely drowned out their slogans.

"The power of words brings us all together here in Leipzig - not shouting," he said.

Political violence

During his speech at the SPD rally, Scholz also said freedom of speech must be protected at all costs and condemned violence against politicians.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police say there have been 22 assaults on politicians so far this year, compared to 27 incidents in all of 2023.

"We will take action against all those who perpetrate violence, who make spaces small, who create a threatening presence in front of information stands, who threaten local politicians who threaten volunteers who are working to creating a better coexistence," he said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during the closing rally campaign for the European Parliament election of the SPD in Duisburg, June 8, 2024
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during the closing rally campaign for the European Parliament election of the SPD in Duisburg, June 8, 2024Martin Meissner/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Scholz referred to the killing of a police officer by an Afghan man at an anti-Islam rally last week. He has since vowed to toughen up deportation rules but political analysts say that incident could give a boost to the far-right Alternative for Germany.

But Scholz pointed out that migrants were also often the victims of violence committed by right-wing extremists.

Scholz also promised that he would not allow the Russian invasion of Ukraine and NATO's involvement to escalate, saying a vote for the European SPD was also a vote for peace.

"We will continue to prevent an escalation. That is exactly the principle we have. And this also includes the statement that the US President and I have made again in recent days: there will be no soldiers in Ukraine from our countries or NATO," he said.

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