94-year-old Esther Bejarano moved to Palestine in 1945, 15 years later she returned to Germany due to Israel’s policies against Palestinians.
Auschwitz survivor, 94-year-old Esther Bejarano, expressed support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement because she has “experienced what fascism is.”
Bejarano was sent to Auschwitz in the early 1940s. She escaped death thanks to her musical talents and mixed Jewish-Aryan ancestry. After World War II she emigrated to Palestine but 15 years later she returned to Germany, escaping Israel’s “fascist” policies against Palestinians. Today, she lives in Hamburg.
“For many people here it is out of the question … But I say, if it helps to put anything in the way of the terrible policies, then I am for it. Because I have experienced what fascism is,” Bejarano told the Electronic Intifada.
Despite mounting support for BDS in Germany and across the world, the Israeli government and anti-BDS groups have obtained some critical victories to censor expressions of support to the BDS movement.
In 2017 Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich ruled that BDS uses Nazi-era language, which led to a ban on the campaign. BDS supporters cannot use public spaces or locations for their activities, and any organization linked to BDS is subject to losing federal subsidies.
About her experience as a German immigrant in Palestine, she said: “We wanted to develop the country together with the Palestinians … In general, the Palestinians helped us. Not only us, but also the first Jews who came to the country.”
“We wanted to develop the land together. But it was different with David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir,” she says, referring to Israel’s founding Zionist leaders. “They turned Zionism upside down and then the Zionists said ‘we are the ones who own the land.’ That was not our idea.”
“Life was difficult because we did not agree with the terrible things that were done to the Palestinians,” she recalls. Bejarano and her husband also left Israel because Nissim, the husband, refused to participate in armed conflict. “He would have ended up in prison so we had no other choice than to leave,” Bejarano says.
According to Bejarano, who continues to oppose Israeli policies against Palestinians, it is difficult to criticize Israel in Germany. “They feel responsible for the Jews that were left and then founded this Jewish state,” she explains. In Germany, the outspoken Jewish woman has been deemed an anti-semite for opposing war and human rights violations.