German civil servants demand ‘immediate’ end to Israeli arms supplies

Government workers call on Germany and the Netherlands to stop arms deliveries over human rights concerns.

Israel has killed more than 33,000 people in its attack on Gaza [Atef Safadi/EPA]

A group of German civil servants have written to Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other senior ministers calling on the government to “cease arm deliveries to the Israeli government with immediate effect”.

“Israel is committing crimes in Gaza that are in clear contradiction to international law and thus to the Constitution, which we are bound to as federal civil servants and public employees,” the statement says, citing the International Court of Justice’s ruling in January that Israel’s military actions are “plausible acts of genocide”.

According to the organisers of the five-page statement, around 600 civil servants have voiced support for the initiative, which has slowly been gathering traction for months through professional networks and word-of-mouth across a range of ministries.

The statement also requested that the German government pressure Israel for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip; that it renew payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA); and that it “actively and resolutely advocates for the recognition of a Palestinian state” within the internationally recognised 1967 borders.

In 2023, Germany approved arms exports to Israel worth 326.5 million euros ($354m), a tenfold increase compared to the previous year, providing 30 percent of the Israeli military’s weapons, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Researchers also found that 99 percent of Israel’s arms come from the United States and Germany, with the latter being the second-biggest supplier.

The civil servants sent the statement via email to ministries last week, with the disclaimer that “due to the sensitive content and the excessive state repression that criticism in this area is met with, we want to remain anonymous”.

Al Jazeera has verified the identities of two of the initiators, one of whom is in senior management.

The senior manager described a “climate of fear” within the civil service that the manager had “never experienced anything like in 15 years”. After internal complaints to ministers about supporting Israel’s war crimes dating from back in October, the manager was warned against talking about it. Another senior civil servant even advised against discussions via email, and suggested instead to only use phones so as not to leave a paper trail. “It has been hell for all of us,” said the manager, who singlehandedly gathered more than 100 signatures from colleagues and through professional networks.

Signees reportedly include a wide range of civil servants from across different ministries, skewing towards younger women and people with international experience or biographies “outside of the German bubble”.

Diplomats in particular are said to be worried about the damage to Germany’s reputation and international relationships, particularly with Muslim countries.

The group will publish the statement on social networking site LinkedIn on April 8, when Germany will be defending itself at the Hague against charges brought by Nicaragua that Germany’s support for Israel violates the Genocide Convention.

Internationally, civil servants are increasingly speaking out against Western support of Israel. In February, 800 civil servants in the US and the European Union signed a “transatlantic statement” that warned Western support for Israel could amount to “grave violations of international law”, and complained of expert advice being ignored.

One of the statement’s initiators is Angelique Eijpe, who resigned from the Dutch foreign ministry over Gaza policy. She said that “the framework of international humanitarian law was completely cast aside in Gaza, which will damage our standing in the world”. The Netherlands lost a case about delivering F-35 fighter planes that would operate in Gaza, because of the risk of them being used in war crimes.

“Israel was quite explicit on the genocidal intentions it had already in October,” Ejipe says. “I tried to speak to the foreign minister shortly after, but when they put this intention into practice and our policy line didn’t change, I felt like I had no choice but to resign” after 21 years of service as a diplomat. The group posted another petition last week and hold regular protests outside the Dutch foreign ministry.

Another initiator of the German civil servants’ statement, a trained jurist, expressed fear not just of losing employment for being involved in the statement, but of prosecution and even imprisonment, citing the “utterly lawless situation” in the country post-October 7 where people are arrested, sometimes brutally, with spurious legal justifications. “There are no rights in Germany at the moment when it comes to Palestine,” the initiator said.

“We wrote this letter because …. this scale of destruction and violence, the atrocities we are seeing are unprecedented in recent times. This is a huge threat to all of our democratic systems if we justify killing thousands of children,” the initiator said, adding that senior ministers were creating a “collective governmental gaslighting of what we are seeing on the ground”.

Germany’s foreign ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment.


Source: Al Jazeera