The honoree does not come, the laudator is missing. Leftists demonstrate against leftists. And there is also a bit of tinfoil.
The entrance to the Babylon cinema Photo: Imago / Ipon
No, it was not the premiere of the new Star Wars, which came on Thursday in front of and in the Berlin cinema Babylon to the performance, even if still so much of the "Empire" or the "dark side of the force" was spoken. Gathered instead were the followers of controversial media maker Ken Jebsen, who explain the world with very simple friend-foe constellations.
Their core assumption: anyone who is not with them is for war. The villains in this play: the established media, the right-wingers of the Left Party, and also the CEO of Babylon.
The play began with a rally on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz between the Volksbuhne and the cinema. In the continuous rain, 200 to 300 "peace friends" listened to speeches that almost always dealt with Israel and anti-Semitism, NATO or a threatening war against Russia. Yet the occasion for the rally was much more mundane.
The Senator’s objection
Babylon, a municipal cinema subsidized by the state of Berlin, had canceled the awarding of a media prize to Jebsen, which had been planned by the blog Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which teeters between left and right. Previously, Berlin’s Senator for Culture Klaus Lederer (Left Party) had expressed his disapproval of the "conspiracy believers" event.
It was only a ruling by the Berlin-Mitte district court that allowed them to enter the Babylon. There they were greeted at the start of the event by its managing director Timothy Grossman – with fundamental criticism. Grossman accused Jebsen, who was not present, of mixing people’s political opinions with their ethical background. His conclusion: "You are a racist."
Grossman also refuted the accusation that freedom of expression was curtailed: "Nobody, not even Klaus Lederer, forbade them to say anything here." Finally, he asked the audience if his house, which once sheltered people from the Nazis, should give them a stage? His conclusion was clear: "In the future, definitely not."
The audience in the decently packed hall reacted with consternation. Some whistled, hecklers reminded of the GDR. Even outside the Babylon, a sign had read the most creative slogan of the evening: "Mielke, Merkel, Lederer."
Grossman’s attempt to ban the announced British jazz musician Gilad Atzmon because of his anti-Semitic positions came to nothing. Atzmon later stood on stage, when the cinema boss had already left the Babylon, and said, among other things: "The Palestinians are the last victims of Hitler." So whoever still feels guilty as a German should stand by the Palestinians, he said.
The absence of the laureate
The actual main actor did not come at all. Ken Jebsen had only canceled in the afternoon and instead sent a confused statement that was played on the rally stage, interrupted by several power outages. In it, Jebsen sharply criticized Lederer and accused him of blackmail, among other things. He had canceled because he "does not like to be the center of attention".
Attacks against him have been going on since he became part of the peace movement. According to Jebsen, this is a problem for the arms industry and its press. In Jebsen’s speech, there was no mention of a rumored distancing from Atzmon’s appearance. The founders of NRhZ said that the attacks in the media had affected Jebsen’s health, and that he may have suffered a "hearing loss.
The prize, a paper plate printed with the likeness of Karl Marx, was finally presented to his community, i.e. to the audience in the Babylon. Beforehand, the laudatory speech was read out by Mathias Brockers, a taz contributor and 9/11 doubter who was also not present, and who was heard to have completely lost his trust in the media.
Wolfgang Gehrcke, a former member of the Bundestag, first reported on his doubts, saying he had already gone to a demonstration "with better feelings.
The rest of the evening consisted mainly of a very one-sided discussion of the Israel-Palestine question. This was ensured by the speeches of Atzmon, but also of the Israel opponent Evelyn Hecht-Galinski. The latter had already said of the Babylon: "What is being done in Berlin" – Lederer’s intervention was meant – "is something to be ashamed of, not the fact that Star of David flags are being burned".
For the Left Party, the evening is likely to result in further disputes. The party executive had called for no participation in the pro-Jebsen rally. However, three members and officials of the Left Party showed solidarity with Jebsen.
Hats made of foil
Wolfgang Gehrcke, a former member of the Bundestag, first reported his doubts, saying he had already gone to a demo "with better feelings." Then he hit the mood with his criticism of the threatened freedom of speech, especially the "freedom to say no to war."
His wife, the ex-functionary Christiane Reymann, attacked Lederer’s "disturbed perception." She had seen "no aluhats" on the square. And Andreas Maurer, a local politician from Quakenbruck, praised Jebsen for traveling with him to Ukraine.
On the other side of Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz stood about 50 supporters of the cultural senator. In front of the Karl-Liebknecht-Haus, where the Left Party has its headquarters, they demonstrated against "conspiracy ideology" and "anti-Semitism," as the call put it. After several speeches, the participants set about building appropriate hats out of 150 meters of aluminum foil.