Antisemitic incidents amid protests – mostly peaceful – against the Israel-Gaza conflict have raised alarm bells in governments in several European countries. Racist events have been reported in Germany, Austria and the UK, and French justice has banned demonstrations to avoid conflict.
Most of the marches called for an end to the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip – the latest conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas dates back over a week and has killed more than 190 Palestinians and at least 9 Israelis. On Sunday (10), 10 children and 32 adults were killed in Gaza, according to local health officials.
Although in the minority, the racist episodes of the pro-Palestinian protests have worried governments. “We will not tolerate the burning of Israeli flags on German soil or attacks on Jewish installations,” German Interior Minister (responsible for security) Horst Seehofer said after reports of attacks on synagogues and anti-Semitic banners and chants during protests on Saturday. (15).
In Gelsenkirchen, a town of 260,000 people in western Germany, around 200 people marched to a synagogue shouting hateful slogans and throwing stones at the windows of the building. Police arrested some protesters and anti-prejudice activists held a vigil outside the temple in repudiation of anti-Semitism.
In a country marked by Nazi persecution of Jews, anti-Semitic demonstrations of any degree are considered a crime and violence must be punished with “the force of law,” said Wolfgang Schäuble, president of the Bundestag ( equivalent to the Chamber of Deputies). “Israel’s policies can be severely criticized, but nothing justifies anti-Semitism, hatred and violence,” the parliamentarian told local media.
The politicians’ condemnation of attacks on Jews was supported by pro-Palestinian entities, such as the Central Council of Muslims in Germany – which called the incidents “disgusting attacks on our fellow Jews” – and the Turkish Union. -Islamic for Religious Affairs, which called on Muslims to stay away from extremists.
The British government also arrested four protesters who passed through an area of London where Jews are concentrated shouting, among other insults, that they “would rape their daughters.” They will be investigated for “crimes aggravated by race against public order”.
Tensions in the UK began to escalate last Tuesday (13), when pro-Israelis opened Israeli flags during a pro-Palestinian protest. Critical Israeli protesters tried to attack them with cries of “bloody Jews” but were arrested by police.
In the days that followed, other Israeli flags were burned and in Norwich, in eastern England, a synagogue received anti-Semitic graffiti, including a swastika. On social media, the Zionist Federation of Great Britain canceled an act of support for Israel that would take place on Saturday: “At the moment, it is very dangerous for us and the police to be in the streets.”
On Monday, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said on television that he had raised the issue of policing the city “to reassure Londoners, especially those in Jewish communities.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned the incidents, saying “there is no room for anti-Semitism in the UK”.
In Austria, protesters threatened Jews citing the Battle of Khaybar – an oasis in Saudi Arabia where Jews were defeated by troops led by Muhammad in 628. “Jews, remember Khaybar, Muhammad’s army is back “was the slogan shouted over loudspeakers and repeated by protesters, according to Austrian newspapers.
In France, country with the largest Muslim population in Europe (nearly 6 million people, or 8.8% of the population) and the third largest Jewish community in the world (around 550,000 people, behind Israel and the USA) , police managed to ban protests in court for fear of violent clashes like the ones that occurred in 2014, also sparked by conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We all remember this extremely disturbing demonstration where terrible phrases like” the death of the Jews “were shouted,” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told AFP. In the episode, synagogues and Jewish and Israeli institutions were attacked.
Over the weekend, more than 4,000 police officers were taken to the streets to prevent around 5,000 people from gathering in the Paris suburbs, where Muslim immigrants are concentrated. The marches were dispersed with tear gas and water jets.
In addition to the physical clashes, police officials and activists cite an escalation of attacks and insults on social media. For them, if the conflict between Israel and Gaza intensifies, the tendency is also to escalate extremism and violence in Europe.
The European Commission said it was “deeply concerned about the recent attacks on Jewish communities and settlements in the EU” and called on member countries to be vigilant against anti-Semitism.