Gulf of anti-Semitism goes over Europe during conflict in Israel and Palestine


Central Europe


Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris, France. Photo AFP, Sylvain Thomas

Several European countries suffer from anti-Semitic incidents during the present conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Especially in Germany, this leads to awkward situations.

During the demonstrations, shouts such as “Death over Israel” are often heard. Many protests are peaceful. But photos and video’s on social media show the dark side of the demonstrations. People, mostly from Arabic background, scream insults about Jews and their children.

It started last week in Germany when a group of people with immigration background tried to march to the synagogue in Gelsenkirchen. Other marches followed in Bonn, Münster, Hanover and Berlin. Some windows of Jewish prayer houses have been smashed. German politicians and media were shocked by these slogans and actions.

It seems that the protests are much more focused on synagogues than on Israeli consulates in the country. Many Germans see this as a confirmation that the protesters are more driven by anti-Semitism against Germans from Jewish background than by political criticism of the state of Israel.

Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, said that he “would not tolerate the burning of Israeli flags and attacking Jewish buildings on German soil”, he declared to the media. The burning of other countries’ flags is forbidden in Germany, Tagesschau reports.

Especially Saturday was a “day of disgrace”, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes. May 15th is among Palestinians known as Nakba, the day they remember the loss of their land in Palestine in 1948.

Germany’s history plays a role in this debate. Germany feels responsible for the safety of the state of Israel. Because of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is very sensitive in the country.

The president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble, said that everybody is allowed to criticize Israel’s policies. “But if you as a protester do not distance yourself when Israel’s right to exist is attacked, you are complicit in anti-Semitism”, Schäuble says in the newspaper Bild.

There was also an incident in the Austrian capital Vienna. A leader of the 2500 strong demonstration spoke about a massacre among Jews, a message that participants repeated.

In Essex in England, a Jewish rabbi was beaten by two young men just outside the synagogue. In the British capital London, four people have been arrested after driving with a car with Palestinian flags while screaming insults to Jews.

There have also been incidents in Stockholm, the Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen reports. In Cuijk in the Netherlands, the words “Free Palestine” were painted on a monument last Sunday. The incident in Cuijk was the only one the Jewish information centre CIDI in The Hague knew about, the national broadcaster NOS reports.

In Germany, the Israeli Ambassador, Jeremy Issacharoff, showed himself very concerned about the anti-Semitic rallies and anti-Jewish protests. “It is disturbing to see these images”, Issacharoff told the newspaper Bild.

At the same time, the ambassador praised the clear stance of the political leadership in Germany. Since the beginning of the Hamas rocket attacks, “we have received extraordinary messages of support from politicians in Germany.”

Academics watching the debate discuss the nature of anti-Semitism and what is everyday political criticism. “The boundary is there when, in support of Palestine and Palestinians, all Jews are negatively generalized”, says researcher Maja Gildin Zuckerman in the Danish Kristeligt Dagblad.

According to Zuckerman, academics are still working to clarify what is anti-Semitism.



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