Officials across Europe are scrambling to curtail any spillover of tensions from the Israel-Hamas war, with Germany pledging a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitism and France arresting 24 people following a spate of more than 100 incidents targeting Jewish people.
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, told parliament on Thursday that while thousands of people had rallied in support of Israel, the country had also seen “disgraceful images on our streets in which the most brutal acts of terror have been celebrated in broad daylight”.
The remarks came after demonstrations in Berlin and Duisburg in which sweets and cakes were handed out to participants as some danced and cheered in apparent joy at the atrocities carried out in Israel.
Scholz announced a ban in Germany on all activity lauding Hamas crimes in Israel, including the use of their symbols, or expressions of praise for murder and manslaughter, and the burning of the Israeli flag. Anyone found to be doing so would be prosecuted, he said. The ban includes the Palestinian network Samidoun.
In announcing the measures, Scholz pointed to Germany’s particular responsibility towards Israel owing to its previous role as the perpetrator of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were murdered.
“Our law governing associations is a sharp sword. And we, as a strong constitutional state, will draw this sword,” said Scholz. There would be “zero tolerance for antisemitism”, he added.
Scholz’s remarks came as France – home to large Jewish and Muslim populations – said the president, Emmanuel Macron, would give a TV address on Thursday evening to call for unity as the country reels from a rise in antisemitic attacks.
In recent days, two dozen people have been arrested over antisemitic acts, said the country’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin.
“Since Saturday and the terrorist massacres in Israel, there has been over 100 antisemitic acts, mainly tags and swastikas,” Darmanin told France Inter radio. “But also insults … and people arrested with a knife at the entrance of a school or synagogue … and a drone flying over a Jewish place of worship.”
After Hamas’s attack on Israel, officials rushed to put in place heightened security at synagogues and Jewish schools. In France, about 10,000 police are currently protecting 500 sites.
Earlier this week Darmanin said that a French leftist party, the New Anti-Capitalist party, was being investigated over accusations that it had glorified “terror” in its response to Hamas’s attacks on Israel.
In Britain, the Community Security Trust, a body that provides security advice to Jewish communities, said reports of antisemitic incidents had increased 324% since the weekend compared with the same period last year.
In Spain and Portugal, there was consternation after two synagogues were vandalised with pro-Palestinian graffiti.
The Jewish Community of Porto said the Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue had been daubed with graffiti including the slogans “Free Palestine” and “End Israel Apartheid” on Wednesday.
“The biggest Jewish synagogue in the Iberian peninsula was vandalised today,” it said in a statement to Portugal’s Lusa news agency. “Those who hate Jews have expressed their hatred against the local Jews.” The graffiti was later removed.
A synagogue in Spain was also defaced with the words “free Palestine” over the weekend. The incidents have put members of the Jewish community on high alert. The Synagogue of the Jewish Community of Barcelona said it had cancelled weeks of upcoming events amid security concerns.
“We’re scared, particularly for our young sons and daughters,” Sara Hasson told the newspaper El Periódico. “Antisemitism is in the air.”
In Germany, the integration commissioner for the Neukölln district of Berlin – where the pastries had been handed out – warned Jewish residents to remain on alert.
“I would not advise anybody to make their Jewish faith visible in Neukölln,” Güner Balci told Der Spiegel. “Those who wear the kippa already faced the prospect of being spat on or insulted in quieter times.”
She said that Neukölln city hall had raised an Israeli flag in a gesture of solidarity, but that the flag-raising had been carried out under police protection in order to be on the safe side. “Isn’t it sick that such things have become normal in Germany?” she said.
Source : The Guardian