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 banning pro-Palestinian protests amid concerns for public order.
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.
Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, warned that antisemitic acts and defending terrorism would be dealt with “severely” in France – home to a large Jewish and Muslim populations – in a televised address on the Israel-Hamas crisis on Thursday evening
The French president said the country should not give in to “any form of hate” but must remain united. “Let us not add national divisions to international divisions,” he said.
In recent days 24 people had been arrested after a spate of antisemitic incidents, said the country’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin.
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.
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.
Three Jewish schools in Amsterdam said they planned to close on Friday in order to protect the safety of pupils and teachers. The decision was reportedly made after a former Hamas chief called for protests across the Muslim world on Friday in support of the Palestinians.
In France, Macron said the conflict was not between Israel and Palestine but between “terrorists and a country with democratic values”. He offered his “firm and complete” support to Israel, which he said had every right to respond, but said that response had to be “strong and fair”.
“Israel has the right to defend itself … but with targeted actions that preserve the civilian populations. That is the duty of democracies,” he said.
Thirteen French citizens were killed in Hamas attacks on Israel at the weekend. Another 17, including children, are reported missing. Several are believed to be being held hostage in Gaza.
“My thoughts are with the families this evening. I want to tell them that France is doing everything possible alongside the Israeli authorities and our partners to bring them back safely to their homes,” Macron said. “France will never abandon its children.”
The president’s address came after Darmanin banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the country on the grounds they were a threat to public order.
On Thursday the Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo, said his country was strengthening the security of its Jewish community, adding in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that there was “an increased vigilance for antisemitic attacks”.
The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, pledged £3m in extra funding to protect Jewish schools and synagogues in the country, after 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.
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.”
Source : The Guardian