PARIS — The conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza is spilling into the streets of dozens of cities in Europe, as thousands of pro-Palestinian activists have depicted Israel as the aggressor and sought to isolate it internationally.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered over the past several days in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam and other European cities in mostly peaceful expressions of support for Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel has carried out a 14-day offensive aimed at stopping rocket fire and closing tunnels used to infiltrate fighters into Israel. In addition to the large number of Palestinian casualties, the conflict has also resulted in the deaths of 20 Israelis, almost all of them soldiers.
Some of the demonstrations took on a distinctly anti-Semitic tinge, although the organizers said they were designed solely to protest the Israeli incursion into Gaza that has left 500 Palestinians dead, many of them civilians.
French Jewish leaders warned Monday against importing the Arab-Israeli conflict to Europe after a weekend in which a radical fringe among pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the French capital clashed with police, targeting Jewish shops, lighting smoke bombs and throwing stones and bottles at riot police. Eight synagogues in France have been targeted in the past week, Jewish groups said.
France, with some of Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, has become a flash point for anger against Israel, and Jewish community leaders say they fear that criticism of Israeli policy is being seized upon by some to promote anti-Semitism.
Over the weekend, authorities banned protests in selected areas of Paris, citing security concerns. Several recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris have boiled over into violence, and earlier this month several hundred protesters sought to storm two synagogues in the French capital during an anti-Israel demonstration in which protesters chanted, “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was right,” according to Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary-general of the European Jewish Congress, a Brussels-based organization representing European Jewry.
In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, dubbed “little Jerusalem” because of its large Jewish community, a peaceful demonstration Sunday turned violent when clutches of youths lit smoke bombs and firecrackers, Agence France-Presse reported. The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions said the protesters targeted Jewish shops, including a kosher grocery store and a pharmacy.
The protests come amid growing concerns about rising anti-Semitism in much of Western Europe, but particularly in France, fanned by the strong performance of the far-right National Front party and a perceived rise in anti-Semitic violence. In June, a French-born man was accused of gunning down four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in an anti-Semitic attack.israel - Middle East - Europe - France - Western Europe - France government - Palestinian territories - Paris - Germany - Gaza Strip - Manuel Valls