European Leaders Condemn Violent Targeting of Jews during Israel-Gaza Crisis
By Maddy Tennis
The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has sparked a wave of protests in Europe. While most peacefully demand an end to the violence, a disturbing number have resulted in verbal and physical attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. International conflicts, though worthy of debate and scrutiny, do not justify antisemitic or any other form of hate violence.
According to the New York Times, eight synagogues in France have been targeted in the past week, and protestors have looted Jewish shops and violently attacked rabbis. Protestors chanting “gas the Jews” and “death to the Jews” echo throughout Germany and other countries. Such antisemitism is especially alarming on a continent where millions of Jews were killed.
“Never in our lives did we believe it possible that anti-Semitism of the most primitive kind would be heard on the streets of Germany [again],” said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” said Roger Cuikerman, head of French Jewish political group CRIF. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews.’”
Top leaders from a trio of European governments have rightly spoken out. In a joint statement issued in Brussels on Tuesday, ministers from France, Germany, and Italy (Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Federica Mogherini) promised to oppose anti-Semitic protests. While expressing support for free speech and the right to free assembly, they said “anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies.” Heads of state have also condemned antisemitism; French President Francois Hollande said fighting it “will become a national cause.”
Human Rights First praises the clarity of these statements and urges other top European leaders make similar ones as a matter of urgency. European governments should protect the right of peaceful assembly, speak out against any acts of bias-motivated violence, conduct thorough investigations, and hold the perpetrators accountable.
These protests come at a time when antisemitic propaganda is on the rise. Throughout Europe, far-right and neo-Nazi parties have gained electoral strength. This dangerous trend encourages hatred and emboldens haters. A forthcoming report from Human Rights First, ““We’re not Nazis, but…: The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” examines factors contributing to the rise of antisemitic political parties and includes recommendations for the Obama Administration and the European Union.