Jewish community warns Gaza conflict has triggered hatred against them

Head of German Council of Jews calls for condemnation from political leaders

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the Israeli embassy in Berlin. Photograph: Epa/Daniel Bockwoldt

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the Israeli embassy in Berlin. Photograph: Epa/Daniel Bockwoldt

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 01:00

Germany’s Jewish community has warned that the ongoing conflict in Gaza has triggered an “explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews” in Germany.

The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has prompted dozens of pro-Palestine rallies across the continent, from Paris to Vienna, but many events have been marred by anti-Jewish slogans, violence and scuffles with Jewish passersby.

During one Berlin march last week, pro-Gaza protestors reportedly chanted “gas the Jews” while, at another, a tourist couple from Israel were verbally abused and had to be protected by police.

‘Evil and violent hatred’

Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said Jews were “once again being openly threatened in Germany . . . and synagogues are being defaced”.

“We are currently experiencing, in this country, an explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews, which shocks and dismays all of us,” said Mr Graumann yesterday, calling for “clear and loud condemnation” from German political leaders.

“We would never in our lives have thought it possible anymore that anti-Semitic views of the nastiest and most primitive kind can be chanted on German streets.”

Police in Paris have cancelled several pro-Palestinian marches in recent days after earlier demonstrations ended with protesters attempting to storm two synagogues.

On Sunday, a demonstration in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, dubbed “little Jerusalem” on account of its vibrant Jewish community, ended with youths throwing smoke bombs and firecrackers and smashing windows of Jewish shops and cafes. Another march in northern Paris on Saturday ended with 44 arrests and 17 police injured.

Le Figaro newspaper reported that marchers burned Israeli flags while others carried banners reading “Isra-hell”.

French Jewish groups said they heard protestors shouting: “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was right”.

In Hamburg, an 83-year-old man was hospitalised with head injuries after a pro-Israel march last month ended in a violent attack from counter-demonstrators.

Last week, a pro-Palestine march on Berlin’s main Kurfürstendamm boulevard saw young protesters confront a passing Israeli man wearing a kippah. Demonstrators shouted: “You Jew, we will get you” while others cheered: “Jew! Jew! Cowardly pig, come on out and fight alone.”

Concern

Israel’s Haaretz daily published a video on its website showing a Berlin imam it said was praying to Allah to “kill them [Jews] to the very last one”. German anti-Semitism researchers have expressed concern but warned the country’s Jewish community yesterday not to overestimate the level of anti-Jewish feeling.

Wolfgang Benz, for 20 years the head of the Centre for Anti-Semitism research in Berlin, said events in Gaza presented a fresh outlet for old anti-Israel and anti-Jewish antipathy from Muslim and left-wing radical groups.

“It’s not satisfactory that Berlin police don’t take action when anti-Semitic rallying cries are uttered on German streets,” said Mr Benz on Berlin radio.

“But neither does it justify the claim that anti-Semitism is the worst it has been since the Hitler era; that is completely wrong.”