In response to rising violence across Europe, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy harshly condemned pro-Palestinian demonstrators, vowing to make use of “all legal measures” to maintain public order.
In a joint statement from Brussels, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Laurent Fabius and Federica Mogherini denounced “the ugly anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks of the last few days,” declaring that “nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe.”
Arab and Muslim demonstrators have taken to the streets across the continent in protest of Jerusalem’s military incursion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, with protesters attacking synagogues and chanting pejorative slogans about Jews and Israel.
On Sunday in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, a town with a mixed Arab-Jewish population and colloquially known as “Little Jerusalem,” an Arab mob burned cars, attacked Jewish-owned shops and clashed with members of the Jewish community outside of a synagogue, which the rioters attempted to set aflame.
That incident was one of several attacks on Jewish places of worship in the greater Paris area, including the siege of a downtown synagogue just over a week ago.
The Sarcelles riot “had nothing to do with the conflict in Israel,” the city’s Chief Rabbi Laurent Berros told The Jerusalem Post
. “I am pretty sure that none of them really know where Israel is. It was pure anti-Semitism.”
Several hundred French Jews immigrated to Israel during the conflict, with more expressing interest in leaving following the events of the past week.
Demonstrators were overheard screaming, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight!” at a recent Berlin protest, and protesters in Antwerp reportedly marched while chanting, “Kill the Jews.” There have been two separate reported incidents of men being beaten for flying Israeli flags in Sweden, according to local media.
In their statement, the ministers vowed to use “all legal measures available to constitutional democracies when the threshold to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia is crossed.”
Due to fears of violence, French authorities had refused to allow several pro-Palestinian protests scheduled for the weekend, but gave the green light for a rally planned in Paris on Wednesday, while the Berlin police banned an anti-Semitic slogan that protesters were using, according to media reports.
“Together and in our individual countries, we will do everything to ensure that our citizens can continue to live safely and peacefully and free from anti-Semitic hostility,” the ministers asserted.
Jewish organizations have been pushing for tougher action on the issue of anti-Semitism for some time, especially since the murder of four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in May, and they have upped their rhetoric since the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
“At a time when ‘Death to the Jews’ chants can be heard at public gatherings in European capitals, allegedly in protests against Israel, the bold, timely and unambiguous words of the three foreign ministers send a strong message that should be embraced by all EU member states,” said David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
The day before the ministers issued their statement, Harris had called on European Union ministers to convene a special meeting on anti-Semitism.
“Ministers responsible for security and combating anti-Semitism should meet urgently to deal with this poisonous hatred that threatens not only Jews, but the very societies that comprise the EU,” Harris said.
Such incidents are “reminiscent of an earlier, darker time in our history when hatred of Jews was openly and unabashedly expressed both verbally and physically,” Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox communal umbrella body, said in a statement.
“The pretense that these attacks are not anti-Semitic, but merely a reaction to current events in the Middle East, is cynical and decidedly false. When a Paris mob besieges and throws bricks at a synagogue with 200 congregants inside, it is anti-Semitism.
When a synagogue north of Paris is firebombed on Friday night and sustains damage, it is anti-Semitism. When a 17-yearold girl – referred to as a ‘dirty Jewess’ – is assaulted on a Paris street by having her face pepper- sprayed, it is anti-Semitism,” the group stated.
During a recent interview with the Post, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder blamed the European media for inciting anti-Semitism, asserting that unbalanced coverage of the conflict that decontextualized Hamas rocket fire stirred up Europe’s Muslim population.
Despite several European politicians’ public condemnations of anti-Semitism, Lauder issued a statement on Tuesday calling for more action by European governments.
“Either you stop this agitation and protect your Jewish population, or you fail to do so and Jews will ultimately turn their back on your countries.
This is not a question of whether you agree or not with Israel. It’s about whether or not you are willing and able to do what it takes to prevent the renaissance of anti-Jewish pogroms in your countries,” Lauder said.
The ministers’ words were important, Lauder asserted, “but in order to fight this outbreak of anti-Semitism effectively, they need to be bolstered by further steps.”Reuters and Eva Attal contributed to this report.