European Jews launch series of pro-Israel rallies

Move follows anti-Semitic attacks in UK, Belgium, France, Sweden.

pro-Israel rally 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
pro-Israel rally 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
European Jewish communities are planning a series of rallies in support of Israel as the Gaza fighting continues into its 13th day Thursday. The rallies in France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Britain and Germany are meant to highlight "our solidarity and support for Israel at this time," said European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor. "Israel is on the frontlines of a battle that stretches all over the world," said Kantor, calling Hamas "part of a larger international terrorist network with links to Teheran." The first rally was held in Paris on Sunday, followed by a rally Wednesday evening in front of the Iranian embassy in Brussels and another at the Amsterdam Jewish Community Center. The next pro-Israel demonstration is expected to be held in Rome's Parco dei Principi on Saturday night, followed by Sunday rallies in London, Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin. The London rally will be held at Trafalgar Square and will be titled "End Hamas Terror: Peace for the People of Israel and Gaza." It will be followed by a gathering at Vienna's Judenplatz on Monday evening. Additional events are being planned in the coming days in other cities, including Stockholm and Budapest. In a statement, the EJC said it would also meet with European diplomats and political leaders in the coming days to explain Israel's position and "discuss the alarming rise of anti-Semitic incidents that are taking place in France, Sweden, the UK and elsewhere." Anti-Semitic incidents appear to be escalating in Europe in the wake of the Gaza fighting. In Britain, incidents included the burning of a London synagogue's door, an attack on a Jewish man in North London by three young Middle Eastern-looking men, anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled in Jewish neighborhoods and hate mail sent to synagogues. In one case, a group of 15 to 20 young men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent ran riot along the main street of the Jewish neighborhood Golders Green in North West London, shouting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slogans and entering Jewish restaurants along the street to harass diners. In Belgium, a Molotov cocktail was thrown Monday at the Beth Hillel Liberal synagogue in Brussels only hours after the windows of the synagogue in Charleroi, about 50 km. south of the capital, were broken with rocks for the second time in a week. In France, assailants rammed a burning car into the gates of a synagogue in Toulouse, in southwest France, on Monday night. In Sweden, a Jewish congregation in Helsingborg was attacked Monday night by someone who "broke a window and threw in something that was burning," said police spokesman Leif Nilsson. Neighbors alerted rescue services before the fire took hold. Jonny Paul, JTA and AP contributed to this report.