Rocks thrown at doors of a synagogue in Bonn, Germany. Israeli flags burned outside a synagogue in Münster. A convoy of cars in North London from which a man chanted anti-Jewish slurs.
As the conflict in Israel and Gaza extended into a 10th day on Wednesday, recent episodes like these are fanning concerns among Jewish groups and European leaders that the latest strife in the Middle East is spilling over into anti-Semitic words and actions in Europe.
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered on the streets of Paris, Berlin, Vienna and other European cities in mostly peaceful protests over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children.
Pro-Palestinian activists and organizers say that solidarity with Palestinians should not be confused with anti-Semitism, and they denounce what they say are attempts to use accusations of anti-Semitism to try to shield Israel from criticism. They say they aim to hold Israel accountable for what they characterize as atrocities against Palestinians.
But Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, warned on Tuesday against “geopolitical events 3,000 miles away” being used as a pretext to attack Jews.
“By attacking Jewish targets, they demonstrate they don’t hate Jews because of Israel,” he said, “but rather hate Israel because it is the Jewish homeland.”
In Germany, where historical memory runs especially deep because of the Holocaust, pro-Palestinian rallies have been held in a cities across the west of the country and in the capital, Berlin. Several have descended into violence, including anti-Semitic chants, calls for violence against Israel, desecration of memorials to Holocaust victims and attacks on at least two synagogues.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany tweeted a video last Thursday showing protesters in Gelsenkirchen, in western Germany, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and shouting anti-Jewish slurs. “The times in which Jews were cursed in the middle of the street should have long been over,” the group wrote. “This is pure anti-Semitism, nothing else!”
The United States on Tuesday criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who said at a news conference this week that Jews were “murderers, to the point that they kill children who are 5 or 6 years old.” He also said they were “only are satisfied by sucking blood.”
Fears that the latest Middle East conflict will aggravate anti-Semitism have also been pronounced in France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and where the situation in the Middle East has previously boiled over into violence on the country’s streets.
In 2014, during Israel’s invasion of Gaza, protesters in Paris and its suburbs targeted synagogues and Jewish shops, lit smoke bombs, and threw stones and bottles at riot police officers. Some chanted “Death to Jews.”
In London over the weekend, thousands of mostly peaceful demonstrators marched from Hyde Park to the Israeli Embassy in West London. But in an area of North London with a large Jewish population, members of a convoy of cars honked horns and shouted anti-Jewish sentiments. One man chanted that Jewish “daughters” should be raped. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that four men had been arrested.
Owen Jones, a prominent British columnist who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, warned against conflating Israel’s actions with Jews as a whole.
“If you’re holding British Jews responsible for the crimes committed by the Israeli state, and trying to terrorize Jews because of what is happening in Palestine,” he wrote on Twitter, “you’re not a Palestinian solidarity activist, you’re a nauseating anti-Semite who needs to be comprehensively defeated.”