News / Europe

France Denounces Anti-Semitism, Braces for More Gaza Protests

Pro-Palestinian protesters face police during a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip, which had been banned by police in Paris, July 19, 2014.
Pro-Palestinian protesters face police during a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip, which had been banned by police in Paris, July 19, 2014.
Lisa Bryant

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy denounced Tuesday rising anti-Semitism in their countries, where thousands have protested in recent days against Israel's strikes in Gaza.

The fallout has been significant in France, which is home to Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish communities.

Like elsewhere in Europe, French have taken to the streets in recent days to demonstrate against Israel's deadly offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 600 people.

Most of the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, but in the Paris area, where protesters defied government bans against the rallies,  they have taken a violent turn. Youths have attacked synagogues and Jewish businesses.

Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions President Roger Cukierman said French Jews are anguished and fearful.

"We have had eight synagogues attacked, we have had shops being aggressed, mezuzot [small religious scrolls] being torn out. We have heard crowds shouting death to the Jews, not death to Israel, although they pretend to demonstrate in favor of Hamas and Palestinians and against the state of Israel," said Cukierman.

French political and religious authorities have strongly denounced the violence. France hosts about half a million Jews and 5 million Muslims. The majority of both communities have roots in North Africa, so violence in the Middle East resonates strongly here.

Late Monday, religious leaders gathered for an interfaith service in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, a day after vandals attacked Jewish businesses and a synagogue there.

French Council of the Muslim Faith head Dalil Boubakeur, who attended the ceremony, said the vast majority of French Muslims are not anti-Semitic. How could they be, he told French radio, when they themselves are battling racism?

Beyond events in the Middle East, France remains haunted by its World War II past. The Vichy regime of occupied France deported thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

Just a few days ago, the country marked the so-called "raid of Vel d'Hiv," when more than 8,000 French Jews were rounded up around Paris in 1942 and deported.

France's leftist government has called for zero tolerance against anti-Semitism. Attending a Vel d'Hiv ceremony in Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the entire country must take up the fight against anti-Semitism.

But recent government bans against the Gaza protests have backfired. The protests took place anyway. So did the violence. More demonstrations are expected this week, and the Jewish community and French authorities are bracing for more violence.

Israel Offensive Continues Amid Calls by Protesters Worldwide to Stopi
X
Mariama Diallo
July 23, 2014 12:49 AM
Israel's military action in Gaza has led to protests in many countries, where demonstrators have expressed outrage over the civilian casualties and called for an end to the Israeli offensive. The protests are a sign of mounting pressure against Israel despite its position that the military action is necessary to stop Hamas' cross-border rocket attacks. More from VOA's Mariama Diallo.

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by: anna_K from: helsinki
July 23, 2014 5:42 PM
This is absurd - what Israel is doing is Manslaughter - killing civilians by mistake while targeting Hamas. What Hamas is trying daily with their missiles is ATTEMPTED MURDER. So suddenly Attempted Murder is fine just because Israelis are able to defend themselves? Why has Hamas spent ALL THE MONEY they received from Syria and Iran on building missiles instead of building bomb shelters for their civilians like Israel did? I know they have less money but every single penny went for aggression and none to save lives. Hamas is murdering its own people and they have no right to say anything. Yes, it is terrible that civilians are dying. Horrible that kids are being killed - but the key perpetrator is Hamas not Israel.

by: SAS from: Pittsburgh
July 23, 2014 7:34 AM
People have the right and the responsibility to condemn Israel's actions and support the rights of the Palestinian people.

Labelling criticism of the war criminal Israeli regime as ``anti Semitic'' may have worked in silencing dissent in the past, but it will not work any more.
In Response

by: anna_K from: helsinki
July 23, 2014 5:31 PM
Umm, excuse me but how is 'Kill the Jews' the same as criticism against Israel? They were chanting against local Jews! And that is like Americans attacking Muslims who are living in the US when terrorists from abroad bomb them. It is very wrong.
In Response

by: David from: Canada
July 23, 2014 2:58 PM
How's that? Israel has very right and responsibility to DEFEND itself against the Islamo-Nazi terrorist attacks. I sincerely hope they kill every member of Hamas and as far as these idiots in Paris, I would round up these losers and criminals and deport their asses to their country of origin - hopefully Iraq.

by: moritz katz from: Germany
July 22, 2014 12:43 PM
One can criticize people from every nation except Israel and when one is labeled anti Semitic... Another double standard reserved for Jews only! Perhaps this is one of the root causes. Certainly they are currently doing nothing to endear Israel to anyone.
In Response

by: jose saez from: france lyon
July 23, 2014 12:51 AM
I am afraid that this is no more just a question of words to be or not considered as antisemitism.
This is now about Violence between peoples , materials destructions of a Jewish bakery and in front of a sinago.
In a place in France used to know for melting french natives peoples either Jewishes or muslims .
The sad is that they we're once neighbours or students at the same schools.
I don't agreed with current israel options in Gaza . But I also wish Hamas and people who helps them would build bunkers for civilians protection instead of tunnels ..
The events in France are caused by despaired people young unemployed most of time, In reaction to the growings inequalities of a society that has forgotten lessons or history because too busy with consumering and non stop distractions aand informations .

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