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As Europe’s Jews see a new era of antisemitism, governments struggle over how to respond

(JTA) — In synagogues, schools and ordinary streets across Europe, Jews are voicing a similar refrain: They live in a different world from the one they knew before Oct. 7.

That’s not only because Hamas’ attacks in southern Israel killed the most Jewish civilians in one day since the Holocaust. Across Europe, the rate of antisemitic incidents has fueled an atmosphere of fear and motivated some to conceal their Jewish identity.

European governments have made it a point to protect their countries’ Jews from antisemitism in recent decades. The fruits of those efforts are seen in the increased security at Jewish institutions across the continent and the continued public statements by Western leaders meant to call out and condemn hatred against Jews.

But there is a new wrinkle to that arc: a clear, tortured confusion in European governments and police departments about how to distinguish between anger against Israel and antisemitism, between the right to assemble at pro-Palestinian rallies and the crime of hate speech. The debate was punctuated on Monday by the firing of British Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who made a series of divisive remarks about pro-Palestinian demonstrators last week.

A new era?

Over a month into the bloody aftermath of Hamas’ attack on Israeli towns and Israel’s bombardment and siege of the Gaza Strip, antisemitism is soaring far from the scene of the conflict.

France has registered over 1,000 antisemitic acts since Oct. 7, exceeding in weeks the number recorded over the past year, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. The Community Security Trust, a group that tracks antisemitism in Britain, has reported 1,205 incidents in that time frame — the highest total in a 35-day period since it began recording offenses in 1984. And in Germany, the federal agency RIAS verified 202 antisemitic incidents between Oct. 7-15, up 240% from the same week last year.

The incidents run the gamut: Assaults, threats to Jews and Jewish businesses, damage to Jewish property, hate mail and online abuse.

On Nov. 4, a Jewish woman in Lyon was stabbed in the stomach at her home, while a swastika was found graffitied on her door. French prosecutors have also opened a probe into a viral video that showed a group of youths chanting on the Paris metro: “Fuck the Jews and fuck your mother, long live Palestine, we are Nazis and proud of it.”

Meanwhile, Berlin police are investigating two Molotov cocktails thrown at the Kahal Adass Jisroel synagogue, along with multiple Stars of David marked on apartment buildings. The Oct. 27 cover of the German magazine Der Spiegel, one of the most widely circulated news magazines in Europe, read “Wir Haben Angst” (“We are scared”). One of the four German Jews pictured on the cover is 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Ivar Buterfas-Frankenthal.

Marina Chernivsky is the founder and director of OFEK, a Berlin counseling center that specializes in antisemitic violence and discrimination. The group has struggled to manage a 12-fold increase in requests for psychological counseling since Oct. 7, she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. In just three weeks, OFEK received 390 requests; its previous record was 370 in an entire year.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Chernivsky. “It’s just one indicator of the situation now, because it’s a very high barrier to decide to call an institution and tell the story and also ask for support. It’s not easy and many people do not do it.”

London police received reports of 657 antisemitic and 230 Islamophobic incidents between Oct.1 and Nov. 1, a significant jump in both categories. On Nov. 2, staff at London’s Wiener Holocaust Library — the world’s oldest Holocaust library and research center — found graffiti that read “Gaza” across their building’s sign.

In Italy’s capital, four Holocaust memorial plaques were found blackened with a torch and spray paint last week. The bronze blocks, called “pietre d’inciampo” or “stumbling stones” in Rome, are embedded on the sidewalk in front of apartment buildings where Jews were rounded up from the Nazi-occupied city and sent to Auschwitz in 1944. They show the names of the Jews who lived there and the dates when they were born, deported and murdered.

Milan officials are also investigating dozens of antisemitic incidents, including death threats graffitied in a hospital, a bakery and a nightclub. At a recent Milan rally, some protestors chanted, “Open the borders so we can kill the Zionists.”

Spain and Portugal have seen their share of synagogue graffiti, too. In Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the North African coast, a group of protestors gathered in front of a synagogue and burned an Israeli flag.

The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, was hit with graffiti tied to the Israel-Hamas conflict, Oct. 11, 2023. (CIP)

In the Netherlands, the number of antisemitic incidents reported to a leading Dutch-Jewish watchdog is up 818% from the monthly average of the past three years. This figure only includes interpersonal incidents, such as threats, verbal and physical abuse and direct messages, not general antisemitic statements on social media.

“We see lots of incidents at schools, where Jewish or Israeli kids are being attacked because of what’s going on in Israel and Gaza,” CIDI director Naomi Mestrum told JTA. “One kid was threatened with a knife and hit with a bottle, while the other kids were swearing, ‘kankerjood’ — in Dutch, that means ‘cancer Jew.’”

The Dutch Jewish Weekly changed its delivery packaging from transparent plastic to an anonymous white envelope after Oct. 7, according to editor-in-chief Esther Voet, because subscribers were anxious about their neighbors finding out they were Jewish. Their requests follow a pattern of fear among Jews taking measures to hide their identity in Europe, from removing or camouflaging their mezuzahs to taking off their kippahs in public and avoiding speaking Hebrew on the street. One Syrian Jewish refugee in the Netherlands told JTA he no longer sleeps in his own apartment after his window was defaced with a swastika.

Although antisemitism typically flares in Europe when there is fighting in Israel and the Palestinian territories, tracking groups in France, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands all report that European Jews are living in a new landscape.

“We’ve never seen this before, both this increase in numbers and the threatening types of incidents,” CIDI researcher and policy advisor Hans Wallage told JTA. “I also hear from the Jewish community that they’ve never experienced this before, and they’re very afraid and anxious for the future.”

The free speech debate

In the face of this crescendo, European governments have been conflicted over how to crack down on antisemitism without inhibiting free speech.

In France, Darmanin attempted to impose a blanket ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, declaring them “likely to generate disturbances to public order.” Vincent Brengarth, a lawyer for the Palestine Action Committee, called this order a “serious attack on freedom of expression.” The ban has since been overturned by France’s top administrative court, although local authorities can still block protests on a case-by-case basis.

London’s Metropolitan police have been open about their difficulty in determining which protest chants are lawful and which could incite violence. In a bulletin on Oct. 20, they discussed the popular chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has various interpretations. Some activists say it means that Palestinians should be free of Israeli occupation, with rights and dignity equal to Israelis. Critics, including Israeli leaders and Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, say the chant calls for a Palestinian entity that has eliminated Jews and Israelis between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

“While we can envisage scenarios where chanting these words could be unlawful, such as outside a synagogue or Jewish school, or directly at a Jewish person or group intended to intimidate, it is likely that its use in a wider protest setting… would not be an offense and would not result in arrests,” said the Metropolitan police.

Police officers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester during the demonstration in Piccadilly Circus in London, Nov. 4, 2023. (Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the British government is divided. Ahead of a massive pro-Palestinian rally in London on Saturday, Suella Braverman wrote an op-ed calling the protestors “hate marchers” and accusing the police of being overly lenient with them. In a letter to senior police officers last month, the former home secretary argued that waving a Palestinian flag and chanting “From the river to the sea” should both be considered as possible criminal offenses.

Britain’s Labour party, just a few years removed from a longstanding antisemitism scandal, is similarly divided. Party leader Keir Starmer has shown a zero-tolerance policy for anything he sees as approaching hate speech against Jews. Labour parliament member Andy McDonald was suspended, pending an investigation, after the party alleged that he made “deeply offensive” comments at a rally on Oct. 29. He said in the speech: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”

Although Germany’s constitution protects freedom of expression, opinion and assembly, various local authorities have imposed bans on pro-Palestinian protests — including Hamburg, the second-largest city. In some places, resistance to these orders has led to clashes between protestors and riot police. Berlin’s education senator Katharina Guenther-Wuensch has allowed schools to ban the keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, along with the phrase “Free Palestine.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has said he believes that protest bans are “definitely justified” to prevent “anti-Israel, aggressive and antisemitic” actions.

But some vocal opponents of the protest bans are Jews. In an open letter published in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung and the New York-based magazine N+1, over 100 Jewish artists, writers and scholars in Germany said the suppression of pro-Palestinian rallies did not make them feel safer.

The group noted the surge in violent intimidation against German Jews and expressed fear that “the atmosphere in Germany has become more dangerous — for Jews and Muslims alike — than at any time in the nation’s recent history.” However, they denounced bans on nonviolent protest, saying these restrictions often come with brutality to immigrants and minorities and can escalate instead of preventing violence.

“As Jews, we reject this pretext for racist violence and express full solidarity with our Arab, Muslim, and particularly our Palestinian neighbors,” said the letter. “What frightens us is the prevailing atmosphere of racism and xenophobia in Germany, hand in hand with a constraining and paternalistic philo-Semitism. We reject in particular the conflation of anti-Semitism and any criticism of the state of Israel.”


The post As Europe’s Jews see a new era of antisemitism, governments struggle over how to respond appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law pic.twitter.com/d2uE16ZzQ1

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’ pic.twitter.com/DmHjwfHtPV

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

The post IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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