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Le Monde
Le Monde
21 Oct 2023

Berlin, October 18, 2023, after the Molotov cocktail attack on a synagogue.

European governments are bracing themselves for an Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. They fear a surge in tensions as civilian casualties mount in Israel's war against Hamas. In several countries, anti-Semitic and, to a lesser extent, Islamophobic acts have increased significantly.

In Germany, such incidents have multiplied. A synagogue was targeted by Molotov cocktails in Berlin on Wednesday, October 16. Nearly 200 arrests were made and 65 police officers injured at unauthorized pro-Palestinian rallies in the working-class district of Neukölln on the following day. Stars of David were drawn at the entrances to buildings inhabited by Jews. Several other major cities − Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Frankfurt and Munich − were the scene of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, some of which were banned and took place in a tense atmosphere. Germany is home to Europe's largest Palestinian community (some 80,000 people) but, according to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, "the responsibility we bear as a result of the Holocaust makes it our permanent task to stand up for the existence and security of the state of Israel." This makes Germany particularly exposed to the repercussions of the conflict on its territory.

Read more Article réservé à nos abonnés Israel-Hamas war: Europe runs the risk of internal chaos

In Spain, on October 18, a pro-Palestinian demonstration degenerated in the northern Moroccan enclave of Melilla. Shouting "this is not a war, it's genocide" and "Israel, murderer," demonstrators burned an Israeli flag, according to the Melilla Hoy newspaper, before marching to the entrance of the town's synagogue and insulting Jewish shopkeepers. Other anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded in recent days in Catalonia and Madrid: graffiti was sprayed in a Jewish neighborhood in the province of Girona and on the door of a synagogue in Madrid, and swastikas and Stars of David were painted in a park in the capital. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain called on "politicians and the media" to be "responsible and rigorous in their reporting."

In the UK, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police on October 20, anti-Semitic acts jumped by 1.353% compared to the same period last year, with 218 reprehensible acts committed between October 1 and 18 in Greater London (compared to 15 in 2022). Over the same period, Islamophobic acts were up 140% (101 in the capital). In North London, four Jewish schools have preventively closed their doors in recent days. The Conservative government, which had initially announced £3 million to secure Jewish schools and synagogues, then released £10 million in aid to the Palestinians before promising the same attention to the concerns of Muslim communities. On October 18, Ken McCallum, Director of MI5 (Britain's domestic intelligence agency), spoke to the BBC about the "impact" of the Middle East conflict on British society.

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