Anti-Israel violence erupts across world
Violence against Jews, and protests and demonstrations linked to the Gaza conflict, have occurred around the world.
The French Jewish community has suffered a number of attacks. The most serious incidents were in Toulouse, where a burning car was crashed into the gates of a synagogue on Monday. According to police, a second car was about to be rammed into the shul but the attackers abandoned the vehicle when an alarm went off. Police found petrol bombs in the vehicle.
In Paris, a 70-year-old doctor, Desiré Amsellem, was left in critical condition last Friday after being shot in the back while in his office in the suburb of Valenton. Police are investigating links to anti-Israel protests.
A 29-year-old man was beaten up in a Paris metro station by a 20-strong gang shouting “Palestine will win”. A car with a giant menorah was vandalized on the last day of Chanucah and other vehicles were set alight in front of a synagogue. Vandals also damaged a symbolic wall of peace.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy — in Israel this week trying to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel — called on both the Muslim and Jewish communities to remain calm.
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie met Muslim and Jewish officials on Monday to discuss the recent tensions and antisemitic slogans heard at anti-Israeli rallies.
“The conflict should not spread to France,” said Richard Prasquier, head of Jewish umbrella organization CRIF. Mr Prasquier invited his Muslim counterpart Mohamed Moussaoui to “overcome together” the current difficulties.
Mr Moussaoui, who heads the Muslim umbrella organisation CFCM, condemned all violence and said he was “determined to strengthen relations with the Jewish community in these difficult times”.
In London, an anti-Israel demonstration drew a crowd of around 12,000, including Alexei Sayle, Annie Lennox and Bianca Jagger. When the demonstration passed Downing Street, marchers threw dozens of shoes, aping the action of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at
President Bush. Other protests took place around the UK, including Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bradford and Portsmouth. Attendances varied from 20 in Tunbridge Wells to 1,000 in Manchester.
In Bradford, a 17-year-old youth was arrested and charged with a racially aggravated public order offence. The organiser of the Portsmouth rally, Jonathan Molyneux, 60, was arrested and charged with failing to give prior notice of a public procession.
In Manchester, a man was charged with a public order offence after
draping a flag around a monument.
The Gaza conflict has also led to fresh calls for a boycott of Israeli goods. A spokesman for the Fair Play Campaign Group said: “Boycott campaigners use any issue they can to try and push their agenda of delegitimising Israel.”
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez dismissed Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen in protest at Israeli actions, while in Ireland, Fianna Fail MP Chris Andrews, in a letter to the Irish Times, called on the Irish Government to expel the Israeli Ambassador.
In Israel, protests grew as the operation entered its second week. Although a recent poll showed 96 per cent backed the action, there were calls from left-wing groups for Israel to declare an end to the operation. On Saturday, around 10,000 people attended a Tel Aviv rally organised by a coalition of peace groups.
In another initiative, an anti-war poetry anthology was created. IDF reservists who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories were set to demonstrate this week. Israeli Arab protests gathered momentum, with 30,000 demonstrating in Sahknin.
Shirley Sitbon, Leon Symons and Michal Levertov