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Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 8:49 a.m.
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Jews face backlash in Europe

Officials condemn anti-Semitic deeds

By MELISSA EDDY The New York Times

This article was published August 3, 2014 at 3:27 a.m.

BERLIN -- Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and violent attacks proliferate in several countries.

Most surprising perhaps, a wave of episodes has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a foundation of modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, "Never Again." Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country's Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.

Last week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city's new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries.

In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, the Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller's family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.

The string of incidents comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned anti-Semitic chants from pro-Palestinian demonstrators and President Joachim Gauck called on Germans to "raise their voices if there is a new anti-Semitism being strutted on the street."

But even as the police have clamped down on demonstrators, banning slogans that target Jews instead of Israeli policies, a spike in violence has spread fear among Jews, not only in Germany but also in other European countries.

More Jews have begun leaving France in recent months after anti-Semitism that has spilled onto the streets since the start of the Gaza conflict almost a month ago. While most of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been peaceful, a small number of violent protesters, many of them young Arab men, have targeted Jewish businesses and synagogues.

French authorities have strongly condemned the violence and, citing public-safety concerns, have refused to authorize a small number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Others have spoken of a need to counter anti-Semitism among certain segments of the country's Muslim youth.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke last week of a "new," "normalized" anti-Semitism. "It blends the Palestinian cause, jihadism, the detestation of Israel and the hatred of France and its values," he told the National Assembly.

Even in historically tolerant Italy, anti-Semitic smears have appeared on the streets of Rome. Jewish shop windows in several neighborhoods were defaced last week with swastikas and tags reading "Torch the synagogues" and "Jews your end is near." Police suspect that right-wing extremists, possibly along with pro-Palestinian activists, carried out the acts.

Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, said he believed that the threats were linked to tensions in the Middle East.

"There is cyclically a common thread running between the dramatic tensions in the Middle East and the increase of anti-Semitic episodes," he said.

And in Austria, a preseason soccer match between the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa and Germany's Paderborn was moved to a more secure location last weekend after youths bearing Palestinian and Turkish flags stormed the field and attacked players during a previous match.

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