In the Old Continent, there is genuine concern about the dangers that current tensions in the Middle East may pose between various groups.
In earlier statements, the spokesperson for the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ravina Shamdasani, mentioned, “In many countries around the world, there is… a rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic hate speech.”
This is particularly the case in France, where the Ministry of the Interior reported more than a hundred “anti-Semitic acts” last Thursday, ranging from hate speech to insults, and 41 people have been arrested since Saturday.
Approximately 500 sites, including Jewish schools and temples, are currently under protection by ten thousand French police officers and gendarmes.
France has a significant Jewish community, estimated at around 500,000 people, making it the largest in Europe. Additionally, about 9% of the population practices Islam, with approximately six million Muslims.
The Dynamics of Tensions
François Miquet-Marty, the head of the Viavoice Institute for public opinion research, told AFP, “The main danger is the potential development of an escalating tension dynamic that fuels a sense of unrest.”
Marc Hecker, director of research at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), added that the “danger of a return of anti-Semitic acts” and the risk of “terrorism” remain present.
Since the start of the war, more than 1,300 people have been killed in Israel, most of them civilians. On the Palestinian side, the death toll from Israeli strikes has risen to 1,900, including 614 children, according to the health ministry affiliated with Hamas.
The French government has taken decisive measures, especially by banning all “pro-Palestinian demonstrations,” based on the assumption that they might lead to public disturbances.
However, pro-Palestinian marches took place in several cities on Thursday, including Paris, where around three thousand people gathered before being dispersed by the police using tear gas and water cannons.
Concerns in Other European Countries
In other parts of Europe, where most governments have provided steady support to Israel, there have been movements in Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, indicating that the conflict remains a source of divisions within European communities.
In Zurich, it was not possible to organize a student demonstration, and the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) deemed posters calling for “solidarity with Palestine – an uprising until victory” to be akin to incitement to violence.
While British authorities allowed pro-Palestinian demonstrations and the display of the Palestinian flag, warning against “glorifying terrorism.”
In Brighton, a woman was arrested for openly expressing her support for Hamas.
Reports have indicated violations in Germany, where the police reported individuals “celebrating attacks against Israel by distributing sweets” in the Neukölln district of Berlin, before activities by some associations were banned.
In Jewish communities, genuine concerns are evident. Apart from France, many countries like the Netherlands and Spain have increased police presence to protect Jewish schools and educational institutions.
The Central Jewish Council in the Netherlands announced in a statement that three schools in Amsterdam remained closed on Friday “due to a call by the terrorist organization Hamas… to kill Jews all over the world.”
In France, the fatal knife attack that took place on Friday at a high school in Aras, northern France, has raised speculations, even though there is no conclusive evidence linking it to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nisso Ednokot, a retiree in eastern Paris, expressed his concerns, saying, “As soon as Israel invades Gaza, things will escalate.