Germany vows ‘no tolerance’ after anti-Israel demos
Germany on Thursday vowed “unwavering” protection of its synagogues after scattered demonstrations over the escalating conflict in the Middle East saw protesters shout anti-Israeli slogans and burn Israeli flags.
“There must be no tolerance for attacks against synagogues in our country,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Funke media group, pledging “unwavering security” for Jewish temples in Germany.
Protesters burned Israeli flags outside synagogues in Muenster and Bonn in western Germany earlier this week, with 16 people arrested.
On Thursday around 1,500 people gathered in the northern city of Bremen calling for “freedom for Palestine” in a protest which proceeded without incident, according to local police.
“Those who burn Star of David flags in our streets and shout anti-Semitic slogans not only abuse the freedom to demonstrate, but are committing crimes,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the popular Bild daily.
“Nothing justifies threats against Jews in Germany or attacks on synagogues in German towns,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, around 180 people shouted anti-Israeli slogans at a march in Gelsenkirchen also in the west.
Police said they prevented the protesters from marching on the city’s synagogue.
In Hanover, police said they broke up a protest of around 550 people and prevented two protesters from burning an Israeli flag.
Maas said German Jews should not be made scapegoats for the events in Israel “either in the street or on social media”.
Germany’s Central Council of Jews, which represents about 200,000 Jews living in the country, on Wednesday called for stepped up protection for Jewish institutions in the country as unrest flares between Israel and Palestinians.
Dozens have been killed in days of violence — mostly on the Palestinian side — with both sides exchanging deadly fire in some of the worst unrest in years.
The Jewish community has been growing since German reunification in 1990, with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union.
The arrival of refugees from Arab nations hostile to Israel, in 2015 and 2016, added to the prevailing anti-Semitism in some Muslim circles in Germany.