AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Many thousands of people protested against Israel in major European cities over the weekend as the latest Israel-Gaza conflict reached new heights. Several events featuring antisemitic rhetoric and rioting.
In Brussels, London and Vienna dozens of men were filmed at rallies on Saturday shouting in Arabic: “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.”
The chant relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia. It is widely understood as a battle cry when attacking Jews.
The protests came as fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza intensified. More than 150 Palestinians have died since last week, when Israel began an offensive against Hamas; 10 Israelis have died when some of the thousands of rockets launched by Hamas have broken through Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and landed in residential neighborhoods.
At the London event, nine police officers were slightly injured when protesters hurled objects at them. The officers were preventing the protesters from reaching the city’s Israeli embassy, the end point for a march by thousands that began at Hyde Park. Organizers said 100,000 people attended that march.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, told the Jewish News of London. “I am deeply concerned about reports of hateful, intimidating and racist language being used on marches and social media this weekend. It is unacceptable to incite anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim hatred. This must stop now.” On Twitter, he added that he had given London’s police “my full backing for their zero-tolerance approach.”
A motorcade of cars with Palestinian flags on Sunday drove through a heavily Jewish part of London with one person shouting through a loudspeaker: “F–k the Jews; rape their daughters.”
At the Hyde Park march, a giant inflatable puppet dressed like an Arab with horns and a hooked nose led to some confusion. Some interpreted it as an antisemitic reference to Jews, but others concluded it was a caricature of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, one of several Arab nations to establish diplomatic relations with Israel last year.
In Germany, many thousands protested Israel’s actions in Gaza. At the Berlin rally Saturday, police ordered the protesters to disperse citing COVID-19 measures. They were pelted with stones, bottles and rocks, resulting in multiple injuries, Tagesschau reported.
In Paris, thousands disobeyed a ban on protests that police said would endanger public order. Police used water cannons to disperse the crowd Saturday.
And in Amsterdam, about 3,000 people protested against Israel on the Dam Square, a central square that is the country’s main monument for victims of World War II, including the Holocaust. They carried signs accusing Israel of genocide and promising that “from the river to the sea, Palestinian will be free,” a phrase that
About 50 people, mostly Jews and Christian supporters of Israel, staged a support rally for Israel about 500 yards away from the Dam Square event.
Israel has seen additional displays of support in Europe, where many Jews are on high alert because of a history of antisemitic violence during clashes between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The Austrian and the Czech presidential palaces flew the Israeli flag on Friday in solidarity with Israel. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a tweet Friday blamed Hamas for “firing rockets indiscriminately on civilian populations” and said the Netherlands “supports Israel’s right to self defense within the border of international law and proportionality.”