click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Attacking Jews over Gaza

Attacking Jews over Gaza

Threats and violence against Jews – ostensibly as protest for the current war in Gaza – have spread to cities worldwide.


When French authorities turned down an anti-Zionist group’s request to march in Paris on Sunday, July 20 – citing a violent protest the previous week in which rioters attacked a synagogue, trapping four hundred Jews inside for hours – anti-Israel protestors announced their plans to march anyway. Their target: the heavily Jewish Paris suburb of Sarcelles.

“We organized… Everybody realized we had to be there,” recounted Marc, a 55 year old Jewish father in an exclusive interview with Given his fear of being targeted, he asked that only his first name be used.

“There were about two hundred of us. We stood around the synagogue, ordinary people, fathers, sons. We didn’t want to fight. We just wanted to say ‘we are here; you cannot be aggressive to us in our synagogue.’”

The Jews formed a ring around the synagogue. Young and old, mostly men but with a few women represented, they guarded their synagogue for hours. “There were a lot of Muslim people protesting Israel at the beginning,” Marc recounts. “The younger Muslim people ran on the street and they screamed ‘Death to Jews.’ They took baseball bats and yelled that they wanted to destroy the synagogue.” As police defended the synagogue, rioters attacked the neighborhood around the building. “They burned cars and threw Molotov cocktails at the commercial area.” The rioters destroyed a kosher grocery store and a pharmacy owned by Jews.

As the riot swelled all around them for hours, with screams “Death to Jews” ringing in their ears, the 200 Jews ringing the synagogue stood their ground. “We sang the French national anthem,” Marc said. “We wanted to tell the Muslims who were rioting, ‘We are not afraid of you. We wanted to send a message that we won’t let you win.’”

Video of riot on Sarcelles:

The riots and anti-Israel protests of recent weeks have been a turning point, Marc explains. He grew up in Tunisia, and left in 1967, when Israel’s Six Day War sparked anti-Jewish riots that drove hundreds of thousands of Jews to leave. “I was very afraid. I remember when I was young and was living in Tunisia…. Muslims wanted to make Jews leave the country. I feel like people want to make me leave France. I felt like I wasn’t at home. I was afraid for my family my children. When they scream ‘Death to Jews’, it makes me feel like Jewish people don’t have a place in France.”

Last Thursday a French Jew was assaulted in his home outside of Paris by a group of 15 men wielding iron bars. His photo had been published on a Facebook page identifying Jews to be targeted for attack. Facebook removed the page on Friday.

Threats and violence against Jews – ostensibly as protest for the current war in Gaza – have spread to cities worldwide.

In Germany, an Israeli couple was attacked and nearly killed when they strolled past an anti-Israel rally in Unter den Linden Boulevard, a major Berlin thoroughfare, on July 19, 2014. Protestors noted the man’s kippah and attacked the couple while screaming anti-Semitic abuse. “If the police didn’t intervene, they probably would have killed us,” the wife said later.

Photo from an anti-Israel rally in London last week.Photo from an anti-Israel rally in London last week.

“They pursue the Jews in the streets of if we were in 1938,” wrote Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, Israel's ambassador to Germany, after the attack, noting that Nazi-era chants and anti-Jewish slurs have made a comeback in today’s protests against the Gaza war. On July 22, 2014 – two days after the Sarcelles riot – German authorities finally banned what has become a popular slogan: “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone.” Another staple call at anti-Israel rallies in Germany today is “Jews to the Gas Chambers”.

Political scientist Inna Rogatchi explains that today’s anti-Israel protests are different from those in past years. “What strikes me most is the self-confidence of the demonstrators. Hatred towards Jews is becoming legitimized.” Speaking to about anti-Israel protests she has witnessed in the past weeks, Dr. Rogatchi notes “they were so prepared. My impression was they were hardly waiting for a reason to unleash their pent-up rage.” Living and travelling in northern Europe, Dr. Rogatchi notes a change in atmosphere: “The air is thickening. Anti-Semitism is becoming more ordinary in all levels of society.”

Marc in Sarcelles agrees: “Twenty years ago you couldn’t say ‘Death to Jews.’ Now you can say anything.”

The same day I spoke with Marc, a French woman named Claudine Benezra confided in me that something seems to have changed with the current violence in Europe. “These people want Jews and Israel to disappear totally. People say you don’t have the right to live as a Jew.” Although she loves France, she is encouraging her son to leave. “Even in Israel when there’s war - and even if he had to do his military service there – you know they will take care of him as you would take care of him, because they are all Jews.”

The United States has been insulated from much of the extreme anti-Semitism displayed in Europe in recent weeks. But even in the US, anti-Jewish slurs and threats against Jews have come to characterize many protests against the current war in Gaza. 

In Boston, for instance, police have had to intervene in three demonstrations, protecting Jews from anti-Israel demonstrators: the most recent, on July 20, 2014 occurred in Boston Common, when anti-Israel protestors pushed and shoved Jews carrying an Israeli flag, screaming “Jews back to Birkenau”.

In Chicago -- my own city -- some local Jews, including a prominent rabbi, were shocked to find leaflets on their windshield in recent days threatening neighborhood violence if the fighing in Gaza doesn't cease. At a nearby amusement park, my son and his fellow campers were asked why they weren't in concentration camps.

This middle-schooler is growing up in a world different from the one many of us knew. Like never before, Israel’s fight for legitimacy, for security and survival, is our own personal fight too.

July 26, 2014

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 16

(12) Anonymous, August 1, 2014 11:47 AM

Not good, but not like 1933

I can only state how it is in Frankfurt Germnay. Yes there are selected incidents, but no, to compare it to 1933 would be an insult to Jewish people living then, and yes its mostly coming from islamists. Unlike during the flottila saga, the media is actually fairer and (islamic) antisemtiism in the headlines everywhere. The media is no worse really than in USA or Australia, if anything better. The political elite (government, town mayors, ministers) and churches have done a great job in expressing solidiarity with the Jewish communities and called on the nation to combat all types of antisemitism, including "new" ie islamic antisemitism. The alevite leadedrs and few muslim leaders have also condemned antisemitism. But waht the masses think? I do not know, only that papers of the Springer Verlag (pro Israel and pro Jewish and pro democratic) have themselves been under attack by blogs etc. The comment sections has been turned in online papers, so it spares us reading the antisemitic sh. The pro gaza demonstrations have in fact not been really worse than during the flotilla saga in Germany. What is different, is that with the violence in France where things are by far much much worse, islamic antisemitism is in the headlines - perhaps a chance as the elite has reacted?
In any event, to say that Jewry in Germany is facing another Holocaust would be to cry wolf. Lets not exaggerate please, its an insult to the victims of the Shoah. I see worse antisemitic cartoons in mainstream Australian newspapers than in Germany, so its a world phemona and not isolated to Europe.

(11) Rafael, July 30, 2014 11:54 PM

Attacks on French Jews

Attacks on French Jews for simply being Jewish would be by all accounts anywhere in the world racist. If this is true the French Jews would win hands down in any forum.
However, if these French Jews are a subculture within French society with ties and alligence to Israel , they are no longer French but a zionist cell within France. The Rothchilds are an extreme example of a multi national family who had everything to do with the creation of Israel.
If Islamic temples in the US are found to be employing anti American sentiment and sending financial support to terrorist inthe Middle East, we would crush them here. If they are simply Muslim Americans loyal to the USA - like Italians, Spanish, Greek and Swedish Japanese, Chinese Indian Americans etc and so on... Ther is protection against racial profiling.
The war between transplanted Jews and indigenous people of the Middle East is a hateful war. The gates of Zion was a spiritual place that morphed into an actual place that morphed into a movement that claimed the promise land 3000 years later.
I hope other cultures and religions don't follow suite

(10) scott, July 30, 2014 9:21 AM

I am not a zionist. To me that is a silly word. Like a Jew who says Shema is a "Shemaist." Or a Jew who keeps kosher is a "Kosherist." To occupy the land is a commandment of Hashem and so in my eyes not to do is the same as eating pork or neglecting prayer. As a mere mortal who am I to rank the commandments in the order of my preference or convenience? Who is anyone-even the sages? I am a Jew. And as a Jew who believes in the reality of the Torah there is no other path but to obey his commandments.

Israel is a reality. Much of the hard work has been done-but there is much remaining to do. We have food here. And places to live. And jobs and schools and everything one needs to exist. We also have Shabbat and the holidays and Kosher food in every supermarket. Synagogues on almost every street. What excuse does any Jew who considers himself an observer of the commandments have for living anywhere else?

Maybe I'm having a bad day but for me a Jew who disobeys G*d by remaining among the nations and then complains about the problems arising from that disobedience is someone with whose problems I can sympathize but I just can't get that worked up about.

I wish our family in diaspora well. I hope they can become popular in the eyes of their neighbors in their new homelands. Should they ever desire come to dwell in the home or their forefathers we'll send 'em a plane ticket and put 'em up for a while until they get on their feet. But they choose to stay away. It's not me. It's G*d. He told them to live here and they decided not to. Not much I or any mortal can do for them.

I will prey for their safety and for their return to their people.

(9) Thomas, July 29, 2014 10:47 AM

what i do not understand is the reactions from other nations of the world where both the Jews and these anti-Jews reside. they are making Jews feel vulnerable; are they in support of Islam over Judaism? shouldn't they protect both parties even if there is war in Israel and Gaza? does one party start a war? these are questions that remain unanswered in my head lol. violence protest is wrong according to universal conventions on peace and security_ i am not a Jews either but i am a pro-humanity.

oldguyincolorado, July 29, 2014 5:51 PM

understanding Islam/Hamas

It is not that they support Islam over Judaism; it is because they just don't want Jews. The Charter of Hamas says to kill all Zionists (they really mean all Jews). Western idiots support that. They are usually called Nazi's. If you read the Quo"ran - and practically no Westerner does, you will note that Islam Lumps Christians and Jews together: they are second class citizens who must submit to Islam, be subdued in their Hearts by Islam, pay a special tax, and if they violate any rule of Islam they must convert to Islam or die (Shuria : Repentance 9:30 is a good start , but the rest of the chapter, along with others, willl give you the idea - I suggest the Dar es Alam translation as it is fairly straight forward - you can pick it up on line). Islam hates Christians as much as it hates Jews (well, almost). Most westerners do not understand that. Once they do, I fear for the moderate Muslim because they will face the same crap from non-Muslims as do we Jews.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment