Calgary Pro-Gaza protests tainted by anti-Semitism violence

CALGARY — One of the organizers of a pro-Palestinian protest in Calgary last Friday plans to apologize publicly to pro-Israeli demonstrators who were beaten up during the event.

It was just one of a growing list of marches across Canada and around the world that are being tainted by violence and anti-Semitic slogans.

Over the past few days, thousands of protesters have massed in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam and other European cities in mostly peaceful expressions of support for Palestinians in Gaza.

Some of the demonstrations have taken on a distinctly anti-Semitic tinge, although organizers said they were designed solely to protest the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Monday, French Jewish leaders warned against importing the Arab-Israeli conflict to Europe after a weekend in which a radical fringe among pro-Palestinian protesters in the French capital clashed with police, targeting Jewish shops, lighting smoke bombs, and throwing stones and bottles at riot police. Eight synagogues in France have been targeted in the past week, Jewish groups said.

France, which has some of Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, has become a flash point for anger against Israel. Jewish community leaders say they fear criticism of Israeli policy is being seized on by some to promote anti-Semitism.

On the weekend, the authorities banned protests in some areas of Paris, citing security concerns. Several recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations have boiled over into violence.

This month, several hundred protesters tried to storm two synagogues during an anti-Israel demonstration, chanting “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was right,” said Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, a Brussels-based organization representing European Jewry.

In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, dubbed “little Jerusalem” because of its large Jewish community, a peaceful demonstration Sunday turned violent when youths lit smoke bombs and firecrackers. They targeted Jewish shops, including a kosher grocery store and a pharmacy.

A leader of Germany’s Jewish community said some of the demonstrators in that country had shown an “explosion of evil and violence-prone hatred of Jews.”

Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said, “Never in our lives did we believe it possible that anti-Semitism of the most primitive kind would be heard on the streets of Germany.”

The protests come amid growing concerns about rising anti-Semitism in much of Western Europe, but particularly in France, fanned by the strong performance of the far-right National Front party, and a perceived rise in anti-Semitic violence.

Similar tensions could be seen last Friday in Calgary.

About 1,000 people turned out for the second weekly march organized by pro-Palestinian advocates, many of whom are connected to the University of Calgary.

Jake Birrell, who was one of few Israel supporters, said he was dragged several feet by an Israeli flag tied around his neck. He was also bruised and scratched.

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