BERLIN—Police here sent 1,000 officers to monitor a demonstration Friday against Israel’s military actions in Gaza, after other protests against Israel in German cities in recent days featured anti-Semitic slogans.
A police spokesman said around 1,200 people took part in Friday’s mostly peaceful protest. Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and placards denouncing the violence between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.
The event’s organizers called on the crowd to show restraint and to avoid incendiary statements directed against Jews, which have made headlines in Germany in recent days.
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“It’s sad that some people can’t control themselves, but most people here and the organizers can,” said Ugur Soyuk, a 20-year-old student. He added, however, that he thought the police presence at the demonstration was “excessive.”
The rally, billed as a demonstration opposing Zionism and anti-Semitism, takes place annually in Berlin on al-Quds Day, a day of solidarity with Palestinians held on the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Around 420 people attended a parallel pro-Israel protest, according to police.
Earlier this week, the interior ministry warned of an increased threat for Israeli and Jewish “organizations and interests” in Germany following recent incidents, including two separate attacks on individuals wearing yarmulkes in Berlin.
Anti-Semitic outbursts seen at recent protests against Israel have shocked a country which set up strict laws on hate speech, defamation and Holocaust denial after World War II.
In the capital Berlin, television footage showed protesters from Germany’s Arab minority chanting slogans that threatened violence against Jews at a demonstration on Thursday. Police say similar incidents took place in Frankfurt and Essen recently.
The incidents have led to soul-searching in Germany, where most people believe the country has a strong duty not to tolerate anti-Semitism because of the Holocaust. German newspapers on Friday reported on shock and disgust among politicians and German Jewish representatives. “Stop the Hate!” was Friday’s headline on national daily Die Welt.
Jewish leaders in Germany condemned the events. The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, this week said he had never thought possible in his lifetime that “anti-Semitic slogans of the worst and most primitive kind could be chanted on German streets.”
Mass-circulation tabloid Bild-Zeitung devoted Friday’s front page to statements from public figures denouncing anti-Semitism, from politicians to celebrities, under the headline: “Never Again Hatred Towards Jews!” Chancellor Angela Merkel, in one of those statements, called the recent outbreaks of violence and anti-Semitic slurs “an attack on freedom and tolerance,” saying “we cannot and won’t accept this.”
“I was very proud to live in Germany when I saw that,” said David Wainstejn, a 21-year-old medical student attending the pro-Israel demonstration taking place near the al-Quds Day march. Al-Quds Day was first instituted by the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution.
Academics say the conflict in Gaza has given a pretext to radical Islamists, as well as far-right and far-left extremists, to vent anti-Semitic views on the fringes of mainly peaceful protests against Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.
Such chants on the street “haven’t been seen since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany” in 1949, said Micha Brumlik, senior adviser at the Berlin-Brandenburg Center of Jewish Studies.
Mr. Brumlik said the flare-up isn’t purely driven by events in the Middle East, but also points to the problem of socially marginalized youths from Germany’s ethnic minorities.
“Many young people from Arabic countries and Turkey aren’t very well integrated socially, educationally and in career terms. They’re threatened with isolation and the Gaza conflict offers them a path” to voice anger, Mr. Brumlik said.
Migration to Germany and other European countries has also caused “a rise in the power of political Islam abroad,” said Abdolah Hoveyes, a lecturer on Arabic history and culture at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.
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All across Europe, I keep reading about these Muslims immigrants who seem to be incapable to becoming productive citizens. Why? After all, there are other immigrant groups in Europe and North America that are not causing these problems.
Is it something about Islam itself?