By Adam Abrams/JNS
Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations pervaded Europe last weekend as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the continent days after the Trump administration’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The civilian protests as well as widespread opposition to the White House’s Jerusalem policy changes within the European political establishment may serve to deepen the chasm between Israel and Europe.
Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters convened at the Place de la République in central Paris Saturday ahead of Netanyahu’s arrival in the French capital; they chanted “Netanyahu war criminal” and called for the prime minister’s arrest. The French demonstrators also called for Palestinian terrorists Hassan Hamouri and Marwan Barghouti to be freed from Israeli prisons.
Anti-Israel protests also occurred in Sweden, Italy, Austria and Germany. Demonstrations in southern Sweden turned violent when a group of men hurled firebombs at a synagogue in Gothenburg. Pro-Palestinian protesters in Sweden chanted anti-Semitic slogans encouraging the murder of Jews.
“We have announced the intifada from Malmö. We want our freedom back and we will shoot the Jews,” demonstrators chanted, reported Sweden’s Sveriges Radio.
In Vienna, a violent anti-Jewish mob marched down the city’s streets screaming in Arabic, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning,” referencing the 7th century massacre of Jewish tribes in the town of Khaybar, in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Italian anti-Israel protesters marched with Palestinian flags and held signs calling Jerusalem “the eternal capital of the State of Palestine.”
In addition to the violent protests in Europe, the continent’s political leaders roundly opposed President Donald Trump’s recent moves on Jerusalem, including his recognition of the city as the Israeli capital and his expression of plans to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Last Thursday, the European Union’s (EU) diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, said the Jerusalem policy changes might push the Middle East “backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in.”
“The European establishment sees in Israel and to a lesser extent the United States all that it has left behind in its pursuit of Kantian perpetual peace, so it responds furiously to their cooperation,” Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told JNS.
Netanyahu to France: Jerusalem recognition gives ‘peace a chance’
During a joint press conference on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Netanyahu said Israel “has provided valuable intelligence to many countries in Europe and many countries outside Europe, that has prevented dozens of horrible terrorist attacks, some of which unfortunately [the French people] have suffered.”
“We fight together in this fight against barbarism, and you’re a principle leader in that fight,” he told Macron. “Across the Middle East as well, your efforts in Lebanon are to be commended; your efforts to prevent the spread of Iranian aggression are to be commended.”
The Israeli leader acknowledged that he and Macron don’t “agree on everything,” but are “working on it.” Last week, Macron called Trump’s Jerusalem policy changes “regrettable” and said the city’s status should be determined through negotiations.
Macron has also agreed to work with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pressure the U.S. to reassess its recognition of Jerusalem.
“Paris is the capital of France. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It’s been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years. It’s been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices, and we know that as friends, you respect ours,” Netanyahu told the French president, adding that “we should give peace a chance, by bringing things to their historical truth, by opening up the possibility of renewed negotiations.”
Israel rejects Europe’s ‘double standard’
Following his stop in France, Netanyahu visited Brussels for a meeting with all 28 foreign ministers of EU member states.
“It has been 22 years since an Israeli prime minister has held such a meeting,” Netanyahu noted, adding that he ascribes “great importance to Europe” but will not accept the continent’s “double standard” on Israel.
“I hear voices from there condemning President Trump’s historic statement but I have not heard condemnations of the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it,” Netanyahu said, adding, “I am not prepared to accept this hypocrisy, and as usual at this important forum, I will present Israel’s truth without fear and with head held high.”
Pipes said that European governments “would love to tear into Israel for the embassy move. Trouble is, Israel had little to do with this event, so there’s not much they can do except bluster in impotent rage.”
On Monday, Netanyahu said during a joint appearance with the EU’s Mogherini, “I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”
Official European support for BDS
Several weeks before the events surrounding Jerusalem and Europe’s reaction, Israel said it would bar the entry of seven European officials due to their efforts to promote boycotts of the Jewish state.
The officials, who are all French, were part of a larger delegation of 20 European dignitaries scheduled to visit Israel and the disputed territories from Nov. 19-23. They had announced that one of the primary goals of the trip was to meet Barghouti, the high-profile Palestinian terrorist serving five life sentences in Israeli prison, as well as to offer support for other Palestinian prisoners.
Czech support for Jerusalem
Breaking rank with Europe’s broad condemnation of America’s moves on Jerusalem, the Czech Republic on Dec. 6 recognized the western part of the city—areas controlled by Israel before the 1967 Six-Day War—as the Israeli capital.
On Saturday, Czech President Milos Zeman doubled down on the move, accusing EU member states of being “cowards” for not supporting U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.
Barring a shift in the European political landscape, such as anti-immigration parties coming to power, Pipes believes Israel-Europe relations “will continue to deteriorate.”