BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government reassured Jews living in Germany that they should feel safe in the face of anti-semitic chants and threats heard at some of the protests against Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza, and said such behavior would not be tolerated.
Spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel Georg Streiter told a news conference on Wednesday: “The chancellor and the government are happy to see the revival of Jewish life in Germany and will continue to campaign for the security of Jewish citizens.”
The German media has expressed shock at the tenor of anti-Israel chants at some of the demonstrations, in a country which is ultra-sensitive about anti-Semitism because of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis.
German anti-racist laws forbid incitement to racial hatred such as anti-Semitic slogans, as well as outlawing propagation of the racist beliefs of the Nazis, whose emblems are illegal.
The threats made at the protests were an “attack on freedom and tolerance, and an attempt to destroy Germany’s democracy”, Streiter said.
Authorities see a heightened risk for Israeli buildings and interests in Germany and are providing appropriate security, a spokesman for the interior ministry said.
The president of Germany’s central council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, thanked German leaders for their support.
But he added: “Many in our community are feeling very insecure, anxious and completely shocked at the horrid anti-Jewish slogans, some of which have been chanted by large, wild crowds, calling for Jews to be ‘gassed’, ‘burned’ or ‘slaughtered’.”
On Tuesday the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy issued a joint statement condemning the anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia that have marred rallies against the war, in which 645 Palestinians and 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed so far.
Israeli forces pounded Gaza on Wednesday, meeting stiff resistance from Hamas Islamists and sending thousands of residents fleeing.
“We urge Israel to show restraint and to avoid more victims,” a spokeswoman for the German foreign office said.
Hamas had rejected two ceasefires and was using civilians as human shields, she said, adding: “Far too many innocent people have died, and we mourn every victim.”
The German government describes its strong support for Israel as a fundamental principle and Merkel has defended Israel’s right to defend itself from attack.
Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Stephen Brown and Sonya Hepinstall