Several European countries restrict demonstrations in support of Palestine | International

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Following the Hamas attacks in Israel and while the Israeli army's siege intensifies against the Gaza Strip, in a critical humanitarian situation, several European countries have restricted demonstrations in support of Palestine. In the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak's government has suggested that brandishing a Palestinian flag be considered a crime, a controversial move that may not be legal. In France, the Ministry of the Interior has banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations because, according to its head, Gérald Darmanin, “they can cause disruptions to public order.” Berlin also banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations on Thursday, citing the risk of anti-Semitic statements and glorification of violence.

Organizations in defense of the Palestinians have denounced that the restrictions threaten freedom of expression and consider that the West pays little attention to the siege of the Strip. The president of Amnesty International France, Jean-Claude Samouiller, has also warned that the French total ban constitutes a “serious and disproportionate violation of the right to demonstrate.”

The governments of several European countries are moving in this way to limit anti-Semitic acts and close ranks with Israel, which they emphasize has the right to defend itself. However, the majority has pointed out in recent days that, to do so, Israel must respect international law, something that is contrary to the blockade of Gaza, governed in fact by Hamas, and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian infrastructure in a territory from which it is almost impossible to escape.

It is the common European position, and these clarifications from the capitals also seek to limit any repercussions of tensions at home, where there have been numerous demonstrations in support of Israel after the atrocious attacks by Hamas, but also some tensions due to Palestinian support. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people demonstrated this Friday in countries in the Middle East and Asia in support of the Palestinians.

In France, despite the ban on demonstrations issued on Thursday, thousands of people took to the streets that same day in several French cities, in demonstrations that were repressed by the police, in some cases with water cannons and tear gas. The leader of the conservative party Los Republicanos, Eric Ciotti, criticized this Friday that the Minister of the Interior is not capable of “enforcing respect for the decisions that he himself has taken”, which he has described as a “show of weakness of the State”. . The day before, French President Emmanuel Macron appealed to citizens so that the conflict in the Middle East does not foster division in France. “The shield of unity will protect us from hatred and excesses,” he said in a televised speech Thursday. There are 17 French citizens missing in Israel and Macron assured that they are most likely among the hostages held by Hamas.

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Since last Saturday, French authorities have banned several demonstrations in support of Palestine, citing “demonstrated risks of exporting this violence to national territory” or the risk of “extreme violence.” Darmanin has warned that “organizers and troublemakers” will be arrested. The head of the Interior assures that, since the Islamist organization Hamas launched its attacks in Israel, more than 100 anti-Semitic cases have been reported in the country. The police have arrested 24 people for this type of crime. France has a Jewish community of almost 500,000 people, the largest in Europe, and a Muslim community of about five million, also among the largest in Europe.

Macron's Executive has urged security officials to apply "strict instructions" and to report "systematically and without delay" any anti-Semitic act. In addition, it has taken special protection measures for Jewish places of worship. Just like the Netherlands, which kept Hebrew schools closed this Friday and where the acting Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has warned that demonstrations in support of Palestine will be closely monitored out of concern that anti-Semitic and pro-Palestine slogans will be raised. -Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the EU.

Mobilization in support of Israel near the Munich synagogue, this Thursday. MICHAELA REHLE (REUTERS)

Protection of schools and synagogues

Belgium has decided to allow demonstrations, but warns that “immediate intervention will be taken” if they lead to incitement of violence or anti-Semitism. “We call on citizens not to bring this conflict home,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has asked in this regard, hours after a similar call from Macron from Paris. Belgium will not ban demonstrations, the head of the Government has assured. But there will be “zero tolerance” for any manifestation of “anti-Semitism or incitement to hatred or violence”, which are “red lines” that will cause “immediate intervention”, he has warned. The country has also reinforced the security of the Jewish community due to “the risk of anti-Semitic attacks,” as reported by De Croo. Britain's Sunak has pledged an additional three million pounds to protect Hebrew schools and synagogues.

In the United Kingdom, the head of the Interior, Suella Braverman, sparked controversy on Tuesday by ensuring that brandishing pro-Palestinian flags or chanting with slogans in favor of Palestine could be considered a crime. A controversial movement with a complicated legal framework that has gone hand in hand with restrictions on mobilizations in support of the Palestinians in the country, where some riots and attacks have been reported outside the Israeli Embassy in London.

However, London Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said that waving flags and singing while throwing flares, as has happened these days, cannot be "automatically" interpreted as a direct statement of support for the atrocious acts of Hamas. “An expression of support for the Palestinian people in general, including flying the Palestinian flag, does not, in and of itself, constitute a criminal offence,” she said.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz moved quickly after the Hamas attacks, stressing that anyone who glorifies the Islamist group's crimes, uses its symbols, condones murder, incites criminal acts or burns Israeli flags could be prosecuted. Scholz has instructed the Ministry of the Interior to ban the activities of the Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun. Members of this group celebrated the Hamas attack in the streets of the multicultural neighborhood of Neukölln, in Berlin, by handing out Arab sweets on the streets, reports Elena G. Sevillano.

The chancellor highlighted during a speech in the Bundestag (German Parliament) Germany's special responsibility towards Israel for its role in World War II, in which the Nazis murdered millions of people in the Holocaust. There will be “zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” warned the chancellor, who spoke of “shameful images” on the German streets after dozens of people came out to celebrate the Hamas attack with chants and cheers. “The most brutal acts of terrorism have taken place in broad daylight,” he said in Parliament. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the domestic intelligence service, estimates that Hamas has the support of about 450 people in Germany, many of them German citizens, although there is officially no branch of the group in the country, where it has been for years. The associations that were in its orbit have already been banned.

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