(Jan 19. The Middle East Times) - - While the Israeli-Arab war has been a passionate issue, the so-called peaceful demonstrations in Europe have unfortunately often turned into pure Jew-bashing. As in 2003-2004, Europe is importing the Middle East war once again.
Demonstrating for peace - real peace - is quite laudable. But when it comes to calling for the destruction of a democratic state acting in self-defense against a group classified as a terrorist organization by among others the United States and the European Union, then the peaceful aspect seems totally gone.
Lots of demonstrations in Europe have turned violent, physically and verbally. While it is totally acceptable to criticize Israel and deplore the Palestinian civilian victims, cries of "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas" that erupted during demonstrations throughout Europe show the extent of the problem Europe is once again facing.
Also, most of the demonstrators consider Hamas a legitimate resistance movement that they compare to the French resistance during WWII. This disturbing comparison totally whitewashes a movement that is viewed by the large majority of European countries as terrorist. Interestingly the WWII comparisons do not stop at Hamas, but are mostly targeted at Israel, described as the "new Nazi state" committing a "holocaust."
Unsurprisingly this rhetoric has grown in some cases to calls of boycott not against Israel but against all its alleged supporters. Giancarlo Desiderati, the head of a small Italian union called Flaica-Uniti-Cub, called for the boycott of all Jewish-run businesses. A famous Jewish French stand-up comedian had to cancel his one-man show on Friday because dozens of pro-Hamas angry demonstrators prevented the spectators from getting there.
Authorities have even played into the hands of the Islamists that were behind some of the demonstrations. In the German city of Duisburg, during a pro-Palestinian protest organized by the Turkish Islamist group Milli Gorus, demonstrators demanded that the police remove an Israeli flag that was hanging out of a window. And the police complied: they broke down the door of the apartment in question and removed the flag, to the demonstrators' great satisfaction.
Violence against European Jews has resurfaced. In France alone, 67 anti-Semitic acts have been perpetrated since Dec. 27. These crimes include violent aggression against Jews and burning of synagogues.
The situation has been so bad that some Danish schools in largely Muslim neighborhoods are going to refuse Jewish students because they cannot guarantee their security.
Some Islamist groups are also playing the terrorism card to scare off authorities and advance their agenda. For instance, anonymous posters calling for "Jihad in Palestine" have been found on walls of some London streets.
It is not surprising that Europe is importing the Middle East war. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; and as the Muslim Brotherhood is very active among European Muslim communities through local organizations, such as the Union Des Organisations Islamiques de France, they regard it as their duty to support their Palestinian peers. Even when it means burning down synagogues.
This is exactly where the problem lies. Europe is facing an acute challenge because some in the various Muslim communities are seeing the Gaza war not as an Arab-Israeli war but rather a Muslim-Jewish war. And the most striking example of this dangerous slide is France, which hosts both the largest Muslim (about 6 million) community and the largest Jewish community (about 600,000) in Europe.
That is why the Nicolas Sarkozy government is taking this threat quite seriously and monitoring some suburbs that could erupt in violence. But the French authorities, who want to avoid this tension between religious communities, have called the respective religious leaders for help. So in a way they are reinforcing the view that the war is more of a religious war than anything else.
The current escalation in France is reminiscent of what occurred in 2004 when a staggering 970 anti-Semitic incidents were registered in the country.
A few years ago, Frederic Encel, a geopolitical expert, stated that France was turning into a new Lebanon. He was observing that communities were rapidly growing apart and that tensions were increasing at a rapid pace. Today what is going on in Europe as a result of the Gaza war is a stark reminder of the challenge Europe faces.
Olivier Guitta is an Adjunct Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant.
You can read his latest work at www.thecroissant.com