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Antisemitic Acts Have Risen Sharply in Belgium and France Since Israel-Hamas War Began

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Antisemitic Acts Have Risen Sharply in Belgium and France Since Israel-Hamas War Began

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BRUSSELS (AP) – The number of antisemitic acts registered in France and Belgium rose sharply since Hamas’ attack on Israel triggered the war in Gaza, according to figures released Thursday in both countries.

In France, data from the Interior ministry and the Jewish Community Protection Service watchdog showed that 1,676 antisemitic acts were reported in 2023, compared to 436 the previous year.

According to the Council of Jewish Institutions in France—the country’s main Jewish interest group—the number of antisemitic acts in the three months that followed the October 7 attack equaled those of the previous three years combined.

In neighboring Belgium, an independent public body fighting discrimination said it received 91 reports related to the Israel-Hamas conflict between October 7 and December 7 last year, compared to 57 reports for the whole of 2022.

Most of the reports were remarks or acts considered as antisemitic, including cases of Holocaust denial, the independent institution Unia said. In 66 cases, it was clear the targets were Jewish.

Most of the cases involved hate messages, more than half of them online, but there were also comments made in public areas. Unia is also collaborating with the public prosecutor’s office and Belgian police in nine cases of assault and damage, it said.

The report cited cases of beatings, graffiti and the desecration of dozens of graves in the Jewish section of a cemetery close to the city of Charleroi.

“We can therefore speak of a clear increase in reports of anti-Semitic since October 7, 2023,” Unia said. It also received eight reports of discrimination or hate speech linked to the Palestinian origin, Arab origin or the Muslim belief of the people targeted between October 7 and December 7.

Many European countries have registered a rise in reported antisemitic acts and comments since the outbreak of the war.

In Italy, antisemitic episodes last year hit unprecedented highs, with 216 incidents reported in the last three months of 2023, compared to 241 for all of the previous year.

The Antisemitism Observatory said 454 incidents were reported in Italy last year, the highest level ever reported in the country. They included violent clashes by anti-Israeli demonstrators trying to reach a trade-fair in the northern city of Vicenza on Saturday to protest the presence of an Israeli pavilion at the event.

Belgium has a Jewish population of about 29,000, according to the World Jewish Congress. Although most of the Jewish community in the capital, Brussels, is secular, the port city of Antwerp has a large ultra-Orthodox population and the largest Hasidic community in Europe.

In France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities, the Council of Jewish Institutions in France said that 57.8 percent of anti-Semitic acts in 2023 were directed against individuals. They involved physical violence or threatening words and gestures. The group also noted “an explosion in the number of anti-Semitic acts in schools.”

“The perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts are getting younger. The school is no longer a sanctuary,” it said.

The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,400 people have been killed and another 63,000 wounded in the enclave since the October 7 attack in southern Israel in which militants from Gaza killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.

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