In recent times, a worrying trend has emerged in France and Belgium, marked by a significant increase in antisemitic incidents.
This surge is linked to the aftermath of the conflict in Gaza, ignited by Hamas’ attack on Israel.
Alarming surge in antisemitic incidents in France post-October attack
In France, the data is startling. The Interior Ministry, in conjunction with the Jewish Community Protection Service, reported a dramatic rise in antisemitic acts.
In 2023, there were 1,676 such incidents, starkly contrasting to the 436 reported in the previous year.
The Council of Jewish Institutions in France, the nation’s primary Jewish interest group, provided a grim statistic: the antisemitic acts in the three months following the October 7 attack equaled those recorded over the past three years.
Rise in antisemitic incidents in Belgium linked to Israel-Hamas conflict
Belgium has witnessed a similar trend. Unia, an independent public body combating discrimination, reported 91 cases related to the Israel-Hamas conflict between October 7 and December 7, 2023.
This figure surpasses the total of 57 reports for the entirety of 2022. Most incidents involved antisemitic remarks or acts, including Holocaust denial and cases targeting Jewish individuals.
Unia, working alongside the public prosecutor’s office and Belgian police, is investigating several serious incidents, including assaults and property damage.
Varied and alarming antisemitic acts in Belgium since October 2023
The nature of these incidents is diverse. They primarily consist of hate messages, with a significant portion occurring online. However, public area comments have also been noted.
The report from Unia detailed disturbing instances of physical violence, graffiti, and the desecration of Jewish graves near Charleroi.
Unia stated, “We can, therefore, speak of a clear increase in reports of anti-Semitism since October 7, 2023.”
Widespread increase in antisemitism across Europe following Gaza conflict
This rise in antisemitism isn’t isolated to France and Belgium. Across Europe, there has been an uptick in reported antisemitic acts and comments since the onset of the Gaza war.
Italy, for instance, witnessed an unprecedented increase in antisemitic episodes last year, with 454 incidents reported – the highest ever in the country.
These included violent clashes at a trade fair in Vicenza, where protesters targeted an Israeli pavilion.
Jewish community dynamics in Belgium and France amid rising antisemitism
In Belgium, the Jewish population stands at approximately 29,000.
The country is home to Europe’s largest Hasidic community in Antwerp, while most of Brussels’ Jewish community is secular.
France, with the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe, has also observed a worrying trend.
The Council of Jewish Institutions in France reported that 57.8% of the antisemitic acts in 2023 targeted individuals involving physical violence or threatening behavior.
Escalating antisemitism in schools, broader impact of Gaza conflict
There has also been a notable rise in antisemitic acts in schools, indicating a disturbing shift in the age demographic of perpetrators.
The conflict’s impact extends beyond the rise in antisemitic incidents.
The Health Ministry in Gaza reported over 25,400 people killed and 63,000 wounded in the region since the October 7 attack.
The attack in southern Israel, carried out by militants from Gaza, resulted in approximately 1,200 deaths and around 250 hostages.