Thibault Camus, Associated Press
BERLIN — The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy on Tuesday condemned the rise in anti-Semitic protests and violence over the conflict in Gaza, saying they will do everything possible to combat it in their countries.
"Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France's Laurent Fabius and Italy's Federica Mogherini said in a joint statement issued in Brussels.
The three said that while they respect demonstrators' freedom of speech and right to assemble, they will also do everything possible to fight "acts and statements that cross the line to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia."
Since the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas, participants at anti-Israel demonstrations across Germany have frequently used anti-Semitic slogans and also called for Jews to be gassed.
In France, pro-Palestinian youths have clashed repeatedly with police, and on Sunday set fire to cars, pillaged stores and attacked two synagogues in the Paris suburbs, while Italy has also seen pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
Jewish groups have expressed shock and disgust about the growing anti-Semitism in Germany and other European countries with strong Muslim communities.
"We have reached a new level of hatred and violence in all of Europe that cannot even be compared to the anti-Semitism seen during previous conflicts in Israel," said Stephan Kramer, the director of the European office on anti-Semitism of the American Jewish Committee in Brussels. "It needs to be made very clear that violence is not an appropriate means of protesting."
French President Francois Hollande met Monday with Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Elysee Palace, where he told them that fighting anti-Semitism will be a "national cause."
In Berlin, police said Tuesday they had banned pro-Gaza protesters from chanting an anti-Semitic slogan at all protests in the city.
Police spokeswoman Cosima Pauluhn also said that they were investigating a sermon last week by imam Abu Bilal Ismail calling on worshippers at Berlin's Al-Nur mosque to murder Jews. The American Jewish Committee has filed a complaint with Berlin prosecutors seeking charges.
The mosque did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
At a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday, 13 protesters were detained and police were pelted with stones. A few hours after the protest, a man set fire to his pants in front of the embassy, but the flames were quickly doused by police officers and he was taken to the hospital without suffering serious injuries. The man, whose identity was not revealed other than saying that he was stateless, is currently in psychiatric evaluation.
Angela Charlton contributed to this report from Paris.
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