Merkel warns on anti-Semitism ahead of Gaza protests

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Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators from Britain to Jordan marched over the weekend to protest against Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as a ceasefire went into effect.

BERLIN (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned against anti-Semitic or racist behaviour ahead of pro-Palestinian rallies this weekend.

Several German cities saw pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the deadly 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, prompting Dr Merkel to issue a call for calm.

"Those who bear hatred towards Jews in the street, those who incite racial hatred breach our basic law," Dr Merkel said in her weekly podcast on Saturday (May 22). "Such acts must be punished severely."

German police made some 60 arrests last Saturday while some 100 officers were hurt as a pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin turned violent.

Some participants at marches in towns across Germany shouted anti-Semitic slogans, which Dr Merkel blasted as unacceptable. Others burned Israeli flags and in one case stoned the entrance to a synagogue.

More demonstrations in support of the Palestinians are scheduled for this weekend, in Berlin and in other cities.

On Saturday, a Jew from Berlin filed a complaint to say he had been attacked overnight by three unidentified men, police said. The 41-year-old man, who was wearing a kippa skullcap at the time, said he was first insulted then hit in the face, before his attackers fled the scene.

The authorities in Germany are worried about a resurgence of anti-Semitism from the far-right, notably since the October 2019 attempted attack against a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle by a neo-Nazi Holocaust denier.

The growing Jewish community in Germany numbers in the hundreds of thousands, many of them from the former Soviet Union.

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