The war between Israel and Hamas is having dangerous repercussions in many countries as it dominates the conversation around the world. Images of the brutal Hamas attack on October 7 and of the ruthless ongoing Israeli response are being consumed by large audiences in their rawest form thanks to social media, triggering rage and serving as a breeding ground for extremism, which has given rise to an intolerable surge in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
In recent weeks, many countries have been witnessing hate crimes in response to the events in the Middle East. What is alarming is these are not only numerous, they are also growing. In the U.S., on October 14, Wadea Al Fayoumi, a six-year-old boy of Palestinian origin, was stabbed 26 times by his landlord. The 71-year-old murderer claimed to have done so in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. In France, Jewish citizens have been attacked, several cemeteries have been vandalized, and several houses have been marked with the Star of David. This Star of David phenomenon has also been happening in Germany, where a synagogue has been targeted with Molotov cocktails. Clearly, anti-Semitism in Germany carries with it terrifying historical connotations.
Attacks on both the Jewish and Muslim communities are in the hundreds. In Austria a section of the Jewish cemetery was set on fire and, in São Paulo, a center for Muslim refugees had to be protected after being subjected to chants of “terrorists.” In London, Islamophobic episodes have increased by 140% since October 7, while in the U.K. as a whole, anti-Semitic attacks have reached their highest number since 1984, when records began. In Spain, the Melilla synagogue suffered an attempted assault on October 18 and a hotel in Barcelona was occupied because its owner is an Israeli citizen. And these are just a few examples.
Decisive political action is essential to prevent growing polarization turning into anti-Semitic and Islamophobic assaults. U.S. president Joe Biden was right to announce the first law against Islamophobia in his country’s history, justifying its existence with the words: democracy is incompatible with hatred. Likewise, the German vice chancellor, Robert Habeck, a member of the environmentalist left, has just launched a message on social networks declaring a zero intolerance policy towards anti-Semitism, warning that he will not allow it on German soil.
No cause, no matter how just it may seem, can serve as an excuse to attack ethnic or religious groups. Right now, the fight against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia requires the authorities to take a strong stance to prevent a spiraling climate of hate. The war between Israel and Hamas is already creating enough suffering without allowing it to spark extremism across the rest of the world.
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