How to react to pro-Palestinian demonstrations?

In several European countries there have been pro-Palestinian demonstrations in reaction to Hamas' attacks on Israel, with participants not only expressing solidarity with the people in Gaza but also glorifying Hamas' terrorist acts, antisemitic incidents and violence. Commentators discuss the limits and meaning of freedom of expression.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Inadequate protection for Jews

In Germany, how to deal with pro-Palestinian demonstrations is on the agenda at the Bundestag today. It is inexplicable why the country has allowed anti-Semitic demonstrations to take place in recent days, criticises the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Large sections of the German political system have not yet recognised the seriousness of the situation. And the state is not adequately 'protect our Jewish fellow citizens', as Olaf Scholz had said it would. The demonstrations of the past few days have clearly illustrated this. The Federal Republic of Germany, out of naivety, incompetence or disinterest, is allowing people to publicly wish doom and death on Jews.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

People must be able to vent their frustration

Zeit Online columnist Lisa Caspari calls for a sense of proportion:

“Not everyone who is concerned about the fate of the Palestinians, not everyone who demonstrates with the Palestinian scarf, sympathises with Hamas. It is in the interest not only of democracy but also of each and every one of us that people should be able to vent their frustration, grief and fears. Rallies commemorating the suffering of the people in the Gaza Strip and demanding that they be protected as best as possible must continue to be allowed on German streets. But of course only on the condition that their organisers and participants clearly condemn Hamas' barbaric terror at all times, while recognising Israel's right to exist and defend itself.”

The Guardian (GB) /

A boon for the far right

Hard-right protesters are using pro-Palestinian demonstrations to deepen the divides in British society, warns The Guardian:

“Domestic tensions can arise in any conflict, of course. But the added risk in this one is that they could be actively stoked for cynical ends. Already the British hard right is seizing on images of pro-Palestinian rallies across Europe, or diatribes by wannabe student politicians to proclaim the supposed grand failure of multiculturalism, or the idea that society is enriched by different groups being able to maintain their own religious and cultural traditions (within the confines of the law).”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

This is no fight for freedom

Dagens Nyheter reacts with disbelief to the celebrations in Sweden:

“Who celebrates a mass murder? That women are being violently driven out of their homes, that children are being kidnapped and murdered. ... It's bizarre to hear cheering people waving Palestinian flags chanting joyful slogans about Palestinian freedom. ... Even for the most dyed-in-the wool antisemites this is an absurd reaction. Because what Hamas is doing right now has nothing to do with defending freedom. All it means is that Palestinians will never get their own state or peace. What Hamas wants is something very different: the destruction of Israel. ... In that sort of world, a two-state solution was never an option.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

Proper protection rather than ill-advised bans

Svenska Dagbladet advises against limiting freedom of expression:

“Just this summer, we heard many voices in Sweden arguing that the threat of Islamist terrorism could be reduced by making certain changes to Swedish freedom of expression. The ruthless terror of the past weekend is a reminder of the absurdity of this hope. The threat to our societies does not lie in our freedoms. On the contrary: by protecting well functioning institutions democracies safeguard their superior abilities for development and collaboration. Only in this way can aggressive states and terrorism be held in check: by lending our unwavering support to Israel just as much as Ukraine. ”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

The democratic dilemma

The pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet is torn:

“One might think that there is a limit to everything, even people taking delight in the killing or kidnapping innocent civilians. ... But you can't claim that it's normal for the authorities – like those in Lyon, France – to ban a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the name of preserving public order. In a democratic society, citizens have the right to freedom of expression and assembly. However, the times we are living in may not be normal.”