Thousands of protesters in numerous cities worldwide took to the streets Thursday and Friday, from Cairo to Istanbul to Washington, to demand an immediate halt of Israel’s ground incursion in the Gaza Strip and call on the international community to intervene on behalf of Gazans.
In Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, rallies were held in solidarity with the Palestinian cause, some of them turning violent as demonstrators clashed with police forces and vandalized public property. There were also protests in cities including London, Madrid, New York, and Cape Town.
In Istanbul, police warded off hundreds of rioters who attempted on Thursday to storm the Israeli embassy building. Demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul also hurled stones at several compounds where Israeli officials reside. Calls for the destruction of the Jewish state were heard in both Turkish cities. Police responded by firing tear gas canisters and water cannons at the crowds.
İstanbul’da İsrail konsolosluğu’na halk kara harekatı yaptı! Konsolosluk binası yakılıyor! pic.twitter.com/WOMx9TQVqW
— Son Dakika Haberleri (@TwiterSonDakika) July 17, 2014
In Cairo, supporters of overthrown Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, as well as members of his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, marched in protest of “Israeli aggression,” and criticized Arab governments for failing to assist the Palestinian people.
In Jordan, protesters called on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai peninsula, as Hamas has demanded, in order to allow the transfer of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
On Thursday, in the Polish city of Krakow, a group of Israelis were assaulted and spat at in the city’s main square by a group of pro-Palestinian protesters, Channel 2 reported.
“They approached us and hit the cameras we were holding,” one of the Israelis said of the Polish demonstrators. “They shouted at us, calling us ‘killers’ and ‘criminals’,” he added.
Police forces broke up the demonstration a short while later; no arrests were made.
Following a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin on Thursday at which participants chanted anti-Jewish slogans, the American Jewish Committee Berlin office filed a complaint with police. According to a press statement, marchers chanted, “Jew, Jew,cowardly pig, come on out and fight.”
Deidre Berger, director of the AJC’s Berlin office, wrote an open letter to the members of the German Bundestag calling on them to be vigilant in protecting Jewish citizens. Police should crack down on such threats “to show that anti-Semitism has no place in our society.”
The danger of uncontrolled demonstrations was made clear last week in Paris, when violent protesters trapped Jews inside a synagogue and chanted such slogans as “Hitler was right” and “Death to Jews.” In Germany, such expressions are illegal and not protected by free-speech laws.
“We’re concerned that there are no more taboos against open expressions of anti-Semitism at such protests,” Berger said. Reports of aggressive anti-Israel demonstrations have come in from other cities in Germany, including Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Kassel and Bremen.
Another pro-Palestinian demonstration is scheduled for Saturday in Berlin. Several thousand demonstrators are expected.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean, demonstrators gathered in Washington for a series of largely peaceful protests, in memory of four Palestinian children who were killed on a Gaza beach Wednesday, apparently by errant Israeli navy gunfire.
On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had intensified his fiery rhetoric against Israel over its ground invasion of Gaza and accused the country of state terrorism and genocide. Erdogan added that the two countries, whose relations soured after Israeli commandos stormed a pro-Palestinian aid ship trying to breach Israel’s security blockade of Gaza, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens in 2010, will not mend ties on his watch.
“Since [Israel’s creation] in 1948, we have been witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every day and every month,” Erdogan said. “But above all, we are witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every Ramadan.”
Following the protests in Turkey and Erdogan’s statements, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday instructed the family members of all diplomats serving in the country to return to Israel at once. Liberman further ordered the reduction of diplomatic representation in the state to a minimum.
“I have instructed the Foreign Ministry to clarify to the government of Turkey that Israel strongly protests the blatant violation of diplomatic guidelines, violations strongly enhanced by Turkish authorities and security forces during the demonstrations,” Liberman said.
“We place the responsibility for the safety of Israeli representatives serving there on the Turkish government,” he added.
AP and JTA contributed to this report