Sarkozy Urges French Religious Leaders to Condemn anti-Semitic Incidents

French authorities are concerned by the rising tension between the Muslim and the Jewish communities.

BERLIN - French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited the leaders of the Jewish, Muslim and Catholic communities in France yesterday to issue a joint condemnation of the wave of anti-Semitic incidents that has taken place in the country since the Israel Defense Forces began its military operation in the Gaza Strip. Since December 27, 46 anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded, according to the French Union of Jewish Students.

French authorities are concerned by the rising tension between the Muslim and the Jewish communities and by the possibility that the Middle East conflict may spill onto their streets. During the weekend, there were two firebombing attacks against synagogues in Saint Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, and in Strasburg.

Anti-Semitic graffiti calling for the killing of Jews was also found in the city of Puy-en-Velay.

Also, following an incident last week in which a Jewish student was beaten by Muslim youths, the French media reported yesterday on another attack: Seven Jewish youths are suspected of having beaten three youngsters of North African descent last Thursday.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 demonstrated in various French cities over the weekend to protest the IDF's operation in the Gaza Strip.

Demonstrations took place throughout Europe against Israel, and were among the most intense in recent times. About 100,000 demonstrators marched Sunday in Madrid in a protest organized by a coalition of leftist groups that was also active in denouncing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Some Spanish media, including the daily Publico, with affiliations to the ruling socialist party, encouraged the masses to participate.

The demonstrators, who carried signs comparing the Star of David to the swastika, included senior representatives of the Socialist Party, and artists.

At the end of the demonstration some participants threw stones at the Embassy of Israel in Madrid.

Israel's ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, described Madrid's policy on the current confrontation between Israel and Hamas as "unfair" in an interview with a local radio station.

In Scandinavia, too, radical leftist demonstrators took part in violent protests against Israel. Of the 30 people arrested in Oslo for attempting to disrupt a demonstration in support of Israel, only one was Palestinian. Police also reported the participation of youth movements in the violence.

In Sweden, the head of the left-wing opposition, Mona Salin, took part in a demonstration in which an Israeli flag was torched.

In London, 20,000 took part in a demonstration organized by the Stop the War coalition that was set up in 2003 to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In recent years, the coalition has directed much of its activities against Israel.

In front of Israel's embassy in London, protesters are staging a daily demonstration, and over the weekend several hundred demonstrators smashed nearby shop windows.