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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Jews warn of rising anti-Semitism
Burned out Jewish school bus on the outskirts of Paris
Beker called the situation across Europe "shameful"
An umbrella group of international Jewish organisations has demanded better protection from European authorities after a spate of anti-Semitic attacks.

Secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, Avi Beker, said there were 360 anti-Semitic incidents in France alone over the past two weeks, heralding worse to come for Jewish communities around Europe.

There are Holocaust survivors who are telling their children: Look, this is exactly how it happened in the 1930s

Avi Beker
"There is today an anxiety on the part of Jews when they go to the religious centres, (when) they go to their social centres, when they send their children to school," Mr Beker said, adding that the situation across Europe was "shameful".

Attacks on Jewish institutions are thought to have increased in Europe since Israel launched a major offensive in Palestinian cities in the West Bank three weeks ago.

'Revenge' attacks

Correspondents say Arab youths of North African origin who support the Palestinian cause are suspected of being behind most attacks.

Synagogue in Brussels which was hit by Molotov cocktails
Beker said the attacks were reminiscent of "the worst times of Europe"

The attacks range from graffiti daubed on Jewish buildings to fire-bombings to actual physical assaults on rabbis.

Mr Beker said that even some of the group's 100 delegates were verbally abused on the streets of Brussels as they gathered for a meeting there this week.

"This is really reminiscent of the worst times of Europe," he said.

He also suggested the attacks were not just the work of petty delinquents, as most investigators are reported to believe, but were "part of an atmosphere" which he said had not been seen since World War II.

'Anti-Israeli campaign'

Police in southern Belgium have stepped up security around a synagogue after it was hit by automatic gunfire over the weekend.

No-one witnessed the attack on the Charleroi synagogue and the damage was discovered only on Monday morning, when members of the town's small Jewish community arrived for a funeral.

Last week, unknown assailants set fire to a Jewish bookshop in Brussels, destroying the premises.

Mr Beker, who is an Israeli national, linked the rise of anti-Semitism with what he called an "anti-Israel campaign" being led by European governments.

He also expressed disquiet over the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of French elections, saying attacks on Jews often heralded a wider "deterioration of the social fabric" in which far-right parties flourished.

See also:

10 Apr 02 | Europe
New attack on Paris synagogue
03 Apr 02 | Europe
French Jews fear more violence
01 Apr 02 | Europe
French Jews demand protection
23 Apr 02 | Europe
Le Pen fury sweeps France
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