Ambassador Dov Shapira: “We continue to receive messages of fear at the Embassy from Israelis and Jewish students from all over Portugal”
Gabriela Cantergi, President of B’nai Brith Portugal, says ”we need to hear a complete condemnation by all leading parties in Portugal and concrete action taken by the legal and law enforcement agencies against those who spread hate and those who reinforced them in the media.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Portugal, Dor Shapira, and B’nai B’rith Portugal President, Gabriela Cantergi, have called out the complete and deafening silence of Portuguese politicians from across the political spectrum after successive anti-Semitic incidents in Portugal.
The incidents include cases of vandalism at the Porto Synagogue, at the Jewish Cultural Center in Lisbon, at companies linked to Israelis, at universities with partnerships with Israel, threats to the Jewish population, posters condemning Israeli landlords, and a list of Israeli Jewish businessmen published by a political newspaper.
At a ceremony commemorating the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and against Antisemitism, held last Friday at the Lisbon Synagogue, the Israeli ambassador called for urgent measures.
“We continue to receive messages of fear at the Embassy from Israelis and Jewish students from all over Portugal,” he said. “This is all antisemitism. It should be inconceivable to see an increase in antisemitism in various forms and not have a clear and loud voice, from left to right, amongst the leadership, openly condemning it, going to synagogues, meeting with Jewish communities at the moment in which it happens, in order to show them the country’s solidarity and responsibility towards them.”
At a recent demonstration for better housing in Porto, some protesters instructed people “not to rent a house from Zionist murderers,” and “Neither Haifa nor Boavista, out with Zionist capital”. Boavista, an Oporto neighborhood referenced by one of the signs, is the home of the central synagogue of the Jewish community of Oporto and of a growing number of Jewish and Israeli residents.
Following that demonstration, on Jan 30 the Esquerda.net newspaper ran an article naming each name and company of Israeli investors in real estate in the city of Oporto, without ever clarifying that they represent a tiny percentage of Oporto investors in the market. No party leader condemned the “list” of Israelis and Jews who were publicly accused of harming the right to housing.
“Blaming the ills of society on Jews and creating lists of Jews have a long and horrific role in the history of antisemitism, including during the time of the Inquisition and the Holocaust,” said Gabriela Cantergi, President of B’nai Brith Portugal.
“This cannot be allowed to continue and must stop here because we Jews know what this leads to,’’ she said.
“It is not acceptable for party leaders from all political persuasions to have remained completely silent in the face of hate. Some might see in this loud silence a green light to further attack Jews, which could lead to violence and casualties.”
The Jewish community of Porto filed a criminal complaint to the Portuguese Attorney General demanding that charges be filed for inciting hatred and violence against Israeli and Jewish citizens and residents a criminal offense punishable by Portuguese law with a prison sentence of between one to eight years. It also called for steps to be taken against the newspaper Esquerda.net, which named individual Jews it appeared to blame for the housing crisis.
In its official complaint, the community says the “murderous Zionists” referred to by the demonstrators and in the newspaper “Esquerda.net”, have been put in immediate danger, both as regards their physical safety and their work.
The synagogue of the Jewish community of Oporto, the largest in the Iberian Peninsula, called “Kadoorie Mekor Haim” was vandalized on October 10, three days after the Hamas massacre in Israel, with inscriptions of “Apartheid” and “Free Palestine”. Also on that occasion, no Portuguese political leader condemned this attack.
Portugal which until a few years ago had no more than about four hundred largely assimilated Jews now around 5,000, constituting around 0.05% of a population of 10 million inhabitants.