The Rising Wave of Antisemitism Portugal’s Jewish community

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On Friday, February 2nd, the Jewish Community of Oporto, Portugal, filed a criminal complaint for discrimination and incitement to hatred and violence against the authors of antisemitic posters displayed at a housing demonstration which took place in the city, and the outlet Esquerda.net, the official newspaper of the Bloco de Esquerda party, which supported the Portuguese socialist government in recent years.

The facts reported in the criminal complaint occurred on January 27th, International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. During a demonstration against the rising cost of housing in that Portuguese city, demonstrators brandished signs with antisemitic messages blaming the Israelis of the city for the crisis. Some protesters drew inspiration from anti-Israel narratives, instructing 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 a growing number of Jewish and Israeli residents. Protesters drew inspiration from the Israel-Hamas war and anti-Israel narratives, instructing people not to rent a house from Israelis.

The community wrote in its complaint, “The reference to “murderous Zionist” landlords is a direct attack on the Israeli members of the Jewish community who work in real estate in the city of Oporto. The targets referred to in the posters and the newspaper “Esquerda.net” are married people, with children who study in Portuguese schools, and who today are in danger, both as regards their physical safety and at work. Invariably, as was common in the Soviet Union, the names of people to be targeted, frightened and destroyed were published”.

According the complaint, the outlet “sought to justify the antisemitic posters through an identification exercise – name by name, company by company – of Israeli investors in real estate in the city of Oporto, without ever clarifying that they represent a tiny percentage of Porto investors in this area of the market. Small and large businessmen, all mixed together, in a group, in a scenario of collective guilt, were presented to the population as second-class Portuguese citizens linked to speculation, attacking the right to housing of native citizens. Even the construction of hotels was presented as immoral.”

“This technique aims to attack Israel, or rather “the Jew of the nations”, as well as Israeli Jews, who are presented as speculators, parasites and dangerous to the homeland where they live and to the world in general”, the community wrote, adding that “The targets of “Esquerda.net”, identified one by one, are proudly Israeli and proudly Portuguese citizens, whose families come from Sephardic communities of Portuguese origin.”

The Portuguese law punishes the conduct of those who develop, participate in or assist in organized propaganda activities that incite discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or group of persons because of their ethnic or national origin, ancestry or religion, or that encourage it. The penalty is one to eight years in prison.

Photographs from the demonstrations capture protesters holding banners with phrases such as “Não queremos ser inquilinos de sionistas assassinos” (We don’t want to be tenants of murderous Zionists) and “Nem Haifa, nem Boavista, fora o capital sionista” (Neither Haifa nor Boavista, down with Zionist capital)
Photographs from the demonstrations capture protesters holding banners with phrases such as “Não queremos ser inquilinos de sionistas assassinos” (We don’t want to be tenants of murderous Zionists) and “Nem Haifa, nem Boavista, fora o capital sionista” (Neither Haifa nor Boavista, down with Zionist capital)

“To march for hours through the streets of Oporto in an organized demonstration, in the city with the country’s largest Jewish community and where Israeli Jewish businessmen live, and to carry anti-Semitic signs with messages whose call for discrimination is unquestionable, is not a private matter of one person or another but discrimination, incitement to violence and hatred”, the community concluded.

The Rising Wave of AntisemitismPortugal’s Jewish community, a symbol of historical resilience and cultural richness, is currently navigating a challenging landscape marked by rising concerns of antisemitism. Notably, the US Ambassador to Portugal, Randi Charno Levine, has echoed concerns over this increase, a sentiment that resonates with the broader European context of heightened antisemitic sentiments.Controversies and Citizenship LawsThe spotlight has also fallen on Portugal’s law granting citizenship to those of Sephardic Jewish descent. The process came under scrutiny with the naturalization of Roman Abramovich, stirring debates about the integrity of the application process and sparking investigations into alleged irregularities.Community Responses and ChallengesIn response to these challenges, the Jewish community of Porto has established an Anti-Semitism Observatory and inaugurated the Jewish Museum of Oporto. These initiatives aim to monitor antisemitic activities, foster educational outreach, and promote a deeper understanding of Jewish heritage and contemporary realities.Recent Developments in PortoIn a recent alarming development, an affordable housing rally in Porto took a dark turn, manifesting antisemitic sentiments. This incident underscores the volatile nature of such societal issues and how they can unexpectedly spiral into ethnic and religious intolerance. The rally, initially focused on housing concerns, highlights the precarious balance between socio-economic activism and the emergence of deep-rooted prejudices.

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