Jewish institutions on high alert after Copenhagen attacks
Security forces are on high alert in Britain and Europe after a gunman killed two people in separate attacks at a free speech event and a Jewish guard at a synagogue in Copenhagen.
The European Jewish Association has called for increased protection of Jewish institutions across Europe in the wake of the shootings.
Jewish schools, community groups and synagogues in Britain were warned on Sunday to increase their security measures after the 14-hour shooting rampage, the Times reports.
Police have reportedly increased patrols outside Jewish institutions in Britain. Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism for the UK, said there was a heightened concern of an attack on British soil targeted against Jews – copying the Paris and Copenhagen attacks.
Danish-born Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, 22, is believed to have killed two people in separate attacks last weekend.
The gunman killed film director Finn Noergaard, 55, at a panel discussion about Islam and free speech on Saturday, and in a second attack, security employee Dan Uzana, a 37-year-old Jewish man, was killed outside Copenhagen's Great Synagogue early Sunday.
El-Hussein was killed after opening fire on officers on Sunday. Five police officers were injured.
The suspect is believed to have acted alone, but was reportedly inspired by January’s Paris attacks, in which gunmen attacked the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in separate attacks.
The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that aims to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the UK and which monitors anti-Semitic incidents, sent a security bulletin to hundreds of organizations across Britain on Sunday.
On its website, it states, “CST requests that the Jewish community maintain a high level of alert following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.”
— Rui Gomes (@gomesrui) February 16, 2015
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council in Britain, told the Guardian about the rising anti-Semitism in the UK.
“The interesting point for this country is that we had been liaising very closely with the government and with the police well before this incident. They responded by raising the threat level for Jewish communal institutions a number of weeks ago. They have been extremely cooperative and listened to our concerns.”
Resurgent anti-Semitism and a rise in attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions have now even prompted Jewish leaders to talk of a new ‘exodus’ from the region.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu renewed his calls for European Jews to emigrate to Israel.
“This wave of attacks will continue. Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” he said.
“We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: Israel is the home of every Jew.”
The Jewish population has been steadily declining in the past seven decades since the end of the Holocaust. Before the outbreak of World War II, 9.5 million Jews were living in Europe. After the Holocaust, 3.8 million Jews remained.
In 1960, this figure fell to 3.2 million, and in 1991, 2 million Jews were left in Europe. By 2010, 1.4 million were living in Europe, according to the PEW Research Center.
Rabbi Barry Marcus MBE, of the Central Synagogue in London’s Great Portland Street, told the Guardian that, “Netanyahu’s comments refer to the resurgence of anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance that is being allowed to flourish unchecked in many parts of Europe and threatens not only the relatively small Jewish communities that survived the Holocaust but also the Judeo-Christian values and democratic traditions of Europe.
“They refer to his lack of confidence in European leaders to confront and combat the present purveyors of this age old evil.”
Earlier this month, a delegation of European Jewish leaders met in Brussels to discuss the alarming rise of anti-Semitism throughout the continent.
“The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe is a systematic failure of the European society,” the European Commissioner for Education, Tibor Navracsics, said. “There is a need to increase education on the matter and I will raise this issue in a meeting with all EU Education Ministers in March.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the shootings in Copenhagen. He called it an “appalling attack on free speech and religious freedom.”
“Two innocent people have been murdered simply for their beliefs and my thoughts are with their loved ones and all those injured at this tragic time,” said Cameron.
“Denmark and Britain are both successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracies and we must never allow those values to be damaged by acts of violence like this.”
In September 2005, the newspaper Jyllands Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, including one of him with a bomb in his turban. As a result Danish embassies in the Middle East were burned. The 79-year-old cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, escaped an attempt to kill him at home and has been living under police protection ever since.
#IGoToSynagogue - Because Judaism is lived in community. We will continue to gather, despite the ever increasing threats and attacks.
— Jane Braden-Golay (@JaneBradenGolay) February 15, 2015
Meanwhile, the European Union of Jewish Students urged for solidarity with the Jewish community of Denmark.
“You can do this by using the hashtag #IGoToSynagogue to express the right of all Jews to gather and live their Judaism in safety and peace; to take a firm position in the face of anti-Semitism,” it said.