As hundreds of Palestinian casualties and fatalities occur daily due to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel on October 7, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments are on the rise in Europe, influenced by the ascent of far-right ideologies and the dominance of populist ideas.
Rising racist sentiments and hate crimes against immigrants have affected many countries, spanning from the United States to Germany, and extending to France and the United Kingdom. These incidents have not spared even children and renowned football players.
Nonetheless, extremist voices, who have channeled their anger towards the long-oppressed Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation for decades, were not acting in isolation of course. Indeed, these countries, along with many others, have also witnessed protests in which tens of thousands participated, where the Palestinian flag was raised high.
It all started in the United States
With a horrifying hate crime that occurred on October 16. During this incident, a 6-year-old Palestinian child was tragically stabbed to death, and his mother sustained 12 stab wounds to her body.
The American police stated that a 71-year-old man from the suburbs of Chicago committed a hate crime by stabbing a 6-year-old Palestinian child and seriously injuring a 32-year-old woman. The Office of the County Mayor in a statement posted on social media said, “Investigators have determined that both victims in this heinous attack were targeted by the suspect because they are Muslims, and due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis.”
As per the text messages the mother sent to the boy’s father, which were shared with the international organization CARE, one of the largest organizations in the United States, when the woman opened the door, the landlord attempted to strangle her, and he stabbed her while screaming, “You Muslims, you must die!” The mother hurried to the bathroom to call 911 and came out to find that the man had stabbed her son.
In a text message, the woman wrote, according to CARE: “All of this happened in seconds,” and the officers found the 71-year-old suspect sitting on the ground near the house’s entrance.
The enormity of the tragedy and the shock it sent through American society led President Joe Biden to denounce the fatal stabbing of the Palestinian child as a “horrific act of hatred.” In a statement, Biden expressed that such a heinous act of hatred has no place in the United States and goes against our fundamental values, including freedom from fear, the way we pray, our beliefs, and our identity. He also added that he prays for the recovery of the child’s mother, who was also seriously injured in the assault.
Three incidents targeting Palestinians and Jews have been reported in New York, according to the police.
Arab athletes are in the line of accusation
From children to Arab football players, who were subjected to a racist attack after daring to express their support for the people of occupied Gaza on social media. While everyone still remembers with admiration the warm reception of these voices and others for the Ukrainian people who fled from the fires of the Russian army, refugees of African and Arab descent, according to human rights advocates, did not receive the same level of welcome.
It appears that there is currently a rivalry between right-wing and far-right factions over who appears as the most anti-immigrant in the eyes of the public. Their voices have grown louder in France and Germany, demanding the expulsion of Arab players and the revocation of their citizenship due to their solidarity with Gaza, which has been under siege for 17 years.
In this context, French parliamentarian Valérie Boyer has called for the withdrawal of French citizenship from Karim Benzema, an internationally recognized football player of Algerian descent. This request comes after Benzema expressed his sympathy for the people of Gaza.
Benzema’s “crime” is that he published a message on social networks in which he expressed his sympathy for the residents of Gaza City, stating, “All our prayers go out to the victims of Gaza in the face of the unjust bombings, which spare neither women nor children.”
As a member of the right-wing Republican party, Boyer wrote, “If it is indeed confirmed, as the Interior Minister has stated, that Benzema has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, I insist on sanctions against him, particularly the revocation of his French citizenship. We have a responsibility to take action against those who consistently pose a threat to our country.”
She further emphasized, “We cannot allow a French citizen, particularly a well-known international athlete, to disrespect or betray our nation in this manner.”
Boyer’s request didn’t stop at revoking French citizenship from Benzema; she also called for stripping the player of the Ballon d’Or he won last year, in addition to all special awards related to France. The French Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, stated in press remarks, “Mr. Benzema has a tarnished relationship, as we all know, with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
In response, Karim Benzema’s lawyer addressed the demands to strip the international player of his French citizenship, emphasizing that this is entirely illegal. He pointed out that the player holds no other citizenship, and therefore, his citizenship cannot be revoked.
In a post on the “X” website, formerly Twitter, the prominent French leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon expressed a message of support for the former Real Madrid striker.
The leader of the leftist party began by saying, “Hello, Mr. Benzema. I don’t know you, and I don’t know anything about football, but the French government and its friends have chosen to tarnish your image by labeling you ‘French on paper.'”
Mélenchon continued, stating, “With enemies like those who use such words, you must be an exceptional person, without racial or religious hatred. France belongs to all who choose it, and those who demean us don’t deserve it.”
Benzema was born in Lyon to parents of Algerian heritage from Oran. He initiated his football journey with Olympique Lyonnais, his hometown club, in 2005, contributing intermittently to three French league titles. In 2008, he earned the title of Best Player from the National Union of Professional Football Players and secured a place in the Team of the Year. He ended the season as the league’s top scorer, securing his fourth league title and his first French Cup. In 2009, Benzema became the subject of a notable football transfer, moving from the French club to Real Madrid in a deal worth 35 million euros.
At the beginning of the current season, Benzema made a transition from Real Madrid to the Saudi club Al-Ittihad.
And Germany is no exception.
In Germany, Katarina Niewiedzial, the Commissioner for Integration in Berlin, voiced concerns over the rising anti-Muslim racism in the capital. Simultaneously, an opposition parliamentarian called for the expulsion of the Moroccan international footballer Noussair Mazraoui from Germany. The president of the Central Council of Jews urged the club to implement stricter measures against the player, who had expressed support for Gaza on social media.
Johannes Steinger, a Bundestag member from the opposition Christian Democratic Union party, conveyed his message on his “X” account: ‘Kurt Landauer’s club which was derogatorily referred to as the “Jewish club” during the Nazi era, cannot ignore this matter. Dear Bayern Munich, please take immediate action to expel him. Furthermore, we must use all available legal measures to deport him from Germany.’
In the same context, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, expressed his wish for more stringent measures against the Moroccan player.
Schuster, in statements to the German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” released on Tuesday, October 24, called for “clear and decisive consequences for the player,” emphasizing that Bayern Munich should ensure that “such deviations from the right path do not recur,” according to “Deutsche Welle.”
The management of Bayern Munich has not imposed any penalties on Mazraoui, following a detailed and explanatory discussion with him, as mentioned in the club’s statement. The Moroccan defender has resumed participating in Bayern Munich’s training sessions after recovering from a muscle injury and the controversy stirred by his social media post.
Gaza has been enduring daily Israeli airstrikes for over three weeks, resulting in approximately 8,000 casualties, with a majority being women and children.
Moroccan defender Noussair Mazraoui posted a brief video on Instagram where he recited a prayer, saying, “O Allah, aid our oppressed brothers in Palestine until they attain victory. O Allah, show mercy to the deceased and provide healing to the wounded.” The Palestinian flag was also visible in the video.
In addition to Mazraoui, other Bundesliga players have faced criticism for their supportive posts regarding Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. These players include Tunisian midfielder Aïssa Laïdouni from the German club Union Berlin, Dutch player of Moroccan descent Anwar El Ghazi who plays for the German club Mainz, and Albanian-origin player Klaus Gjasula from the Darmstadt German club.
Media reports mentioned that some voices are advocating for a new law that would introduce a clause in player contracts, obligating them to acknowledge the existence of the state of Israel. Bild newspaper named this proposal the “Israel-specific penalty clause”.
Hate crimes in Britain
The war conducted by Israel on the Palestinian Gaza Strip has led to a significant surge in hate crimes in the United Kingdom. Between the 1 and 18 of October this year, the police reported over 100 incidents of attacks on Muslims, a stark contrast to the 42 incidents during the same period last year. Additionally, anti-Semitic crimes increased from merely two cases to 218 within the same timeframe.
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Oliver Dowden, stated to “The Times” radio that the British government will convene an emergency response committee meeting on Thursday to deliberate on its strategy and approach concerning Gaza and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The organization Tell MAMA, which specializes in documenting hate crimes in the UK, recorded approximately 300 reports of crimes against Muslims from the 7 to the 19 of October this year, in stark contrast to just six reports during the same period last year. They emphasized that these crimes were spread across various regions in England.
According to media reports, cases of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have nearly doubled in slightly over a week in London.
According to Commander Kyle Gordon of the London police, the city saw 408 cases of anti-Semitic incidents this month, compared to 28 in the same period last year. Additionally, there were 174 Islamophobia-related crimes, up from 65 a year earlier.
Gordon emphasized that these incidents have nearly doubled in a week.
He emphasized, ‘My colleagues are committed to relentlessly addressing any hate crimes they encounter, especially since the start of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.’ He also confirmed that the police have arrested 75 individuals with connections to the ongoing Middle East conflict.