Housing demonstration in Portugal spreads hatred against Jews

Housing demonstration in Portugal spreads hatred against Jews

Last Saturday, 27 January, the streets of the city of Oporto in Portugal filled with demonstrators demanding lower rents and easier access to housing. However, that housing demonstration became controversial, as Oporto is home to the largest Jewish community in the country and some of the posters included phrases such as "Clean the world of Jews", “We don’t want to rent from murderous Zionists”, “We want a house to live in and free Palestine”, and “Neither Haifa nor Boavista, we do not want Zionist capital!”

The Kadoorie synagogue is located in an area of Oporto called Boavista and the controversial messages are aimed directly at the city's Jewish community of which Jews with real estate businesses are part. In a country with a population of 10 million people and around 5000 Jews (0.05% of the total population), most of whom arrived in the last decade, the Jewish minority is already beginning to be accused of putting fundamental rights of the Portuguese at risk, such as the right to housing.

Gabriel Senderowicz, president of the local Jewish community, says that “parading for hours in an organised demonstration, in the Portuguese city with the largest Jewish community and with many hardworking Jewish businessmen, displaying those messages is not a problem of the “posters” as such, for there the responsibility is individual, but rather a problem of discrimination, incitement to hatred and violence, against which the police should immediately have taken action."

The future is a concern for the community. "If the practice of the crime of discrimination and incitement to hatred and violence" practised against “the Jews” or against “the Zionist Jews” continues to be widely accepted in Portugal, the dissemination of ideas that can instigate many people to shoot at Jews tomorrow will become increasingly appealing and of guaranteed impunity", Senderowicz adds.

The façade of the Kadoorie synagogue, in Oporto, was vandalized three days after the 7 October massacre, with pro-Palestinian inscriptions such as "apartheid" and "free palestine". The vandalization of the synagogue shows how the local Jews are the immediate targets of all those wishing to ‘clean the world’ of both Jews and the State of Israel, in this case a clean sweep "from the river" (although often they do not know which river) "to the sea" (which they are also unable to identify).

The Israeli Ambassador to Portugal, Dor Shapira, was also shocked by the posters being displayed at the demonstration on the right to housing in Oporto. Shapira said to the Portuguese press that he is “in favour of freedom of expression”, but underlined that “these demonstrations are being used to spread more problematic ideas linked to antisemitism, racism and hatred. That is exactly what these posters say. This must clearly be a red line that cannot be crossed in freedom of expression”, he advocated.

10 years ago there was no antisemitism in Portugal, because there were almost no Jews, just three or four hundred mostly assimilated people. However, since 2017 the Oporto Jewish community has warned the higher political authorities, substantiated by documentation, that antisemitism has risen as more Jews enter the country.

The demonstration for the right to housing, which displayed the aforementioned anti-Semitic posters for hours, took place on January 27, precisely the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust.