Thousands attend tense pro-Gaza march in Paris

By the Associated Press | July 23, 2014 | 2:36 PM EDT

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a banner and shout slogans, in Paris, France, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 during a demonstration to protest against the Israeli army's shelling in the Gaza strip. Protesters marched through Paris against the Israel-Gaza war under the watch of hundreds of police in an authorized demonstration days after two banned protests degenerated into urban violence.(AP Photo/Francois Mori )

PARIS (AP) — Days after two banned pro-Gaza protests degenerated into violence, several thousands of demonstrators marched Wednesday through Paris under the eye of hundreds of riot police, this time in a legal protest.

With banners featuring slogans such as "Boycott Israel" and "Israel Murderer," demonstrators tested a government grappling with how best to allow freedom of expression while containing violence — and hate speech against France's Jews.

Jewish leaders say vocal anti-Semitic chants in previous demonstrations and several attacks on synagogues reflect rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

France has Western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and the Middle East conflict often means rocketing tensions in France.

"Today we are here for Palestine, because we find Israel shameful, because children are dying, and it's unbearable to see all this," said Fatima El Fetoui, 56.

Wednesday's demonstrators said they were not anti-Semitic — they simply opposed Israel's actions against Gaza.

"You just need to differentiate between Jews and Israel. What we are fighting is the Zionist state. I am not fighting the Israelis," said Vincent Santoro, 24.

In two banned demonstrations last weekend, in Paris and the northern suburb of Sarcelles, groups of youths pillaged stores and attacked police.

Two synagogues in Paris were attacked July 13.