Sunday, 20 October, 2019

Current and former presidents condemn French anti-semitism

Marches against anti Semitism to take place across France Vandals desecrate 90 Jewish graves in east France
Patty Aguilar | 20 February, 2019, 20:53

On Tuesday, French President visited a Jewish cemetery in eastern France where almost 100 graves were desecrated with Nazi symbols.

Photos show the Nazi symbols in blue paint spray-painted on the damaged graves, one of which bears the words "Elsassisches Schwarzen Wolfe" ("Black Alsacian Wolves"), a separatist group with links to neo-Nazis in the 1970s.

But the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported to police had already risen before the yellow vests began occupying roundabouts last November, up by 74% past year. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation.

Other high profile figures, however, including former French presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, will be among the thousands expected to participate in demonstrations.

Two youths were arrested Friday after they allegedly fired shots at a synagogue with an air rifle in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where a large Jewish community lives.

Just hours earlier Jewish graves at a cemetery were desecrated. Macron will visit France's Holocaust memorial and hold a moment of silence.

"Anti-Semitism is spreading like poison", the minister said.

The timing of the bigoted attacks, considering that France had already been planning to hold nationwide marches against anti-Semitism on Tuesday, was more than a little suspicious.

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Authorities confirmed the suspect, who has been named in French media as telephone salesman Benjamin W, was the bearded man seen on video calling 69-year-old Finkielkraut a "bloody Zionist" and telling him "France is ours" after the philosopher ran into demonstrators on the street.

On Tuesday evening, some 20,000 people, joined by politicians from all parties, gathered at the Place de la Republique in central Paris to denounce anti-Semitism.

But the rise in anti-Semitic acts in France predates the yellow vest movement.

Mr Macron will host a dinner tomorrow with the head of Crif, the umbrella body that represents the Jewish community in France.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was to lead government officials at the main rally at Paris's famed Republic Square. An estimated 78,000 French Jews were deported to death camps during the Nazi occupation of France until 1945.

More recently French anti-Semitism, traditionally associated with the far right, has also spread among far-left pro-Palestinian extremists and radicals from amongst the growing Muslim community.

But Macron has resisted calls by some lawmakers to explicitly penalise anti-Zionist statements criticising Israel.

A recent Ifop poll of "yellow vest" backers found that almost half those questioned believed in a worldwide "Zionist plot" and other conspiracy theories.

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