French Leaders' Reactions to Rising Anti-Semitism in France

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Published on 20 Feb 2019, 18:14
PERSPECTIVES | French President Emmanuel Macron and Marine LE Pen have responded to the rising anti-Semitism in France with different approaches so far. Our Christian Malard analyzes.

Story:

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to unveil measures to fight a sharp rise in anti-Semitism during an annual dinner with Jewish community leaders on Wednesday evening.

Macron’s address to the annual gathering of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, known by the acronym 'CRIF', will be watched closely by French Jews after a spate of anti-Semitic hate crimes that has sparked protests across the country.

On a visit Tuesday to a cemetery in the Alsace region, near Germany, where 96 Jewish tombstones were spray-painted with blue and yellow swastikas, Macron vowed: 'We shall act, we shall pass laws, we shall punish'.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the 'shocking' anti-Semitic vandalism, while one of his cabinet colleagues urged French Jews to 'come home' to Israel.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, meanwhile, penned a letter to Macron thanking him for his visit to the desecrated graves and for his 'serious commitment' to opposing anti-Semitism.

Macron's visit came as thousands of people took part in rallies around France to condemn a recent spike in anti-Jewish crimes, which Macron and his government has linked in part to anti-Semitic elements within the 'yellow vest' protest movement.

Tensions mounted last weekend after a prominent French writer was the target of a violent tirade by a 'yellow vest' protester in Paris on Saturday. 

A video of the scene showed the protester calling the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut a 'dirty Zionist" and telling him 'France belongs to us'.

The suspect, who wore a green 'keffiyeh' scarf, was one of the most vocal members of a group that jeered Finkielkraut and called him a 'racist', apparently referring to the academic's repeated warnings about what he sees as the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate into French society.

'I refuse to say that this recalls the worst times of our history,' Finkelkraut told i24NEWS after the exchange, 'we should stop with all that, I wasn't called a 'dirty Jew'.'

'I was insulted because of alleged links with a state described as criminal, even genocidal,' he said, referring to Israel. 'Some people are possessed with hate for the Jews because they hate Israel,' he added, qualifying this hatred as 'unfathomable'.

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