Tens of Thousands March in France Against Antisemitism – US 247 News


Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Paris and cities across France took to the streets on Sunday to show their solidarity with the country’s Jews and to deplore antisemitic acts that have multiplied across the nation since Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The marches were called by the leaders of both houses of the French Parliament, the Senate and the National Assembly, and unfolded under gray skies mostly without incident, with 3,000 police officers in Paris alone patrolling the route. The marches in France came a day after a huge pro-Palestinian protest in London that police said involved about 300,000 people.

Tensions have been rising in France and particularly in Paris, home to large Jewish and Muslim communities, in the wake of Hamas’s attack and during Israel’s subsequent military campaign in the Gaza Strip. In the last month, over 1,240 antisemitic acts have been reported in France — including the painting of more than 200 Stars of David on buildings around Paris. The police had made 539 arrests as of Nov. 10.

President Emmanuel Macron condemned “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism” in France in an open letter published in Le Parisien newspaper on Saturday, and said there would be “no tolerance for the intolerable.”

In French history, he wrote, antisemitism “has always been a prelude to acts of hate and racism.” He added: “A France where our Jewish citizens are afraid is not France.”

French presidents typically do not participate in such marches, and Mr. Macron said that while he would not be present, he would be there “in my heart and in my thoughts.”

The president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, and the National Assembly leader, Yaël Braun-Pivet, said the march was not intended to be a political statement about the war, over which political parties in France have clashed in recent weeks.

Instead, Ms. Braun-Pivet, who herself has been the target of antisemitic threats and is under police protection, said the march was an appeal for French citizens to show one another and the world “what France is today.”

Several former presidents joined the march in Paris, including François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as five former French prime ministers. Cultural figures attending included the actresses Natalie Portman and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Kathleen Lemire, 70, joined a crowd of thousands in Paris, many waving French flags or handing our posters with photos of the hostages taken by Hamas. Ms. Lemire wore a yellow paper star pinned to her pink winter jacket, and a note that said “Never Forget, Never Forgive.” Her mother had hidden Jewish children during World War II, she said, and her father was an American marine who landed at Utah Beach during D-Day.

“My mother told me what she saw,” she said. “It was Oct. 7, but on a bigger scale. I feel this is just the beginning.”

While the calls for Sunday’s marches were aimed at unity, they also fanned a political uproar.

Mr. Macron traveled to Israel last week to declare support for the country, while also working toward humanitarian support for Gaza.

But Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, accused the French government of “encouraging the massacre” of Palestinians and dismissed Sunday’s marches on social media as a meeting for “friends of unconditional support for the massacre.” France Unbowed has refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization.

However, the new leader of the far-right National Rally, Jordan Bardella, announced that members of his party would be attending the march. He and Marine Le Pen, the former party leader, were greeted by angry shouts from a Jewish group called Collectif Golem, which denounced them as “fascists” and said they had no place in the crowd.

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, was at the front of the march and said that the government was “telling our Jewish citizens that we are at their side, we are mobilized, and we will not let anything pass.”

She also denounced what she called political posturing by the far-left and far-right parties, saying on social media that the decision by the National Rally to join “fools no one,” and that the far left’s refusal to participate “speaks for itself.” Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Rally’s precursor, once dismissed the Holocaust as “a detail” of history, and was fined by French authorities in 2016 for repeating similar remarks.

The march on Sunday took place under heavy security along a one-and-a-half-mile route on Paris’s Left Bank to the Place Edmond Rostand, a square named after a French playwright who was an outspoken supporter of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish army officer wrongly accused of spying at the turn of the 20th century.

Demonstrations in the cities of Strasbourg, Marseille and Lyon were joined by thousands. In Lyon, which has recorded 50 antisemitic acts in the last month, three times the total in all of 2022, Richard Zelmati, the regional president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, denounced “the impotence of public authorities against the surge of hatred.”

France has been on high alert for terrorist attacks, with extra police officers and soldiers on the streets, armed with machine guns. A week after the Hamas assault, a man armed with knives killed a teacher and injured three other school employees at his former school in the northern city of Arras in what the police called an Islamist terror attack. That stoked more fear in a country deeply scarred by Islamist terrorism, with two large-scale attacks occurring in 2015 and 2016, followed by a string of smaller, deadly shootings and stabbings in subsequent years.

The government has also deployed 10,000 police officers and soldiers to guard synagogues and Jewish schools and centers around the country, mindful of attacks on such institutions during previous flare-ups between Israel and the Palestinians.

France has not seen huge pro-Palestinian marches on the same scale as in other countries, like in Britain on Saturday, in part because Mr. Macron’s government had sought to ban them following the Hamas attack, citing risks to public order. But France’s highest administrative court has ruled the bans to be mostly unconstitutional, except where marches might sow local tension, allowing some smaller pro-Palestinian demonstrations to move ahead.

France has also not seen huge confrontations between pro-Palestinian and Jewish students at universities, like in the United States. However, antisemitic acts have been reported on campuses across France, and Jewish students have reported a growing atmosphere of hostility.

“We’ve never seen numbers of antisemitic acts this high,” said Marc Knobel, a historian of antisemitism in France. “500,000 French people of Jewish faith are scared in their own country, and that’s absolutely terrifying.”

So far, the government has not categorized the antisemitic offenses it has recorded since Oct. 7. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin referred to a range of actions, including threats, antisemitic graffiti and personal attacks.

“The government is scared of more terrorism waves and we all know they start with the Jews,” said Marc Weitzmann, the author of “Hate,” a 2019 book about rising antisemitism in France. “We all feel it’s about to happen.”