Thousands rallied against anti-Semitism in Paris and other French cities today following a series of aggressive hate-crimes targeting Jewish sites.
In the French capital, former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy joined a demonstration led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Republic Plaza.
Political parties from across the spectrum participated in the nationwide rallies with the theme ‘That’s enough’, although Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party held a separate event.
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France on February 19
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
French President Emmanuel Macron went to the Shoah Memorial, a Holocaust museum in Paris, to observe a moment of silence with parliament leaders.
‘Every time a French person, because he or she is Jewish, is insulted, threatened – or worse, injured or killed – the whole Republic’ is attacked, Mr Macron said at a news conference in Paris.
Hours before the rallies started, Mr Macron visited a vandalised Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, a small town in the north-eastern Alsace region near the German border.
The rallies across France drew thousands in the wake of a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes
He said he felt shame at the sight of the defaced grave markers.
‘This looks like absurd stupidity,’ the French leader said, looking visibly sad and concerned.
‘We shall act, we shall pass laws, we shall punish,’ he told local Jewish community leaders while inspecting the 96 tombstones spray-painted with blue and yellow swastikas.
French President Emmanuel Macron wears a kippa as he visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France
‘Those who did this are not worthy of the Republic,’ he said, later placing a white rose on a tombstone commemorating Jews deported to Germany during World War II.
‘We will take action,’ he promised.
France is home to the world’s largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States.
But many French Jews are on edge after the government announced a 74 per cent jump in anti-Jewish offences in 2018 after two years of decline.
Among the incidents arousing worries of renewed anti-Semitism was a torrent of hate speech directed at Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a Saturday march by yellow vest protesters.
A video of the scene showed the protester calling the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut a ‘dirty Zionist’ and telling him ‘France belongs to us’.
A man holds placard as he takes part with others in a rally against anti-semitism in Marseille
A flare-up of anti-Semitic acts culminated in a violent tirade against a prominent writer during ‘yellow vest’ anti-government protests last weekend. Some 96 Jewish graves were also vandalised in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany
In recent incidents, swastika graffiti was found on street portraits of Simone Veil – a survivor of Nazi death camps and a European Parliament president who died in 2017.
The word ‘Juden’ was painted on the window of a bagel restaurant in Paris, and two trees planted at a memorial honouring a young Jewish man tortured to death in 2006 were vandalised, one cut down.
Two youths were arrested on 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.
Sarcelles mayor Patrick Haddad told BFMTV on Tuesday that prosecutors believe the motive was anti-Semitism.