There have been a string of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents in France over the last few weeks and there is evidence that’s part of a broader trend. Reuters reports the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France jumped 74% in 2018 compared to the previous year:
France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, around 550,000 people, a population that has grown by about half since World War Two. But anti-Semitic attacks remain common, with more than 500 alone in 2018, a 74 percent increase on 2017, according to figures released last week.
Almost every day over the past two weeks there has been new evidence of anti-Semitism.
A tree in memory of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 2006, was cut in two. A bagel shop in Paris was spray-painted with the word “Juden”, German for Jews, in yellow letters. Portraits of Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and magistrate, were defaced with swastikas…
Some commentators have blamed the resurgence on unchecked incitement by fringe Islamist preachers, calling it a new form of anti-Semitism, as opposed to that most commonly associated with Nazi ideology and the far-right.
Others point to the increasingly virulent criticism of Israel coming from the far-left and the rise of anti-Zionism – opposition to the existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people – which has morphed into hatred of the Jews.
Yesterday, President Emmanuel Macron visited a cemetery near Strasbourg where nearly 100 Jewish graves were defaced with swastikas:
The damage was discovered on Tuesday, ahead of nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited the cemetery, in a village near Strasbourg, telling community leaders: “It’s important for me to be here with you today.”
The person or group responsible hasn’t been identified but one of the graves had the name of a far-right group spray painted on it. As if the desecration of the Jewish graves wasn’t enough, a French TV channel said it was forced to cut away from a broadcast of President Macron visiting the site because the broadcast on Facebook was inundated with anti-Semitic comments:
France 3 television said it went live from the first cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim on Tuesday as President Emmanuel Macron was visiting to pay his respects after more than 90 graves were vandalized with swastikas and anti-Semitic abuse.
But as it broadcast footage online to its more than 1.3 million Facebook followers, the feed was inundated with anti-Semitic commentary and abuse.
“We are talking about explicit death threats, comments that were openly anti-Semitic and racist, including “Heil Hitler”, “dirty Jew” or “dirty Jews”, comments that were addressed at Emmanuel Macron and representatives of the Jewish community,” the channel said in a statement explaining its decision.
“Within minutes, the number of vile and illegal comments had gone well beyond our capacity to moderate them,” it explained, adding that it would have taken 10 or 20 staff to handle the onslaught.
There were large protests against the rising anti-Semitism yesterday led by two former French presidents and several leaders of parties from the right and left:
This report from France 24 English is 3 months old now but it outlines the problem (at the time anti-Semitic incidents were up 69%):