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Thousands of French gather in protest against anti-Semitic attacks

Frederick FLORIN / AFP
Près de 80 tombes ont été découvertes profanées le 19 février 2019 dans le cimetière juif de Quatzenheim, au nord-ouest de Strasbourg, dans le Bas-Rhin.
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Scores of gravestones marred with swastikas, anti-Semitic graffiti on a bagel shop, prompt France to declare "Enough!"

A spike in anti-Semitic acts in France brought thousands of protesters to streets throughout the country Tuesday evening.

The latest act of hatred was discovered Tuesday in a Jewish cemetery, where almost a hundred gravestones were marred with blue swastikas.

Political leaders from all parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered in Paris, where an estimated 20,000 protestors filled the Place de la Republique. The crowd “stood silently in the winter twilight for brief remarks by a rabbi and a rendition of the national anthem, before dispersing in solemn silence,” according to the New York Times.

Emmanuel Macron, the current president, paid respects at one of the 96 desecrated graves in the village of Quatzenheim, near the eastern city of Strasbourg, according to Reuters.

“Whoever did this is not worthy of the French republic and will be punished,” he said. “We’ll take action, we’ll apply the law and we’ll punish them.”

Macron later visited the national Holocaust memorial in Paris with the heads of the Senate and National Assembly.

According to Reuters, anti-Semitic attacks remain common in France, which has the largest Jewish community in Europe—about 550,000. “Government statistics released last week showed there were more than 500 anti-Semitic attacks in the country last year, a 74 percent increase from 2017,” the wire service reported.

Recent incidents include:

  • “Yellow vest” protesters hurled abuse at Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known Jewish writer and son of a Holocaust survivor, on Saturday. Remarks included “Fascist!” “Palestine!” “Go home to Israel!” and “Tel Aviv, back to Tel Aviv!”
  • Artwork on two Paris post boxes showing the image of Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and former magistrate, was defaced with swastikas.
  • A tree in a Paris suburb in memory of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 2006, was cut in two.
  • A bagel shop was sprayed with the word “Juden”—German for Jews—in yellow letters.

“There is no antisemistism without danger! To write ‘Juden’, in 2019, on a shop window, in Paris cannot be understood out of the memory of Kristalnacht!” Fr. Patrick Desbois, a French priest and Holocaust researcher, commented on Facebook February 10.

The attacks have occurred roughly at the same time as a disturbing string of attacks on Catholic churches in France, which included the desecration of the Eucharist.

Reuters said that the anti-Jewish attacks has “alarmed politicians and prompted calls for action against what some commentators describe as a new form of anti-Semitism among the far-left and Islamist preachers.”

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