French politicians, citizens march in Paris against soaring antisemitism amid Israel-Hamas war

President Emmanuel Macron did not attend but expressed his support for the protest and called on citizens to rise up against “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism”

November 12, 2023 09:52 pm | Updated 09:52 pm IST - PARIS

French President of the National Assembly Yael Braun-Pivet, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, Senate President Gerard Larcher and Former Presidents of France Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy attend a demonstration against antisemitism in Paris, France, on November 12, 2023.

French President of the National Assembly Yael Braun-Pivet, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, Senate President Gerard Larcher and Former Presidents of France Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy attend a demonstration against antisemitism in Paris, France, on November 12, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris on November 12 to protest against rising antisemitism in the wake of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, representatives of several parties on the left as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended the march on November 12 in the French capital amid tight security. President Emmanuel Macron did not attend, but expressed his support for the protest and called on citizens to rise up against “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism.”

However, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, stayed away from the march, saying last week on X, formerly Twitter, that the march would be a meeting of “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza.

Paris authorities deployed 3,000 police troops along the route of the protest called by the leaders of the Senate and parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, amid an alarming increase in anti-Jewish acts in France since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas after its Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel.

France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, but given its own World War II collaboration with the Nazis, antisemitic acts today open old scars.

Holding a French flag, Robert Fiel said marching against antisemitism is “more than a duty.”

“It’s a march against violence, against antisemitism, against all (political extremes) that are infiltrating the society, to show that the silent majority does exist,” the 67-year-old said.

Family members of some of the 40 French citizens killed in the initial Hamas attack, and of those missing or held hostage, also took part in the march.

Patrick Klugman, a lawyer and a member of “Freethem” committee working to obtain the release of people held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza, said the large participation in the march is meaningful and symbolic in reassuring Jewish communities in France.

“I am very proud of my country because of this mobilization,” Klugman said. “I feel less alone than in the past weeks and days.”

French authorities have registered more than 1,000 acts against Jews around the country in the month since the conflict in the Middle East began.

In a letter addressed to the French on November 12, Mr. Macron vowed that perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished.

“A France where our Jewish fellow citizens are afraid is not France,” Macron said in the letter, published in Le Parisien newspaper. He called on the country to remain “united behind its values ... and work for peace and security for all in the Middle East.”

Macron said he will attend “in my heart and in spirit,” but not in person. “My role is to build unity of the country and to be firm on values,” Macron said Saturday on the sidelines of Armistice Day commemorations to mark the end of World War I.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended the march on November 12 amid fierce criticism that her once-pariah National Rally party has failed to shake off its antisemitic heritage despite growing political legitimacy.

After arriving to the march with the president of the party, Jordan Bardella, Le Pen dismissed critics and said that she and the party members are “exactly where we need to be.” She called on other politicians “to take a break from fomenting political controversies” during the march.

As of Saturday, officials counted 1,247 antisemitic acts since Oct. 7, nearly three times as many as in the whole of 2022, according to the Interior Ministry.

France has largely banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations, although supporters have marched in several French cities in the past weeks, including thousands demanding a cease-fire in Gaza in an authorized protest in Paris on November 5.

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