Gatherings against anti-Semitism take place in France

PARIS (AP) — Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country.

Answering a call from political parties, thousands of protesters and several government members took to the streets yesterday.

The upsurge in anti-Semitism in France, home to the world’s largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States (US), reached a climax last weekend with a torrent of hate speech directed at prominent philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a march of yellow vest anti-government protesters.

The assault came days after the government reported a huge rise in incidents of anti-Semitism last year: 541 registered incidents, up 74 per cent from the 311 registered in 2017.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will lead the government delegation at the famed Republic Square. In addition to the marches, National Assembly President Richard Ferrand and the head of Senate Gerard Larcher will hold a moment of silence at the Shoah memorial in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron is not expected to attend, but will deliver a speech at annual dinner by leading Jewish group CRIF today.

A man holds a poster during a gathering decrying anti-Semitism at Place de la Republique in Paris amid an upsurge in anti-Semitism in France. – AP

“Anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in French society. We would like to think otherwise, but it is a fact,” Philippe told L’Express magazine this week. “We must be totally determined, I would say almost enraged, in our will to fight, with a clear awareness that this fight is an old one and will last a long time.”

Last Friday, two youth were arrested 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 yesterday that prosecutors consider that the motive was anti-Semitism.

Political parties from across the spectrum will unite in Paris but Marine Le Pen’s far-right party will hold a separate event.

According to sociologist Danny Trom, author of the book France Without Jews, thousands of Jewish people leave France every year because the rise of anti-Semitism.

“This is a low-intensity war, perhaps, but let’s not forget the murder of children killed at close range by Merah in a school,” Trom told French culture magazine Telerama.

“It is without equivalent in the history of France,” he said. “Jews have been present in France since the dawn of times. Now, the pressure is such that they are led to consider their country inhospitable.”