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180,000 march against antisemitism in France as incidents surge amid Gaza War

March exposes political fault lines: Far left parties abstain, far right parties participate

Rally against antisemitism in Nice, France, Nov. 12, 2023 (Photo: ARIE BOTBOL / Hans Lucas via Reuters)

Over 180,000 people turned out for marches against rising antisemitism in France on Sunday. 

France, which has the highest Jewish population of any European country, has seen around 1,250 antisemitic incidents since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. That number exceeds the total number of recorded antisemitic events for the year 2022. 

Approximately 450,000 Jews live in France. 

While the march drew several current and former French politicians, such as Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, French President Emmanuel Macron did not attend. 

Macron wrote a letter, published in the newspaper Le Parisien, stating, “A France where our Jewish citizens are afraid is not France.” 

Macron also said that, while he would not attend the march, he would be there “in my heart and in my spirit.” 

The march, which was billed as a “great civic march,”, exposed the political lines of division in the country. French parliament speakers Yaël Braun-Pivet and Gérard Larcher, who organized the event, had hoped for a moment of national unity, drawing participants from across France’s political spectrum. 

However, Jean-Luc Melenchov, leader of the far-left party France Unbowed, did not attend the march, saying it was a gathering of “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza. 

Le Pen, whose father was a known Holocaust denier, participated in the rally, although her presence drew criticism from some groups. 

She has publicly rejected her father’s positions on the Holocaust and spoken openly about the fundamentalist Islamic views of most perpetrators of antisemitic incidents in France. 

Her party, the National Rally, has campaigned on a platform to sharply curtail immigration from Islamic countries. 

Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, said Le Pen’s presence at the march would be “unwelcome.” 

“We do not want people who are heirs to a party founded by former collaborators to be present,” Arfi said in an interview with LCI last week. 

Gad Weil, co-president of the group Judaism in Movement, told The Telegraph that Le Pen’s support for Jews in France is uncomfortable and incredible. 

“It’s a really incredible situation,” he said. “The founder of the National Front [the party’s former name] was totally anti-Semitic. And now, two generations later, they’ve become the biggest supporters of Israel and Jews in France.” 

Some politically left groups marched but put a barrier between themselves and Le Pen’s party. 

In Paris, which, according to police figures, was attended by slightly more than 100,000, the city authorities deployed some 3,000 police officers to patrol the route of the march. 

No violent incidents were reported during the marches. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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