Saturday and Sunday saw thousands of people take part in two protests in Paris, the first to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and the second against anti-semitism, with French President Emmanuel Macron’s absence from the second raising questions.
Anti-semitic and Islamaphobic incidents have been on the rise across Europe and in individual member states since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October that killed 1200 civilians and the subsequent Israeli attack on Gaza which has killed more than 13,000 civilians.
On Saturday, thousands of pro-Palestine supporters marched through the streets demanding an “immediate ceasefire” and waving banners that “Palestine will live and win”.
Macron did not attend the protest but on Friday, he called for a ceasefire, saying there was “no justification” for the ongoing bombing and that “all civilians have nothing to do with terrorists.”
“De facto- today, civilians are bombed- de facto. These babies, these ladies, these old peole are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.”
On Sunday, some 180,000 people took part in a march against anti-semitism as 1200 such acts were reported in the last month.
“That’s the equivalent of two to three years’ worth of anti-Semitic acts”, Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), who attended the march in Paris, which counted over 105,000 people on Sunday.
“Seeing this crowd […] is extremely moving. The French are making history”, said Galina Elbaz, vice president of the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA).
While the two former heads of state, Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) and François Hollande (2012-2017) attended the march, Macron’s absence was regrettable, Arfi said, but he welcomed Macron’s “strong words” in his “letter to the French“.
“My role is rather to build the unity of the country and to be firm on values […] to say words when they need to be said and to act otherwise I can demonstrate every week”, said Macron when questioned on the subject by a descendant of Captain Dreyfus – a French artillery officer of Jewish ancestry whose trial and conviction for treason shook the country at the turn of the 20th century – at the 11 November commemoration held the day before.
“I would like us to avoid any politicisation of this event,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told Franceinfo on Sunday morning – although he quickly criticised those who did not take part in the Paris march, taking particular aim at Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s radical left La France Insoumise (Left).
“I want to march against anti-Semitism”, but “I’m not going to march with those who have helped to develop anti-Semitism”, said La France Insoumise MEP and co-leader of The Left Manon Aubry.
Their refusal to join the march “is a turning point”, said French Communist Party (PCF) leader Fabien Roussel, who also acknowledged that “the far right had no place in today’s rallies”.
To express their disapproval, Roussel, the national secretary of the Greens, Marine Tondelier, and the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, marched separately from the far-right.
This general attitude is “indecent”, said the leader of the far-right Reconquête! Party, Eric Zemmour.
“We want justice, peace and security for the people of Israel, for the Palestinian people and the states in the region. We want the unity of the French people”, Macron wrote in his letter, taking the opportunity to reiterate his call for a humanitarian truce and, therefore, a ceasefire.
Macron also recalled that 40 French or French-Israeli citizens were victims of the Hamas attacks on 7 October. Eight of them are still missing or being held hostage.
(Paul Messad | Euractiv.fr)
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