PARIS (AP) — More than 180,000 people across France, including 100,000 in Paris, marched peacefully Sunday to protest rising anti-Semitism in the wake of ongoing Israeli policies. war against Hamas in Gaza.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, representatives of several left-wing, conservative and centrist parties from President Emmanuel Macron’s party as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended the march in the French capital on Sunday amid high security . Macron was not present, but expressed support for the demonstration and called on citizens to rise up against “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled anti-Semitism.”
However, the leader of the far-left France Insoumise party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, stayed away from the march, saying last week on X, formerly Twitter, that the march would be a meeting of “friends of unconditional support to the massacre.” in Gaza.
The Interior Ministry said at least 182,000 people marched in several French cities in response to the call by the leaders of the upper and lower houses of Parliament. No major incident has been reported, it is specified.
Paris authorities deployed 3,000 police officers along the protest route called by leaders of the Senate and the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, amid an alarming increase in anti-Jewish acts in France since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas after the October 1, 7 surprise attack on Israel.
France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, but given its own collaboration with the ___s during World War II, anti-Semitic acts are now reopening old scars.
Holding a French flag, Robert Fiel said marching against anti-Semitism was “more than a duty”.
“It’s a march against violence, against anti-Semitism, against all the (political extremes) who infiltrate society, to show that the silent majority exists,” the 67-year-old said.
Family members of some of the 40 French citizens killed in the initial Hamas attack, as well as people missing or held hostage, also took part in the march, which Paris police said attracted 105,000 participants.
Patrick Klugman, a lawyer and member of the Freethem committee which works to secure the release of people detained by Hamas and other groups in Gaza, said the large participation in the march is significant and symbolic in reassuring Jewish communities in Gaza. France.
“I am very proud of my country thanks to this mobilization,” said Klugman. “I feel less alone than in recent weeks and days.”
Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, known as CRIF, said he was encouraged by Sunday’s show of support, but the question remains, he told French broadcaster BFM during of the march, “what will be done (against anti-Semitism) tomorrow? ? »
Tomer Sisley, an Israeli and French actor, insisted that this massive display of solidarity proves that the majority of French citizens are against violence and hatred against any religious or ethnic group.
“We are not Jews, Muslims or Christians,” Sisley said. “We are French and we are here to show that we are all together. »
French authorities have recorded more than 1,000 acts against Jews across the country in the month since the Middle East conflict began.
Former French President François Hollande said: “There are many French flags in the demonstration but what unites us is not just a flag, it’s what it represents, it’s the value of freedom and the value of human dignity. »
In a letter to the French on Sunday, Macron promised that the perpetrators of these acts would be prosecuted and punished.
“A France where our Jewish fellow citizens are afraid is not France,” Macron said in the letter published in the newspaper Le Parisien. He called on the country to remain “united behind our values… and to work for peace and security for all in the Middle East.”
Macron said he would participate “in my heart and in mind,” but not in person. “My role is to build the unity of the country and to be firm on values,” Macron declared on Saturday on the sidelines of the Armistice commemorations, marking the end of the First World War.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended Sunday’s march amid fierce criticism that his once-pariah National Rally party has failed to shed its anti-Semitic legacy despite growing political legitimacy.
After arriving at the march with party president Jordan Bardella, Le Pen dismissed criticism and said she and party members were “exactly where we need to be.” She called on other politicians “to stop fomenting political controversies” during the march.
Le Pen and other far-right leaders showed up at the end of the march, hundreds of meters from government members and other officials leading the demonstration.
Borne, who is the daughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, tweeted that “the presence of the National Rally fools no one.”
The president of the Paris regional council, Valérie Pécresse, a former conservative presidential candidate, denounced “hypocrisy”, saying that during the last elections, leaders of the National Rally ran against her “who were clearly anti-Semitic people and that Marine Le Pen never sanctioned them.”
On Saturday, the authorities counted 1,247 anti-Semitic acts since October 7, almost three times more than in the whole of 2022, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Sunday’s march in Paris appears to be the largest gathering to denounce anti-Semitism in France since a 1990 demonstration against the desecration of a Jewish cemetery.
France has banned a number of pro-Palestinian protests, although supporters have marched in several French cities in recent weeks, including thousands of people. Demand a ceasefire in Gaza during a demonstration in Paris last Sunday.
Surk contributed from Nice, France. Video journalist Nicholas Garriga in Paris contributed to this report.