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Protesters wearing yellow vests walk down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe as they take part in a demonstration
Image: Reuters/B. Tessier

Did anti-Semites infiltrate France's yellow vests?

February 21, 2019

A Jewish human rights group has told DW that anti-Semites "hijacked" the yellow vest movement. Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in France, a development the government has linked with the protests.


Shimon Samuels, a director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, told DW that anti-Semites had "hijacked" the yellow vest movement.

"The yellow vests today are being invaded and hijacked by those on one side who are vandals and want to break into shop windows and those on the other hand who are extremists who attack Jews," Samuels said on Wednesday.

A recent poll by Ifop found that nearly half of the "yellow vest" supporters who were questioned believed in a worldwide "Zionist plot."

The French government last week reported a significant rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year: 541 registered incidents, up 74 percent from the 311 registered in 2017.

Samuels said President Emmanuel Macron should consider placing armed guards outside synagogues and Jewish schools as part of his efforts to tackle the problem.

Earlier Wednesday, Macron announced a set of measures aimed at tackling anti-Semitism.

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Middle East factor

Samuels said the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had also stirred anti-Semitism among France's Muslim youth and contributed to the rise in anti-Jewish incidents.

"They're playing this out, transplanting the Middle East to Europe, and that obviously is creating a spike in anti-Semitic attacks," he said.

Read more: French media decry 'yellow vest' attacks as protesters criticize press

On Tuesday, thousands of people attended rallies across France to decry an uptick in anti-Semitic acts. Earlier that day, some 80 gravestones were discovered to have been spray-painted with swastikas in a cemetery in a small village in eastern France.

Last week, video footage of a yellow vest protester shouting abuseat Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut spread on social media. Police have since arrested a suspect.

In other incidents this month, swastika graffiti was found on street portraits of Simone Veil, a survivor of Nazi death camps and a former president of the European Parliament. Meanwhile, the word "Juden" ("Jews," in German) was painted on the window of a bagel restaurant in Paris.

rc, amp/cmk (dpa, AFP)

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