French President Macron visits Quatzenheim Jewish cemetery after graves desecrated | News | DW | 19.02.2019
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French President Macron visits Quatzenheim Jewish cemetery after graves desecrated

President Emmanuel Macron has visited a Jewish cemetery in Alsace, after 80 graves were vandalized overnight. Politicians from across the spectrum joined marches across France to condemn recent anti-Semitic incidents.

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Massive protests against anti-Semitic attacks

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled on Tuesday to the eastern Alsace region where 80 graves in the Quatzenheim cemetery had been desecrated overnight, many of them daubed with Nazi slogans. As he met with local Jewish leaders he confirmed: "I express my total determination to fight against anti-Semitism in all its forms."

There were 541 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2018, a rise of 74 percent compared to 2017.

Macron has condemned the attack on the cemetery: "Anti-Semitism is the negation of what France is," Macron wrote on Twitter, and the republic should be "a block to all that."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a video appeal on Twitter, calling on French and European leaders "to take a strong stand on anti-Semitism." 

Macron also visited the Holocaust Memorial in Paris later with the presidents of the National Assembly and Senate.

Cross-party rally against anti-Semitism

Political parties from the left through to the right held a rally in Paris on Tuesday evening at the Place de la Republique to condemn recent anti-Semitic incidents. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen's National Rally was not invited.

David Cvach, France's ambassador to Sweden, was one of those attending the rally.

France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, and the third-largest in the world after Israel and the United States. There are various estimates for the number of Jewish people living in France, but they range between 480,000 and 550,000. An estimated 78,000 French Jews were deported to death camps during the Nazi occupation of France until 1945.

French Muslims joined the demonstration against anti-Semitism

French Muslims joined the demonstration against anti-Semitism in Paris

'Yellow vests' accused

During demonstrations in Paris over the weekend, 'yellow vest' protesters were seen and heard abusing philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, the son of a Polish merchant who survived Auschwitz.

According to analyst Jean-Yves Camus of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs: "The yellow vests aren't an anti-Semitic movement. But it's a leaderless, horizontal movement," Camus told AFP. "And extremist elements have been able to drown out the voices of its high-profile figures in the media."

Paris rabbi Delphine Horvilleur told Liberation newspaper she had called on the yellow vest demonstrators to disassociate themselves from the anti-Semitic incidents and hoped they would join Tuesday evening's rally in Paris. 

Earlier this month, swastikas were painted on Paris postboxes decorated with portraits of the late Simone Veil, the lawyer and politician who did much to advance women's legal rights in France. A bagel bakery in the heart of the capital was also attacked.

jm/msh (AFP, dpa)

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