Massive rally against Antisemitism sweeps France amid Israel-Hamas conflictas more than 180,000 people across France, including 100,000 in Paris, marched peacefully on Sunday to protest against rising antisemitism in the wake of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, representatives of several parties on the left, conservatives and centrists of President Emmanuel Macron’s party as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended Sunday’s march in the French capital amid tight security.
Macron did not attend but expressed his support for the protest and called on citizens to rise up against “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism.”
However, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, stayed away from the march, saying last week on X, formerly Twitter, that the march would be a meeting of “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza.
The interior ministry said at least 182,000 people marched in several French cities in response to the call launched by the leaders of the parliament’s upper and lower houses. No major incident has been reported, it said.
Due to an alarming rise in anti-Jewish incidents in France since the start of Israel's war against Hamas following its surprise attack on Israel on October 7, Paris authorities deployed 3,000 police officers along the route of the protest that the Senate and the National Assembly leaders called.
France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, but given its own World War II collaboration with the Nazis, antisemitic acts today open old scars.
Holding a French flag, Robert Fiel said marching against antisemitism is “more than a duty.”
It’s a march against violence, against antisemitism, against all (political extremes) that are infiltrating the society, to show that the silent majority does exist.- The 67-year-old march participant
Family members of some of the 40 French citizens killed in the initial Hamas attack, and of those missing or held hostage, also took part in the march, which Paris police said drew 105,000 participants.
Patrick Klugman, a lawyer and a member of “Freethem” committee working to obtain the release of people held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza, said the large participation in the march is meaningful and symbolic in reassuring Jewish communities in France.
I am very proud of my country because of this mobilization. I feel less alone than in the past weeks and days.- Patrick Klugman, a lawyer and a member of “Freethem” committee
Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France known as CRIF said he was encouraged by Sunday’s show of support, but the question remains, he told French broadcaster BFM at the march, “what will be done (against antisemitism) tomorrow?”
Tomer Sisley, an Israeli and French actor insisted the massive show of solidarity proves that the majority of French citizens are against violence and hate against any religious and ethnic group.
We’re not Jews, we’re not Muslims, we’re not Christians. We are French and we are here to show that we are all together.- Tomer Sisley, an Israeli and French actor
Protesters gather during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Marseille on Sunday, one of dozens that took place around France.
French authorities have registered more than 1,000 acts against Jews around the country in the month since the conflict in the Middle East began.
Former French president Francois Hollande said, “There are many French flags in the protest but what unites us is the fight against antisemitism, which is not only a threat to the Jews but to the Republic itself.”
The march came after a series of antisemitic incidents in France, such as the vandalization of a Holocaust memorial in Strasbourg, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Lyon, and the assault of a rabbi in Marseille.
The protesters also denounced the boycott of Israeli products and the calls for “death to Israel” that have been heard in some pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France.
The march also highlighted the complexity and sensitivity of the issue of antisemitism in France, where some accuse the government of being too supportive of Israel and others of being too lenient with radical Islamists.
Some Jewish groups have criticized the presence of Le Pen, who has tried to distance herself from the antisemitic legacy of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Rally party.
Some pro-Palestinian activists have denounced the march as a way of silencing their criticism of Israel’s policies and actions in Gaza, where more than 2,000 people have been killed since the war began.
Some left-wing politicians have also expressed their reservations about the march, saying it could fuel the polarization of the society and the stigmatization of Muslims.
The organizers of the march have insisted that the protest was not meant to take sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict but to defend the values of the French Republic and the dignity of all its citizens.
Over 180,000 people marched in France to denounce rising antisemitism due to the Middle East conflict.
Political leaders from various parties joined the peaceful protest, except for far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon who accused the organizers of supporting Israel's "massacre" in Gaza.
The march expressed support for the Jewish community and rejected boycotts of Israeli products.
However, the march revealed the complexity and sensitivity of antisemitism in France, with some accusing the government of being too pro-Israel or too soft on radical Islamists.