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Thousands protest in France against anti-Semitic attacks

Tens of thousands took to the streets of France last week to protest recent anti-Semitic attacks, denouncing hate crimes with placards “fraternity” and “exit hatred”. 

France which is home to the biggest Jewish population in Europe has recently seen a rise in anti-Jewish attacks. The French government said that anti-Semitism is “spreading like poison” in France.

The most recent attack occurred on Monday when a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim in Alsace was targeted overnight. Around 80 Jewish tombstones were vandalised with swastikas, a symbol of Nazi Germany. 

Last weekend, during an anti-government protest, the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement directed hate speech towards Alain Finkielkraut, the son of a Jewish Polish leather merchant who survived Auschwitz. A group of men called him a “dirty Zionist” and told him that “France belongs to us.” 

Gilets jaunes protests began in November 2018 as a fuel tax revolt and later turned into wider anti-government movement. 

Academics who have studied the gilets jaunes movement said the protests in themselves were not anti-Semitic but said it is a broad movement lacking clear leadership, which had resulted in anti-Semitic and far right acts on the edges of demonstrations. 

Commenting on the recent attacks, President Emmanuel Macron said that antisemitism appears to have reached its worst levels since World War 2. 

In 2018, French police recorded a 74% increase in anti-Semitic offences. Statistics could be higher as not all offences are reported.