At the annual dinner of the CRIF, the speech by Macron was expected after a resurgence of anti-Semitic acts in the country. The head of state announced that France would adopt the definition of anti-Semitism as defined by the International Alliance for the Memory of the Holocaust (IHRA) that incorporates anti-Zionism.
The strongly-worded announcement had been expected by representatives of the Jewish community, according to state broadcaster Franceinfo .
“It would be wrong to say that we have done nothing” against anti-Semitism, Macron said. “But we have not been able to act effectively. The time has come for cutting-edge acts,” the head of state said before declaring: “Anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism. This is why I confirm that France (…) will implement the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance “.
According to this definition, anti-Semitism includes anti-Zionism, which is defined as the systematic criticism of the State of Israel.
The French leader said in Paris at the dinner of the CRIF: “Behind the negation of Israel’s existence, what is hiding is the hatred of Jews.”
But since the IHRA approved the wording in 2016, critics of Israel have said it could be used suppress Palestinian activists. The definition states that anti-Semitism can take the form of “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, for example, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
As a preamble to Emmanuel Macron’s speech, Francis Kalifat, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, took the floor and spoke about recent events.
“Antisemitism was doing very well in France before the Yellow Vests. It is still doing better today thanks to some of them,” he added. The latter is in favor of a broad definition of anti-Semitism, which includes the denial of the State of Israel.
“Let the anti-Semites no longer play on words to escape prosecution,” he insisted.
Sacha Ghozlan, president of the Union of French Jewish Students, told RFI on Tuesday morning: “I’m calling on the government to declare a state of emergency in regard to anti-Semitism and take all of these measures into account.”
The Interior Ministry reported a 74 percent rise in acts targeting Jewish people, symbols and buildings last year.
Rallies have taken place around France against in anti-Semitic acts, but the National Rally (RN) led by Marine Le Pen was not invited to the protests.
Sylvain Maillard, an MP with President Emmanuel Macron’s political party The Republic on the Move (LREM), chairs a 30-member “study group” on anti-Semitism in the French National Assembly. This week the group will decide what kind of legislation to use to make anti-Zionism a punishable offence.
“It is crucial to say that what is forbidden is to deny the existence of Israel. That has to be made a criminal offence. Just like you do not have the right to deny the existence of France or of Germany,” Maillard claimed.
Maillard suggested that saying something like “dirty Zionist” should be punishable under French law. “When you say ‘dirty Zionist’ you are also saying ‘dirty Jew’.”
Following some anti-Semitic acts in France, a member of the Israeli government has called on French Jews to emigrate to the Jewish state.
Israeli Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant has called on the Jews of France to emigrate to the Jewish state. “I vehemently condemn antisemitism in France and call on Jews to come home and immigrate to Israel,” Gallant said on Twitter.
His remarks follow the recent desecration of 80 graves in a Jewish cemetery in Alsace. No suspects have been arrested yet. “The desecration (of this) graveyard awakens images of dark periods in the history of the Jewish people,” said Minister Yoav Gallant.
“The State of Israel is a safe national home for Jews all over the world,” he said. Gallant had recently visited Paris. During a visit to the Jewish community of Paris, he said they face an “anti-Semitic offensive and the process of assimilation”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has also reacted to anti-Semitic acts in France, Le Figaro reported. “It is shocking to note that 80 Jewish graves were desecrated with Nazi symbols by savage antisemites. I call on all French and European leaders to strongly oppose anti-Semitism,” said the head of government.
“It’s an epidemic that puts everyone at risk, not just us, and it has to be condemned everywhere and every time it happens,” he added.
But in 2015, two Jewish teens were arrested for vandalizing a synagogue in the central Israeli city of Raanana, home to a large number of immigrants from the United States and other English-speaking countries, as well as from France.
The two smashed the doorways of the Ahavat Reim Synagogue, and painted crosses and swastikas on the parchments — reportedly in their own blood.
When the 17-year-olds were arrested, they told police that they acted out of boredom, the Times of Israel reported.