PARIS — 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 as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended the march in the French capital amid tight security.
The march was preceded by approximately 70 other rallies arranged across the country.
President Emmanuel Macron, though, did not attend any of the events.
He had previously expressed his support for the protest and called on citizens to rise up against “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism.”
The leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, also 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.
Paris authorities deployed 3,000 police troops along the route of the protest called by the leaders of the Senate and parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, amid an alarming increase in anti-Jewish acts in France since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas after its 7 October surprise attack on Israel.
France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and antisemitic acts occurring today open old scars.
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.
In a letter addressed to the French on Sunday, Macron vowed that perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished.
“A France where our Jewish fellow citizens are afraid is not France,” Macron said in the letter, published in Le Parisien newspaper. He called on the country to remain “united behind its values… and work for peace and security for all in the Middle East.”
The president said he will attend “in my heart and in spirit,” but not in person.
“My role is to build unity of the country and to be firm on values,” Macron said on Saturday on the sidelines of Armistice Day commemorations to mark the end of World War I.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended Sunday’s march amid fierce criticism that her once-pariah National Rally party has failed to shake off its antisemitic heritage despite growing political legitimacy.
As of Saturday, officials counted 1,247 antisemitic acts since 7 October — nearly three times as many as in the whole of 2022, according to the Interior Ministry.
France has largely banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations, although supporters have marched in several French cities in the past weeks, including thousands demanding a cease-fire in Gaza in an authorised protest in Paris last Sunday. — Euronews