PARIS: Thousands of marchers joined lawmakers in Paris on Sunday (Nov 12) to condemn a surge in antisemitic acts in France during the conflict in the Gaza Strip, but arguments over political participation clouded an intended show of unity.
The protest, called by the leaders of France’s two houses of parliament, was prompted by a three-fold increase in the number of antisemitic incidents compared with the whole of 2022, according to French authorities, since Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel.
Political figures, including Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, headed the march, holding a banner with the slogan “For the Republic, against antisemitism”. They led several renditions of the French national anthem.
Police estimated 105,000 people had taken part in Sunday’s march.
President Emmanuel Macron, whose decision not to attend drew criticism from some politicians, published an open letter supporting the march and condemning “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism”.
The run-up to the march was marked by wrangling over which parties should be represented. The far-right National Rally’s decision to take part prompted the radical-left France Unbowed party to distance itself from the event, though other left-wing parties attended.
Left-wing lawmakers have joined pro-Palestinian protests in recent weeks, including a march in Paris on Saturday.
Calls by President Macron in recent days for a ceasefire in Gaza, including in an interview in which he opposed Israeli bombing, have been welcomed by French leftist politicians but rebuked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Protests against antisemitism also took place in other French cities on Sunday, including in Marseille where some 7,000 people turned out according to a police estimate.
Elsewhere in Europe, concern is running high over antisemitism and other forms of extremism being whipped up.
In Britain, a large pro-Palestinian demonstration on Saturday was marked by skirmishes between far-right counter-protesters and the police.