DFrench President Emmanuel Macron did not attend a march against anti-Semitism in Paris on Sunday afternoon. He justified this the day before by saying that his role was to ensure unity. The left-wing party La France Insoumise boycotted the march, while right-wing populist Marine Le Pen has called on her supporters to take part.
The demonstration set off on Sunday afternoon with the President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, and the President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, at the front. They had called for the “march against anti-Semitism” from the Invalides Cathedral to the Latin Quarter.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande also walked behind the banner with the inscription “For the Republic, against anti-Semitism”. The police prefecture said in the evening that 105,000 people took part in the march. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 3,000 police officers are expected to provide security. It is the first major demonstration against anti-Semitism in the French capital since the attacks of Hamas on Israel on October 7, in which 40 French citizens were also killed.
Criticism of Macron’s decision
On Saturday, Macron complained about “the unbearable return of unleashed anti-Semitism” in a “Letter to the French”. “A France in which our Jewish fellow citizens are afraid is not France,” Macron wrote in the letter published by the newspaper Le Parisien. The march in Paris should show that France is united “behind its values and its universalism”.
Macron said he was there “in his heart and in his thoughts.” At a memorial event for the so-called Dreyfus affair on Saturday, the great-granddaughter of Captain Alfred Dreyfus said how disappointed she was about his absence. “I have never taken part in a demonstration,” replied Macron. “My role is more to forge the unity of the country,” he said.
The affair surrounding the Jewish captain, who was wrongly accused of treason on behalf of the German Empire, was the impetus for the then Paris correspondent Theodor Herzl to develop his idea of a safe home for the Jews. The leader of the right-wing Republicans (LR), Eric Ciotti, described Macron’s non-participation as a “mistake” and demanded that the president abandon his “both/” attitude.
Macron: “No justification” for bombing civilians
An interview with Macron on the station BBC led to further irritation about where the president stands on foreign policy. After the Hamas attacks, Macron expressed his solidarity with Israel “without ifs and buts” in a televised speech. “Macron forgot to pay respect to the French victims of the Hamas attacks and to demand the release of the hostages,” criticized the chairman of the French mayors’ association David Lisnard (LR). Macron told the BBC that there was “no justification” for the bombings of civilians in the Gaza Strip. In his letter to the French, Macron wrote again that there should be no “yes, but” on the question of Israel’s right to self-defense. “It is a necessity to eliminate Hamas,” he wrote.
Three-time presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the left-wing LFI party refused to take part in the demonstration, calling it an “attempt at manipulation” to further trivialize France’s pro-Israel far right. “The friends of unconditional support for the massacres” that Israel is carrying out in the Gaza Strip are gathering, Mélenchon complained.
Marine Le Pen from the right-wing populist Rassemblement National justified their participation with their fight against Islamism. She finds it unbearable that Jewish French people have to live in fear. The historian and Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld described it as progress that Le Pen’s party wanted to fight against anti-Semitism.
The post first appeared on www.faz.net