Security tightened in Paris as Le Pen plans to join march against anti-Semitism – Lifotravel

Tens of thousands are expected to march Sunday in Paris against anti-Semitism amid bickering by political parties over who should take part and a surge in anti-Semitic incidents across France. 

Issued on: 11/11/2023 – 22:14

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More than 3,000 police and gendarmes will be deployed in the French capital to maintain security at the “great civic march”, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday that he would not join the rally, but would attend the “great civic march” in his “thoughts”.

“I’ll be there in my heart and in my thoughts,” said Macron, after warning that anti-Semitism was on the rise again in France. 

In an open letter published in the daily, Le Parisien, on Saturday evening on the eve of the march, Macron condemned the “unbearable resurgence of unbridled anti-Semitism” and said that “a France where our Jewish fellow citizens are afraid is not France”.

Tensions are rising Paris, home to large Jewish and Muslim communities, in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack, followed by a month of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

France has recorded nearly 12,250 anti-Semitic acts since the attack.

National Assembly speaker Yael Braun-Pivet and Gerard Larcher, the Senate speaker, called Tuesday for a “general mobilisation” at the march against the upsurge in anti-Semitism.

They are to lead the march behind a banner stating, “For the Republic, against anti-Semitism”.

Hard-left party boycotts march

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen set off a cacophony of criticism this week over her plans to attend Sunday’s march, with critics saying her National Rally (RN) party has failed to shake off its anti-Semitic heritage despite its growing political legitimacy.

Le Pen’s critics view her attendance as an attempt to leverage the Israel-Hamas war to make herself more palatable to mainstream voters.

Party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, was convicted repeatedly of anti-Semitic hate speech and played down the scope of the Holocaust. His daughter, Marine — runner-up in the last two presidential elections and likely a top contender in 2027 — has worked to scrub the party’s image, kicking her father out and changing its name from National Front to National Rally.

But the party’s current president, Jordan Bardella, said in an interview on BFM TV this week that he doesn’t think Jean-Marie Le Pen is anti-Semitic, a remark that revived the link between past and present.

The hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party said it would boycott the event, with LFI leader Jean-Luc Melenchon describing the march as a meeting of “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” of Palestinians in Gaza.

Communist leader Fabien Roussel said he would “not march alongside” the RN, accusing it of being descended from people who were “repeatedly condemned for anti-Semitic remarks” and who “collaborated” with Nazi Germany.

Government spokesman Olivier Véran said Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne would attend.

But the RN “did not have a place” in the march, Veran said.

Rise in anti-Semitic attacks

Among the long list of recent anti-Semitic acts, Paris prosecutors are investigating an incident on October 31, when buildings in the city and suburbs were daubed with dozens of Stars of David. 

The graffiti, which brought back memories of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II and deportation of Jews to death camps, was condemned across the political spectrum.

France says it has been the target of a Russian online destabilisation campaign that used automated social-media accounts to whip up controversy and confusion.  

Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering their latest and deadliest war, French authorities have counted more than 1,150 anti-Semitic acts. That’s nearly three times more than all acts against French Jews in 2022, the Interior Ministry says. 

In a statement released Thursday, France’s foreign ministry pointed a finger of blame at Russia, saying a Russian network of bots whipped up controversy about the stars with thousands of posts on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. Bots are automated accounts programmed to mimic human users by generating messages or following users on social media, often for nefarious or malicious purposes.

“This new operation of Russian digital interference against France testifies to the persistence of an opportunistic and irresponsible strategy aimed at exploiting international crises to sow confusion and create tensions in the public debate in France and in Europe,” the statement said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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