Thousands protest against anti-Semitism in France

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Protestors during a rally in Paris' Place de la RepubliqueImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Around 70 protests took part around France, including in Paris' Place de la République

Thousands of people have joined protests across France against a spate of anti-Semitic attacks.

The demonstrators marched under the slogan "That's Enough" at the Place de la République in the capital Paris and other cities.

Figures from across the political spectrum, including former Presidents François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined too.

Just hours earlier Jewish graves at a cemetery were desecrated.

In a tweet last week, Olivier Faure, first secretary of the Socialist Party, first called on people to gather in Paris for a protest on Tuesday.

The event was later organised with the endorsement of more than 50 political parties, unions and associations.

No official number has been reported, but similar demonstrations were reported in 60 cities including Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes.

"I'm not sure that what's happened has surprised a lot of people," a protester in Paris, Frederic Aubert, said.

"I don't exactly know why they are angry at the Jews," said another, named Alain.

Why are people protesting?

In recent months, France has seen a series of high-profile anti-Semitic attacks.

In the past week, vandals have defaced portraits of the late Holocaust survivor and French minister Simone Veil, scrawled the German word for "Jews" on a Parisian bakery and cut down a tree planted in memory of a Jewish youth tortured to death by an anti-Semitic gang.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
France has witnessed a spate of recent anti-Semitic attacks, prompting criticism at home and abroad.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron visited a Jewish cemetery in eastern France where nearly 100 graves were desecrated with Nazi symbols.

"Whoever did this is not worthy of the French republic and will be punished," Mr Macron said during the visit.

In a video statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the "shocking" attack, calling anti-Semitism "a plague that endangers everyone, not just us."

France has the biggest Jewish community in Europe, about 550,000 people.

Statistics published last week showed a rise of 74% in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France, from 311 in 2017 to 541 in 2018.

Media caption,

French President Macron visits desecrated Jewish graves in February 2019

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told L'Express magazine that the government was considering a change in law to tackle hate speech on social media.

During the interview, Mr Philippe said anti-Semitism was "deeply rooted in French society."

Is this happening in other countries?

Jewish groups have also been warning that a rising far right across Europe has been promoting anti-Semitism and hatred of other minorities.

Crime data from Germany released last week revealed that anti-Semitic offences had increased by 10% over the past year - including a 60% rise in physical attacks.

Attacks have been blamed on both the far right and Islamists.

But a 28-country survey by the European Commission, published last month, revealed a gap in perceptions between those in and out of the Jewish community.

According to the report, 89% of Jewish people said anti-Semitism had "significantly increased" over the last five years. Only 36% of non-Jews believed the same.