Yellow Vest Protests in France: Anti-Semitic Abuses Upset the Nation

Harshana Ghoorhoo

Staff Writer

 

More than two months after the first Yellow Vest protest erupted in mid-November, there is still no sign of the revolts’ end, reports Al Jazeera. What began as an opposition to the rise in fuel taxes soon broadened into a nationwide uprising against President Macron and his political class, which is seen as disconnected with the majority of the French population.

Acts of violence between police and protestors are still taking place in the streets of Paris and some southern cities, The New York Times reports. However, recent sources have noted a decrease in the number of protestors as the weeks have continued.  On February 9, around 51,000 people marched across the country, about a fifth of the amount that were present for the first demonstration in November.

A more grave issue that has arisen with the protests is the insurgence of anti-Semitic statements among some protesters. Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut had to seek police protection after an array of insults and anti-Jewish taunts were directed toward him in Paris when he came across the protestors. As BBC News reports, Parisian police officers were forced to intervene and form a barrier after a group of marchers confronted Mr. Finkielkraut and started berating him.

While France’s President Emmanuel Macron condemned the acts, saying they were “an absolute negation of what made France great and would not be tolerated,” cases of protesters performing the quasi-Nazi quenelle salute were reported on numerous occasions. Worst of all, the desecration of about 80 graves with swastikas in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France shocked and saddened many citizens.

Following the disrespectful acts at the Jewish cemetery, hundreds of protesters gathered in the streets of several French cities at night to march against anti-Semitism, urging the government to act against the perpetrators of such acts.

The graffiti drawn over the Jewish tombstones in Quatzenheim in early February marked the second attack at a Jewish cemetery in France, reports CNN. Tombstones and a Holocaust memorial were also vandalized in December 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to a CNN reporter saying that he was shocked at the vandalism in Quatzenheim. He urged leaders in France and Europe to “take a strong stand against anti-Semitism.”

Addressing the leaders of the Jewish community in Paris on February 20, President Macron strongly criticized the movement, addressing it as a “resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II.”  The French government is taking this abominable movement against its Jewish community seriously. President Macron also confirmed that France will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, as the British government did in 2016, in order to tackle rising levels of hatred expressed towards its Jewish citizens.

CNN reports from an additional source that during his visit to the ceremony, President Macron told the local community leaders, “we will take actions, we will use laws and we will punish.”

Following such intense opposition against the Yellow Vest movement by President Macron, it remains to be seen what substantial action will be taken by the French government, and at what cost will the protests  end.

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