French President tells Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that France will ‘not surrender’ to anti-Israel rhetoric
Emmanuel Macron called anti-Zionism a new form of anti-Semitism during a strongly-worded speech in which he condemned France’s historic collaboration with the Nazis.
The French President was speaking in Paris at an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Vel D’Hiv round-up, in which 13,152 French Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps by the then French government in July 1942. Fewer than 100 of those detained survived.
Like his recent predecessors, Mr Macron accepted the French state was responsible for the act, which took place under the Vichy regime.
“There are those who say Vichy wasn’t France,” he said. “It’s true that Vichy wasn’t all of France, but Vichy was the government of France and the French establishment. It was responsible for deporting French Jews, and not the Germans.”
Mr Macron also condemned modern-day anti-Semitism and said this included anti-Israel sentiment.
Addressing Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who attended the event, the French leader said: “We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”
France has been blighted by anti-Semitic attacks in recent years and thousands of French Jews have left the country, many of them moving to Israel.
In 2012 an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse killed four people, including three children, while a 2015 shooting at a kosher supermarket in Paris left four people dead.
French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala also provoked outrage after making repeated jokes about the Holocaust, likening Jews to “slave drivers” and inventing a Nazi-like salute.
During his lengthy speech, Mr Macron criticised those who have denied France’s role in historic crimes against Jews – a clear reference to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who said during the presidential election campaign earlier this year, in which she was defeated by Mr Macron, that France could not be held responsible for the Vel d’Hiv round-up.
Speaking shortly before Mr Macron, Mr Netanyahu vowed to stand with France in the fight against Islamist extremism.
“Militant Islam wants to destroy our common civilisation” he said. “The militant Shiites led by Iran, the militant Sunnis led by Isis – both seek to vanquish us.
“Militant Islamists do not hate the West because of Israel. To the contrary, they hate Israel because of the West, because they rightly see in Israel a forward bastion of our common values of freedom, humanism, democracy. They try to destroy us, but also they try to destroy you.”
“The zealots of militant Islam who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well. We must stand against them together; we must remain strong against them together; and we must defeat them together.”
Mr Netanyahu’s presence at the event had been criticised by some French Jews, who said it was nothing to do with Israel and should not be political.