Thousands in Paris march against anti-Semitism

17th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 16 (AFP) - Thousands of people joined a demonstration through central Paris Sunday to condemn a recent spate of acts of anti-Semitism in France including the defacing of a memorial for Jewish soldiers killed in World War I.

PARIS, May 16 (AFP) - Thousands of people joined a demonstration through central Paris Sunday to condemn a recent spate of acts of anti-Semitism in France including the defacing of a memorial for Jewish soldiers killed in World War I.

Called by the group SOS-Racism and supported by France's main Jewish organisations, the march from Place de la Republique to Bastille was attended by well-known political figures including Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, Socialist party leader Francois Hollande and Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

Recent weeks have seen a series of anti-Semitic attacks, including the spraying of swastikas and Nazi graffiti at the memorial for Jewish fighters at the World War I battleground of Verdun, and acts of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Alsace in the east and a synagogue in the northern town of Valenciennes.

The main part of demonstration walked behind a banner reading "I am marching against anti-Semitism." However a separate section at the rear was organised by a number of left-wing and civil rights groups, which wanted to extend the theme to "all forms of racism".

"The effectiveness of the fight against anti-Semitism will be achieved via the struggle against all racism. Anti-North African racism, anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same coin," said Moulud Aounit of the Movement against Racism MRAP.

Meanwhile Veterans' Affairs Minister Hamlaoui Mekachera led a ceremony at the Fleury-devant-Douaumont memorial outside Verdun -- where 360,000 French soldiers died in 1916 -- and read out a message from President Jacques Chirac condemning the defacement there.

"I call on every French man and woman to be on the alert, to reject hatred, to respect one another," the message read. "Anti-Semitism, racism and mutual hatred are profoundly opposed to the values that all French people share.

"The unspeakable acts which were directed at the Douaumont memorial are a collective wound. By insulting the memory of soldiers of Jewish faith who gave their lives for the country, they are an offense against the country as a whole," the president's message said.

The centre-right government issued a statement via spokesman Jean-Francois Cope vowing to mobilise efforts against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. Cope also said an international conference on the Internet would take place in Paris next month in order to draw up guidelines on race-related content.

France saw an upsurge in assaults on Jewish people and property after the start of the Palestinian intifada three and a half years ago. Most of them have been blamed on disgruntled members of the country's large Arab minority, though neo-Nazi fringe groups are also active.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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