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French city removes ‘anti-Semitic’ mural depicting Macron

A street art mural in a French city depicting President Emmanuel Macron as a puppet in the hands of an economist of Jewish origin has been removed, authorities said on Friday, after it was denounced as blatantly anti-Semitic.

The controversy over the mural in the southern city of Avignon represents an embarrassment to the local authorities just two weeks before the city hosts its world-famous annual international theatre festival from July 7.

The mural, painted by the street artist Lekto, depicts Macron as the lying puppet Pinocchio with his strings pulled by the celebrated French economist and former Elysee adviser Jacques Attali, who was born to a Jewish family in French Algeria.

The local prefecture authority said in a statement that “following the emotional reactions” authorities had agreed “to erase the fresco”.

“The operation was carried out this very morning,” it added.

The mural, painted on an electricity transformer at the north-eastern entrance to the city, had already been partially covered overnight by an anonymous individual.

Controversy over the work had been building ever since it was created on Wednesday.

The image “takes up all the tropes of anti-Semitic propaganda and fascist iconography,” French member of the European Parliament Raphael Glucksmann said on Twitter.

“To refuse to erase it in the name of ‘freedom of expression’ is a scandal,” he added.

The mural was put up by the artist of his own accord and no institution encouraged or funded it.

But according to France Bleu radio, the city of Avignon — run by Socialist mayor Cecile Helle — initially refused to cover it up to “respect freedom of expression” before changing tack as pressure grew.

“As usual the problem is the people who don’t see the problem,” tweeted prominent French comic book artist Joann Sfar.

France’s Socialist Party (PS) leader Olivier Faure added on Twitter: “The interpretation of this fresco leaves little open to doubt.”

“The figure of the Jewish banker manipulating his puppets is a recurring theme of anti-Semites.”

He described anti-Semitism as a recurring “plague” that cannot be tolerated.

Although not of Jewish origin himself, Macron has repeatedly been targeted by anti-Semitic insinuations and baseless conspiracy theories related to his past work for investment bankers Rothschild.