Paris Protest Against Hollande Turns Anti-Semitic
A protest in Paris against French President Francois Hollande turned on Sunday to an anti-Semitic demonstration and ended in clashes between police and protesters.
AFP reported that several thousand people marched through Paris in a "Day of Anger" against Hollande. Security forces used tear gas to disperse several hundred youths who lobbed police with bottles, fireworks, iron bars and dustbins.
The march was organized by a group of some 50 small and mainly right-wing organizations and, while it failed to attract bigger anti-Hollande movements, Kol Yisrael radio reported that it was attended by neo-Nazi movements and Muslim extremists.
The demonstrators chanted anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli slogans, used the ‘quenelle’ anti-Semitic gesture that was invented by controversial comic Dieudonne and sang the anthem of the Nazi collaborators during World War II, according to Kol Yisrael.
Organizers claimed a turnout of some 120,000 people, however police estimated there were 17,000 people at the protest, reported AFP.
Some called for France's withdrawal from the European Union, while others urged the respect of freedom of speech, a reference to the government's recent decision to ban Dieudonne’s show because of its anti-Semitic content.
The local Jewish students union, the UEJF, condemned "anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi salutes" by some protesters.
"This 'Day of Anger' has turned into a day of hate," its president Sacha Reingewirtz told AFP.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the violence "by individuals, varied groups from the extreme and ultra-right, whose only goal is to create unrest".
The protest took place on the same day that new statistics on anti-Semitism in Europe were presented to the Israeli government by the Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home).
The statistics were based on a poll conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The poll notes that the rise in anti-Semitic activity had led many European Jews to avoid expressing their Judaism - and to refuse to report violent incident to authorities.
The online survey conducted by the organization revealed that in 2013, 23% of respondents refrained from attending Jewish events or religious services for fear of being attacked on their way there; 38% are afraid to wear religious symbols in public; and 66% view anti-Semitism as having a major and constant impact on their lives.
The statistics were presented one day after two high-profile anti-Semitic incidents made headlines worldwide. On Saturday, an employee of the Majdanek concentration camp museum in Poland was charged for hate crimes, after he distributed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel posters in Lublin.
Later that day, pigs' heads were sent to the Israeli embassy and a synagogue in Rome - with derogatory messages about the Holocaust and references to Zionist figure Theodor Herzl inside.