French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a crackdown on the “scourge” of anti-Semitism, days after protesters held rallies against a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country.
Speaking to leaders of the Jewish community in Paris on Wednesday evening, Macron criticized a “resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II,” which he said is not only happening in France but in “all of Europe and most Western democracies.”
The president added that “anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism,” and in response, France will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner is also taking measures to ban three anti-Semitic and far-right groups which the president said “fueled hatred.”
France’s Minister of Education will investigate cases of Jewish children who are “too often forced” to leave public schools for private Jewish schools because of harassment, Macron said.
This comes amid a recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents. France, which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, saw a 74% increase in such acts in 2018, of 541 incidents compared to 311 the year before, according to authorities.
On Saturday, several gilets jaunes (or “yellow vest”) protesters were filmed hurling abuse at philosopher and vocal Israel supporter Alain Finkielkraut as he ran into protesters during the 14th consecutive weekend of marches.
Insults including “dirty Zionist,” “f***ing Islamophobe” and “f*** your mother” were hurled at Finkelkraut, while less hostile activists walked him away from the demonstration and behind police lines.
Tuesday’s marches against anti-Semitism came after around 80 graves were desecrated with swastikas overnight in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, according to local officials. Photos showed tombstones spray-painted with blue and yellow Nazi symbols and other graffiti.
Macron condemned the attack during his visit Tuesday to the cemetery in Quatzenheim, where he inspected the damage.
“We will take actions, we will use laws and we will punish,” Macron told local communities leaders at the cemetery.
“Those who did this are not worthy of the republic … France will punish them. I don’t want what happened here to give ideas to others.”
CNN’s Bianca Britton contributed to this report