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JEWS

Macron win sends a ‘powerful message’ to the far-right, says Europe’s top rabbi

One of Europe's top rabbis welcomed pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron's victory in the French presidential election, saying voters sent a "very powerful" message to the country's far-right.

Macron win sends a 'powerful message' to the far-right, says Europe's top rabbi
Photo: AFP

Macron's sound defeat of far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the run-off vote is “very good news for France,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the influential Conference of European Rabbis.

“The fact that two-thirds of French voters didn't want a far-right government is a very powerful statement,” Goldschmidt told AFP.

Many of the votes cast were not for Macron, rather “it was a protest vote against Marine Le Pen,” he said.

Goldschmidt however said Jewish communities — including in France — were increasingly worried about right-wing, anti-Semitic sentiment creeping into mainstream politics.

Despite Le Pen's efforts to purge her National Front (FN) party of the anti-Semitism which became its trademark under the leadership of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party continues to court controversy over the issue.

Last month interim party leader Jean-Francois Jalkh was forced to step down after he was accused of praising a Holocaust denier. Jalkh strenuously denied making the remarks.

Le Pen herself drew criticism for saying that today's France bore no responsibility for the roundup and deportation of French Jews during World War II.

“If the French police and Vichy officials who collaborated (with the Nazis) did not load up people and send them to Germany, then, who did?” said Goldschmidt.

Today French Jews, the largest community outside of the United States and Israel, have been leaving France at a steady pace since around 2005.

Elsewhere on the continent, Jewish communities are alarmed about proposals in Norway to ban ritual circumcision for boys under the age of 16, as well as a vote to ban ritual slaughter in the French-speaking part of Belgium, Goldschmidt said.

He was speaking ahead of a three-day biennial convention in Amsterdam that will bring together more than 70 chief rabbis to discuss issues including rising anti-Semitism and how to protect Europe's Jewish communities.

“Targeted attacks against members of the Jewish community in recent years… demonstrate that anti-Semitism is not a curse of the past, but is a threat and a reality in Europe,” the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly said last year.

READ ALSO: Despite her efforts, Jews in France still fear Le Pen

VIDEO: Despite her efforts, Jewish voters in France still fear Marine Le Pen

DEMONSTRATION

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France

Tens of thousands of people across France on Saturday marched against "attacks on freedoms" and what organisers said was a growing influence of far-right ideas ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France
A "Freedom march" called by several organisations, associations and trade unions to "combat extreme right-wing ideas" on June 12. credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP

Members of more than 100 left-leaning organisations participated in the “Liberty March” in cities and towns across the country.

The protests were the first opportunity for a divided left to take to the streets after a year and a half of Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers reported 70,000 participants in Paris and 150,000 around the nation, while the Paris police and interior ministry put the numbers at 9,000 in the capital and 37,000 nationwide.

The interior ministry said 119 rallies had taken place.

In Nantes, western France, around 900 people rallied, according to the local prefecture, including scores of far-left militants who clashed with police.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, more than a thousand demonstrators marched behind a CGT union banner that called for “unity to break down the capitalism that leads to fascism”.

Protesters vented against issues ranging from recent legislation they say chips away at liberties, such as a law that could see prosecutions for publishing images of police officers in action, to what they charge is a creep of far-right ideas into the mainstream ahead of next year’s elections.

In the southern city of Toulouse, a 54-year-old teacher and union activist who gave his name as Gauthier remarked that students had begun to challenge him and warned that “extreme right ideas are gaining ground”.

Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.

In Paris, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had flour thrown in his face as he spoke to reporters.

A suspect arrested later in the day claimed to be a “sovereigntist” who social network specialists said broadcast far-right commentary on YouTube.

The move against Melenchon, who has been accused of fuelling conspiracy theories ahead of the presidential election, came days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while shaking hands with people on a regional visit.

Other events that have caused concern in France recently are allegations of ties between far-left figures including Melenchon and Islamists, a YouTube video that simulated the execution of a militant from his France Unbowed party, and university gatherings at which Caucasian participants were allegedly not allowed to speak.

Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday as a bid to deflect attention from Melenchon’s remarks on terrorism and the 2022 presidential election.

Groups that took part included Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions.

READ MORE: Calls for nationwide day of demonstrations in France against ‘far-right ideology’

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