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Thousands rally in France to oppose recent anti-Semitic acts

Published
People gather at Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. The banner refers to French jews assassinated recently with the words reading : It is enough. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) — Rallies against anti-Semitism attracted crowds of thousands in Paris and other French cities Tuesday following a series of aggressive acts with Jewish targets, including a cemetery where about 80 gravestones were spray-painted with swastikas overnight.

In the French capital, former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy joined a rally led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Republic Plaza.

Political parties from across the spectrum participated in the nationwide rallies with the theme "That's enough", although Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party held a separate event.

French President Emmanuel Macron went to the Shoah Memorial, a Holocaust museum in Paris, to observe a moment of silence with parliament leaders.

"Every time a French person, because he or she is Jewish, is insulted, threatened — or worse, injured or killed — the whole Republic" is attacked, Macron said at a news conference in Paris.

Hours before the rallies started, Macron visited the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, a small town in the northeastern Alsace region. He said he felt shame at the sight of the defaced grave markers.

"This looks like absurd stupidity," the French leader said, looking visibly sad and concerned.

Macron observed several moments of silence in front of the vandalized graves while local Jewish community representatives stood by.

"We will take action," he promised.

France is home to the world's largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States. Among the incidents arousing worries of renewed anti-Semitism was a torrent of hate speech directed at Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a Saturday march by yellow vest protesters.

In recent incidents, swastika graffiti was found on street portraits of Simone Veil — a survivor of Nazi death camps and a European Parliament president who died in 2017. The word "Juden" was painted on the window of a bagel restaurant in Paris, and two trees planted at a memorial honoring a young Jewish man tortured to death in 2006 were vandalized, one cut down.

Two youths were arrested Friday after they allegedly fired shots at a synagogue with an air rifle in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where a large Jewish community lives. Sarcelles mayor Patrick Haddad told BFMTV on Tuesday that prosecutors believe the motive was anti-Semitism.

According to sociologist Danny Trom, author of "France Without Jews," thousands of Jewish people leave France every year because of anti-Semitism.

"This is a low-intensity war, perhaps, but let's not forget the murder of children killed at close range by Mohamed Merah in a school," Trom told French magazine Telerama, referring to the 2012 slayings of three children and a teacher from a Jewish school by an Islamic extremist in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

"It is without equivalent in the history of France," he said. "Jews have been present in France since the dawn of time. Now, the pressure is such that they are led to consider their country inhospitable."

The French government reported a big rise in anti-Semitism last year: 541 registered incidents, up 74 percent from 311 in 2017.

Leaders from France's main religious communities, including Christian, Muslim and Jewish representatives, met at France's Interior Ministry on Tuesday. In a joint declaration, they solemnly condemned anti-Semitic acts and called on people to make individual commitments to combat all forms of racism and hatred.

People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French Muslim gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism in Paris, France, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French President Emmanuel Macron puts a stone on a vandalized grave in a show of respect during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Quatzenheim's deputy mayor Josette Prim, right, visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
A gendarme guards the Jewish cemetery where the gate and tombs were tagged swastikas are pictured in the Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
French President Emmanuel Macron holds children by the hands as he visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Members of the Jewish community gather at the Jewish cemetery where tombs were tagged with swastikas in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
French National Assembly house-speaker Richard Ferrand, right, French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Senate president Gerard Larcher pay their respects at the Shoah memorial, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
Protesters against anti-Semitism gather in Rennes, western France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, after a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. Banner reads:
Former French President Francois Hollande attends a protest against anti-Semitism, at the Republique square, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, with France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, center, leave the Jewish cemetery where tombs were tagged with swastikas in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
A man wearing a yellow vest holds a placard reading
Protesters against anti-Semitism gather in Rennes, western France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, after a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. Banner reads:
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Poster reads : Anti-Semitism is a crime not an opinion. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, centre, joins others during a march, in Lille, northern France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
People gather at Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner touches a vandalized tombstone at the Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
A graffiti reads
People gather at Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. The banner refers to French jews assassinated recently with the words reading : It is enough. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People gather at Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. The banner refers to French jews assassinated recently with the words reading : It is enough. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French Muslim gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism in Paris, France, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French Muslim gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism in Paris, France, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French National Assembly house-speaker Richard Ferrand, right, French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Senate president Gerard Larcher pay their respects at the Shoah memorial, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
French National Assembly house-speaker Richard Ferrand, right, French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Senate president Gerard Larcher pay their respects at the Shoah memorial, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Poster reads : Anti-Semitism is a crime not an opinion. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Poster reads : Anti-Semitism is a crime not an opinion. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A gendarme guards the Jewish cemetery where the gate and tombs were tagged swastikas are pictured in the Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
A gendarme guards the Jewish cemetery where the gate and tombs were tagged swastikas are pictured in the Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, centre, joins others during a march, in Lille, northern France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, centre, joins others during a march, in Lille, northern France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Protesters against anti-Semitism gather in Rennes, western France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, after a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. Banner reads:
Protesters against anti-Semitism gather in Rennes, western France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, after a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. Banner reads: "All human are brothers". (AP Photo/David Vincent)
People gather at Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
People gather at Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A man wearing a yellow vest holds a placard reading
A man wearing a yellow vest holds a placard reading "I am jew", during a gathering at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Protesters against anti-Semitism gather in Rennes, western France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, after a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. Banner reads:
Protesters against anti-Semitism gather in Rennes, western France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, after a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery overnight. Banner reads: "In France, we love each others. France is not hate". (AP Photo/David Vincent)
French President Emmanuel Macron holds children by the hands as he visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron holds children by the hands as he visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
Former French President Francois Hollande attends a protest against anti-Semitism, at the Republique square, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Former French President Francois Hollande attends a protest against anti-Semitism, at the Republique square, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, with France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, center, leave the Jewish cemetery where tombs were tagged with swastikas in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, with France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, center, leave the Jewish cemetery where tombs were tagged with swastikas in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Members of the Jewish community gather at the Jewish cemetery where tombs were tagged with swastikas in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Members of the Jewish community gather at the Jewish cemetery where tombs were tagged with swastikas in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
People gather at the Republique square to protest against anti-Semitism, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. In Paris and dozens of other French cities, ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday to march and rally against anti-Semitism, following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French President Emmanuel Macron puts a stone on a vandalized grave in a show of respect during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron puts a stone on a vandalized grave in a show of respect during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
A graffiti reads
A graffiti reads "Black wolves form Alsace", referring to radical group from the 1970-1980s, is written on a tomb of the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at this Jewish cemetery overnight. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner touches a vandalized tombstone at the Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner touches a vandalized tombstone at the Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Quatzenheim's deputy mayor Josette Prim, right, visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Quatzenheim's deputy mayor Josette Prim, right, visit the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, eastern France, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. French residents and public officials from across the political spectrum geared up Tuesday for nationwide rallies against anti-Semitism following a series of anti-Semitic acts, including the swastikas painted on about 80 gravestones at the Jewish cemetery overnight. (Frederick Florin, Pool via AP)