French demonstrators join politicians in 100,000 person march against antisemitism

Nearly 200,000 people across France joined former presidents in march to condemn surge of anti-Jewish hate crimes


Protesters march waving flags of France and holding a banner which reads as "We said Never Again" as they participate in a march against anti-Semitism in Paris, on November 12, 2023. Tens of thousands are expected to march Sunday in Paris against anti-Semitism amid bickering by political parties over who should take part and a surge in anti-Semitic incidents across France. Tensions have been rising in the French capital, home to large Jewish and Muslim communities, in the wake of the October 7 attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel, followed by a month of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. France has recorded nearly 1250 anti-Semitic acts since the attack. National Assembly speaker Yael Braun-Pivet and Gerard Larcher, the Senate speaker, called on November 7 for a "general mobilisation" at the march against the upsurge in anti-Semitism. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Over 180,000 marchers joined French politicians on the streets of Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon and Marseille on Sunday to protest the recent surge in antisemitism across France, standing behind a large banner which read: “For the Republic, against antisemitism”. 

“Our order of the day today is … the total fight against antisemitism, which is the opposite of the values of the Republic,” said Gérard Larcher, the French senate speaker and a co-organiser of the Paris demonstration.  

Former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande were among the prominent politicians at the forefront of the Parisian march, joined by Yaël Braun-Pivet, president of France’s national assembly and co-organiser of the demonstration, as well as French prime minister Élisabeth Borne. 

Borne, who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, said at the start of the march that the nation “must let nothing pass” when it comes to antisemitism. Family members of the 40 French citizens who were murdered or taken as hostages in the Hamas attacks in Israel were also among those who came to the march in Paris. 

France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish population - numbering around half a million – has seen reports of antisemitic incidents increase dramatically since October 7. As of Saturday, interior minister Gérald Darmanin announced that there have been 1,247 antisemitic acts since violence broke out in Israel, nearly triple as many as recorded in the whole of 2022.  

French President Emmanuel Macron was not present at the march but condemned the “unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism” in France and said on Saturday that he would be at the demonstration “in heart and spirit”. For Macron, joining the march would have meant walking side-by-side with far-right political figures such as Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-nationalist group National Rally (NR), with whom Macron has consistently clashed. Le Pen’s father and founder of NR, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is a convicted Holocaust denier. 

Since October 7, Le Pen has been vocal in her support of Israel and the French Jewish community despite NR’s ideological roots in antisemitism. Her recent demonstrations of solidarity, including her attendance at the march on Sunday, are widely seen as an attempt to distance herself from the party’s longstanding history of antisemitism. Le Pen stated that, in addition to fighting antisemitism, the march should make a stand against “Islamic fundamentalism” in an evident appeal to her staunchly anti-immigrant political base. 

Over 3,000 police officers were stationed along the route of the march in Paris, though the only disturbances to the otherwise peaceful demonstration came about when leftwing Jewish groups protested attempts by far-right leaders to join to rally.

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