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50,000 at Israel Solidarity Rally

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Over 50,000 people assembled here yesterday for a 12-hour mass demonstration of solidarity with Israel. Tens of thousands listened to public debates, ate Israeli and Jewish food, subscribed to Jewish publications and just stood and sang Israeli songs in a sign of solidarity and support for the Jewish State.

Dozens of French political leaders from the opposition Socialist Party to members of the Gaullist government coalition came to address the crowd and either to defend their policies or to promise a more pro-Israeli stand should they be elected.

Socialist leader Jean Poperent told the crowd “the Socialists will not let you down.” He stressed that a Socialist-led government would “help Israel by all available means.” Another member of the opposition, Roger-Gerard Schwartenberg, said his party, the left-wing Radical Party “is against a Palestinian entity, against a third state between Israel and Jordan and against a PLO presence in Geneva.”

Members of the government coalition said the current government “is doing its best to help Israel,” but were booed and whistled by a very lively crowd.

The mass rally, a mixture of a popular fair, discussion group and mass demonstration, was organized by an independent group, the “Jewish Action Committee,” acting independently from the traditional Jewish organizations. The main Jewish organizations, the French United Jewish Appeal and the Fonds Social Juif Unifie organized last year a “12 Hours For Israel” demonstration. These organizations decided to hold the next meeting in the spring of 1978, after the forthcoming French general election so as to avoid giving the impression of taking sides in the electoral fight.

The Jewish Action Committee decided to go ahead with its project and won the support of a number of other major organizations such as the WIZO, the Zionist Organization and the Representative Council of French Jews which a fortnight ago decided to “wish success to all pro-Israeli demonstrations.” Israeli Ambassador Mordechai Gazit and members of his staff attended yesterday’s and last year’s rallies.

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