PARIS (JTA) – Thousands attended a pro-Israel demonstration in Paris that also called for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
France’s Jewish umbrella group CRIF, which organized the event, said that Tuesday night’s demonstration attracted a crowed of about 4,000; police put the number at 2,000.
At a square in eastern Paris, the crowd gathered to show support for Israel following intense criticism of the Jewish state for its interception of a flotilla aiming to break Israel’s Gaza blockade on May 31. The rally also called for the release of Shalit, a dual Israeli-French citizen who has been held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since he was abducted in a cross-border raid four years ago.
Leading French intellectuals spoke at the gathering, including philosopher Alain Finkeilkraut and local celebrity Bernard-Henri Levy, who is known as BHL.
Both condemned what they perceive as disproportionate criticism of Israel for boarding the flotilla and the ensuing clashes that led to the deaths of nine passengers.
Finkeilkraut echoed concerns that Tuesday night’s crowd was limited to mostly Jewish participants.
“We unite for Gilad Shalit when you are Jewish, whereas he is also French," he said, adding later that "I strongly regret that there’s this separation between Jews and other Frenchmen. The Gaza affair has made things very hard.”
Pro-Palestinian protests following the May raid gathered tens of thousands of demonstrators across the country.