PARIS (JTA) — French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the fight against anti-Semitism a “national cause.”
Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup of Jews ahead of their deportation from Paris in 1942 to Nazi death camps, Valls condemned recent anti-Semitic incidents and violence that occurred during protests in France against Israel.
“What happened yesterday in Paris, these unacceptable disruptions, justify even more forcefully the decision that the interior minister courageously took to forbid the demonstration,” Valls said in reference to clashes Saturday between anti-Israeli protesters and police in which 15 officers were lightly injured and 38 protesters were arrested. “France will not allow provocateurs to nourish conflicts between its communities.”
The ban was imposed last week after anti-Israel protesters besieged a Paris synagogue, where they confronted young Jews until police arrived at the scene. France has seen several attacks against synagogues since Israel launched its operation against Hamas in Gaza nearly two weeks ago.
“I call on all elements of our society to combat anti-Semitism: Yes, it is a national cause,” Valls said in an apparent reaction to a request made in March by the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish communities that France declare the fight against anti-Semitism a national cause.
“Traditional anti-Semitism, this old disease of Europe,” Valls said, “is joined by a new anti-Semitism that cannot be denied or concealed, that we must face. It happens on the social networks and in workers’ neighborhoods, among ignorant young men who hide their hatred of Jews behind a facade of anti-Zionism or hatred of the State of Israel.”
Since 1977, French prime ministers have designated one cause each year to receive free publicity on state media. This year, the prime minister’s office designated the fight against illiteracy as the national cause.