(JTA) — French President Francois Hollande at a visit to a vandalized Jewish cemetery said French Jews still see France as their homeland.
“How do we understand the unnameable, the unjustifiable, the unbearable?” Hollande said Tuesday at the cemetery in Sarre-Union, in northeastern France’s Alsace region, where more than half of the 400 gravestones were pushed over and vandalized. “This is the expression of the evils eating away at the republic.”
A monument to Holocaust victims also was vandalized at the cemetery, which has been desecrated previously.
Five suspects, aged 15 to 17, were detained Monday after the youngest alleged vandal turned himself in.
Hollande vowed to punish the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts.
He added that he understands that French Jews have a justifiable “feeling of anxiety over the recent attacks,” but knows that they see France as their homeland.
On Monday, Hollande rejected to statements made the previous day by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraging European Jews to move to Israel, calling them “crude electioneering” with elections nearing.
Netanyahu’s statements followed the shooting attack early Sunday on a Copenhagen synagogue that killed a volunteer security guard and injured two policemen. They echoed comments he made last month after two attacks in Paris left 17 dead, including four Jewish men during the siege of a kosher supermarket.
“The comments are not helpful and I think people will ignore them,” Hollande said, adding later, “We’re not prepared to tolerate a situation in this country or in any country in Europe where any Jews feel they have to leave.”
Several French and Danish officials have spoken out against Netanyahu’s call for European Jews to make aliyah.