(JTA) – Alain Finkielkraut, a pro-Israel, left-wing philosopher who was recently recognized as one of France’s greatest thinkers, was violently ejected from a public gathering on labor laws.
Finkielkraut, who is Jewish, was spat on and heckled by protesters shouting “fascist” and “racist” on Saturday at a rally organized by the Nuit Debout, or White Night, platform, set up in March 31 in opposition to laws proposed by the government of President Francois Hollande, a Socialist, that would make it easier for employers to fire workers in order to help France’s stagnant economy to grow.
Finkielkraut was filmed leaving the gathering, where he came only to listen to speeches, with his wife as insults were shouted at him. He initially tried to engage the hecklers, telling them: “I’m also a human being, am I not?” before he finally gave up and left.
A best-selling author, Finkielkraut in January entered the pantheon of French academia when he was admitted into the Academie Francaise, which is a council of 40 greats elected for life.
“I was ejected from a square which stands for rallying together for democracy and pluralism,” he said after his expulsion from Republique Square in Paris. “That democracy is nonsense, that pluralism is a lie. And I only came to listen, I didn’t even want to speak and share my opinions, but they wanted to purify the square from my presence.”
A declared Zionist and critic of Israeli settlements, Finkielkraut said last month at a talk before Belgian Jews that some colleagues in France have shunned him for his support of the Jewish state.
Finkielkraut is a supporter of JCall, the European counterpart of JStreet, the American dovish group on Israel.
On Monday, JCall issued a statement condemning Finkielkraut’s ejection from the rally.
“Those who called Alain Finkielkraut a fascist and prohibited him from attending speeches organized at a public space have a different perception of dialogue” than his, JCall said in the statement. “Nuit Debout must distance themselves clearly from inflammatory actions and take measures to stop them.”
Myriam El Khomri, France’s minister on labor, said the incident “is regrettable. Everyone is allowed to participate in the debate.”
The loose collection of organizers of Nuit Debout events, who communicate mostly though Twitter, have not yet issued a statement on the incident.