(JTA) — An estimated 180,000 people in France marched in rallies against antisemitism on Sunday that brought together political leaders from most of the country’s major parties, a display that stood in contrast with major pro-Palestinian marches held worldwide throughout the weekend.
Among the marchers in Paris were Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor; Marine Le Pen, a likely presidential contender who leads a far-right party with an antisemitic history; and representatives of President Emmanuel Macron, who has expressed support for Israel since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel and triggered a subsequent war in Gaza. Macron himself did not attend.
Called by the two speakers of the French government — including Yael Braun-Privet, the Jewish speaker of the National Assembly — the rally was intended as a show of unity in opposition to antisemitism at a time when antisemitic incidents are on the rise in France. More than 1,200 antisemitic acts have been recorded since Oct. 7, according to CRIF, the French Jewish umbrella organization.
“Today, we were all united for the Republic and against antisemitism,” CRIF tweeted after the march, which it called “solemn” and “full of emotion.”
Planning for the rally ignited tensions in the government, as the political leaders who attended do not often work together. One political leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left France Unbowed party, boycotted the march in a reflection of his long-held anti-Israel views, saying that those who gathered would be “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza.
France’s interior minister announced a ban on pro-Palestinian marches last month, saying that they were a risk to the country’s Jews and to public order. The country’s top court said the marches must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Elsewhere this weekend, pro-Palestinian marches held for the sixth straight week drew large crowds in a range of cities. London’s march was particularly large, estimated by police at 300,000, and focused on calls for a ceasefire to mark Armistice Day, marking the cessation of hostilities during World War I. It was one of the largest protests in years in the city and had surfaced tensions between government and police officials over how to manage it.
The rally came a day after families in London said they were targeted by anti-Israel protesters while leaving their synagogue on Shabbat.
A synagogue in Melbourne, Australia, was evacuated during services on Friday amid pro-Palestinian protests nearby; Sydney also hosted a major pro-Palestinian rally over the weekend.