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French parliament backs resolution calling anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism

A petition from 129 Jewish and Israeli scholars had called on the French National Assembly not to support the resolution
The resolution was tabled by Sylvain Maillard, a Paris lawmaker from French President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique en Marche centrist party (AFP)

The French parliament backed a resolution on Tuesday labelling anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism.

The motion proposes to adopt the definition issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which states that some criticism of Israel could be antisemitic. 

“Criticising the very existence of Israel as a collective composed of Jewish citizens is tantamount to hatred towards the Jewish community as a whole,” the resolution states.

The resolution has passed with 154 votes for and 72 against. It was drafted by Sylvain Maillard, a Paris lawmaker from French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique en Marche (The Republic on the Move) centrist party.

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In February, a few days after an attack on Jewish French philosopher Alain Finkelkraut on the sidelines of a yellow vest protest in Paris, Macron said anti-Zionism was one of the modern forms of antisemitism and that he would accept the IHRA definition.

Earlier this week, a group of 129 Jewish and Israeli scholars signed a petition calling on the French National Assembly not to support the resolution. 

The signatories criticised the proposal for reducing Israel to a “collective composed of Jewish citizens”, thereby obliterating the Palestinians citizens of the country, as well as those Jews who hold anti-Zionist opinions.

“For Palestinians, Zionism means dispossession, displacement, occupation and structural inequality," the letter says.

"It is cynical and insensitive to stigmatise them as antisemites for opposing Zionism.

“They oppose Zionism not because they hate Jews, but because they experience Zionism as an oppressive political movement.”

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan welcomed the resolution.

"Under cover of 'political criticism' of the State of Israel, antisemitic content is disseminated, poisoning discourse and denouncing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state," he said. 

"I commend the French parliament on its important decision that will aid in the fight against antisemitism that is rising in France and in Europe as a whole."  

Graves desecrated

The rising number of anti-Jewish offences reported to French police - up 74 percent in 2018 from the previous year - have caused alarm in the country that is home to both the biggest Jewish and the biggest Muslim communities in Europe.

On Tuesday, more than 100 graves were found covered with swastikas and antisemitic graffiti at a Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg in eastern France, officials said, just hours after similar vandalism in a nearby village.

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"It's a shock," Maurice Dahan, president of the Jewish consistory for the Bas-Rhin region, told the AFP news agency, adding that most of the graves were daubed with swastikas.

The government's regional authority said it was investigating the damage to 107 graves at the cemetery in Westhoffen, around 25km west of Strasbourg.

It said that anti-Jewish inscriptions were also found in the village of Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn about 20km away.

The Alsace region has suffered a rash of racist vandalism over the past year, most notably the desecration of 96 tombs at a cemetery in Quatzenheim in February, which drew nationwide outrage over a spate of antisemitic attacks.