Sunday, May 16, 2004

Contre l'antisémitisme, je marche

Ceremonies today in Fleury-devant-Douaumont — AFP

=>Three to four hundred people gathered outside the memorial in Fleury-devant-Douaumont dedicated to the Jews killed in the first world war which was defaced ten days ago with nazi slogans. In a message read aloud by the deputy minister for veterans services, Hamlaoui Mekachera, president Chirac condemned the profanation of the memorial as a "collective wound" and "an offense to the entire nation."

Others present included the Grand Rebbe of Nancy, Daniel Dahan; the mayor of Nancy, André Rossinot (Radical Left party); the chair of the regional council, Socialist Jean-Pierre Masseret and the former chairman of the same council, Gérard Longuet (ruling UMP party) and several Jewish, Catholic and protestant representatives who participated in Hebrew prayers.

=>Meanwhile, a demonstration against anti-Semitism and against "apathy" took place in Paris. Police put the number of participants at 9,000 but organizers said there were 30,000.

Every political party sent representatives to the demonstration with the exception of the National Front. The procession began at Place de la République and went to Place de la Bastille (Web cam here).

The head of the procession, demonstrators held a banner that read "Contre l'antisémisitme, je marche" ("Against anti-Semitism, I march").The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples (MRAP) and the Human Rights League (LDH) had sought to change the order of the day to include anti-Semitism "and all forms of racism" but protest organizers denied this request. Representatives from the two groups "remained at the tail of the demonstration with Green party and Communist militants," according to the AFP.
Girls from S.O.S. Racisme participating in the demonstration. — Reuters
Their signs are marked with the organization's slogan: "hands off my pal."

Youths from the left wing Jewish organization Hachomer Hatzaïr were present along with representatives of the Jewish Student Union of France (UEJF), who chanted, "France, wake up! Thy silence shall undo thee."

References to the Arab-Israeli conflict were strictly banned from the demonstration. There were no pro-Palestinian slogans and a young man who tried to brandish and Israeli flag got a stiff dressing down.

When the demonstration arrived at place de la Bastille, undersecretary for victim's rights Nicole Guedj said "Suppression must be as firm and as active as possible." Health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that anti-Semitism "is a crime." Socialist party leader François Hollande said that there can be "no tolerance for intolerance," while UDF leader François Bayrou told the AFP that "there is a movement, a minority but a real one, that must be identified and fought."

Novelist and painter Marek Halter said that "France is neither racist nor anti-Semitic. She is apathetic."

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