80 tombstones vandalized in Jewish cemetery in France

Eighty Jewish tombstones were vandalized on Monday night in the French province of Alsace.

By Associated Press and World Israel News

Eighty tombstones were vandalized on Monday night in a Jewish cemetery in the southern French province of Alsace, local authorities reported. Swastikas were sprayed on the graves. The culprits have not yet been found.

“I am deeply saddened by the desecration of the cemetery,” said a senior member of the community, who served as mayor for the past two years. “The Jewish cemetery has existed since 1795.”

It was just the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents across the country.

On Friday night, two teens shot an air rifle at a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where a large Jewish community lives. A Jewish man was lightly injured in the leg. French media reported the incident on Tuesday.

The cemetery vandalism took place only hours before marches against anti-Semitism were planned, with ordinary citizens and officials across the political spectrum coming together in rallies to condemn the explosion of anti-Jewish hatred.

Ahead of Tuesday’s gatherings, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the vandalized Jewish cemetery.

“Every time a French person, because he or she is Jewish, is insulted, threatened — or worse, injured or killed — the whole Republic” is attacked, Macron said.

Former French Presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy also joined the thousands of protesters and government officials on the Paris streets.

The upsurge in anti-Semitism in France, home to the world’s largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States, was also on display when a torrent of verbal abuse was directed at prominent philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on Saturday during a march of yellow vest anti-government protesters.

The assault came days after the French government reported a spike in anti-Semitism last year: 541 registered incidents, up 74 percent from 311 in 2017.

In other recent incidents, swastika graffiti was found on street portraits of Simone Veil — a survivor of Nazi death camps and a European Parliament president who died in 2017. The word “Juden” was painted on the window of a bagel restaurant in Paris, and two trees planted at a memorial honoring a young Jewish man tortured to death in 2006 were vandalized, one cut down.

According to sociologist Danny Trom, author of the book “France Without Jews,” thousands of Jewish people leave France every year because the rise of anti-Semitism.

“This is a low-intensity war, perhaps, but let’s not forget the murder of children killed at close range by Mohamed Merah in a school,” Trom told French magazine Telerama, referring to the murder in 2012 of three children and a teacher from a Jewish school by an Islamic extremist in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

“It is without equivalent in the history of France,” he said. “Jews have been present in France since the dawn of time. Now, the pressure is such that they are led to consider their country inhospitable.”

Israel calls French Jews

In response to the latest, cemetery vandalism, Likud member Yoav Galant, who was appointed immigration minister last month, called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel.

“The desecration of the graves in the Jewish cemetery in France reminds me of dark days in the history of the Jewish people,” Galant said. “I strongly condemn the anti-Semitism in France and call to Jews – come home, immigrate to Israel.”