The French government will instruct police officers and magistrates to investigate critics of Israel who question its right to exist as a Jewish nation-state for possible violations of the law against anti-Semitic hate speech, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday night.
“Anti-Semitism hides more and more behind the mask of anti-Zionism,” Macron said in an address to the Council of Jewish Institutions in France. “Anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism.”
The French president added that France would adopt a definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. That definition has been condemned by supporters of Palestinian rights for including as an example of anti-Semitism: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
While Macron also said that not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, that distinction was quickly blurred by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who released a statement welcoming the news that France had adopted a “definition which determines that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism.”
Since anti-Semitism is prohibited hate speech punishable by up to one year in prison under French law, critics of Israeli policies that discriminate against non-Jewish citizens and that deny basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians living under military rule could be at risk of prosecution. Supporters of a binational state, with equal rights for Arabs and Jews, and proponents of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes they were expelled from when Israel was founded could also be in legal jeopardy.
Macron said that action was necessary after a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in the past week, in which 96 Jewish graves in Alsace were defaced with swastikas and Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known philosopher, was harassed by yellow vest protesters in Paris who called him a “dirty Zionist shit.”
When Macron visited the cemetery, in the Alsatian village of Quatzenheim, on Tuesday, a French television channel was forced to end a live broadcast on Facebook after their moderators became overwhelmed with vile anti-Semitic comments. “We are not talking about stupid or off-topic comments,” the channel explained, “but explicit calls for murder,