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France Yellow Vests Anti-Semitism

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French philosopher subjected to anti-Semitic abuse during Yellow Vest protests

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French philisopher Alain Finkielkraut reacts at his publisher's headquarters Stock on April 10, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS GUILLOT

Police intervened to protect Jewish philosopher and writer Alain Finkielkraut after he was targeted while leaving his home by a group of protestors during a demonstration in central Paris on Saturday.


Videos posted on social networks show several protestors shouting “Dirty Zionist,” "We are the people" and "France is ours".

"I felt absolute hatred and, unfortunately, this is not the first time," Finkielkraut, 69, told Journal du Dimanche.

A Paris court said on Sunday it had begun an investigation into the anti-Semitic insults, although Finkelkraut himself told Le Parisien newspaper he did not plan to file a complaint.

He said that not all the demonstrators were hostile towards him and "one even suggested he put on a vest and join the demonstration" while another hailed his work.

Finkielkraut has expressed his solidarity and sympathy with the Yellow Vest protestors from the outset but in an interview published Saturday in Le Figaro, he criticised the leaders of the movement, saying that "arrogance has changed sides".

Cross-party support

Saturday's hate speech triggered a wave of condemnation and messages of support for the philosopher.

"The anti-Semitic insults he has been subjected to are the absolute negation of what we are and what makes us a great nation. We will not tolerate it," French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was "simply intolerable" while the leader of the Republicans opposition party, Laurent Wauquiez, denounced the "abject idiots".

Ian Brossat, chief French Communist Party candidate for the European Parliament, said "We can hate Finkielkraut’s ideas", but "nothing can justify attacking him as a Jew".

Finkielkraut, who is seen as having pro-establishment beliefs, has since January 2016 been a member of the French Academy, the prestigious institution in charge of defining the French language. In 2014 he was much criticised on the left for refusing to denounce the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Political scientist Thomas Guenolé, a member of the hard left France Unbowed party, spoke out against the academic.

"For years, Finkielkraut has spread hatred in France, against youngsters in the banlieue, against Muslims, against the French education system," he tweeted. "Insulting him, like anyone, should be condemned. But we certainly shouldn't feel sorry for him."

A recent spate of anti-Semitic vandalism and graffiti in and around Paris has stoked fresh concerns about an increase in hate crime against Jews.

Fourteen political parties, including Macron's ruling Republic on the Move, plan to hold symbolic nationwide gatherings against anti-Semitism on Tuesday after the interior ministry reported a 74 percent increase in anti-Jewish acts last year.

(with newswires)