Macron’s claim that “anti-Zionism is a modern form of anti-Semitism” sparks both praise and criticism in France and beyond.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF - Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France) on February 20, 2019, at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF - Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France) on February 20, 2019, at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris. (John Salangsang/Invision / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would adopt a new law to identify anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism,” Macron said.
While attending an annual feast with the leaders of France's Jewish community, Macron highlighted that anti-Semitic attacks have skyrocketed in France since World War II and promised to launch a crackdown on hate speech, especially online. 

However, the definition of anti-Semitism to be adopted by the French President, does not explicitly identify anti-Zionism as an anti-Semitic thought or act that should be punished. 

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the definition of anti-Semitism does not identify the phrase ‘anti-Zionism’ but maintains that denying Jewish people their right to self-determination qualifies as anti-Semitism. 

Zionism is the national ideology of Israel, a political movement founded by Austro-Hungarian writer Theodore Herzl, who aimed to create a Jewish state on the historic Palestinian land. Anti-Semitism, on the other hand, is xenophobic hostility towards Jews. 

Welcoming Macron’s statement, the World Jewish Congress said: “This is just the beginning of a long road ahead. Adopting this definition of anti-Semitism must be followed by concrete steps to encode into law and ensure that this is enforced.”

French President Emmanuel Macron wears a kippa as he looks on during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, on February 19, 2019, on the day of a nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Around 80 graves have been vandalised at the Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region, which were discovered early February 19, 2019, according to a statement from the regional security office.
French President Emmanuel Macron wears a kippa as he looks on during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, on February 19, 2019, on the day of a nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Around 80 graves have been vandalised at the Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region, which were discovered early February 19, 2019, according to a statement from the regional security office. (AFP)

However, there is also strong opposition growing against Macron’s proposition. Critics say the law will strengthen the systematic occupation of Palestinian territories and further disenfranchise Palestinians as the Israeli state could misuse it to book Palestinian protesters on anti-Semitic charges, even though the IHRA definition clearly says criticism of Israel does not count as anti-Semitism. 

Calling Macron’s proposal “historical illiteracy, or worse, stupidity”, French journalist Dominique Vidal said on France 24: “If we consider opposition to Theodore Herzl’s theory as anti-Semitic, then we’re saying that the millions of Jews who do not wish to live in Palestine and the occupied territories are anti-Semites.” 

The bill has also raised concerns even among the high-level French officials. Richard Ferrand, President of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, urged “deep thought before making impulsive announcements” and claimed that the existing laws against discrimination are “more than enough” to tackle anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in France, home to Europe's biggest Jewish community. The French interior ministry recently announced that there has been a 74 percent surge in reports of anti-Semitism in 2018. 

"One poll, for example, found that 71 percent of French people thought the Israeli government was at fault because no talks were being held with the Palestinians," Adrien Quatennens of the France Unbowed opposition party said on France 2 TV.
"Are we going to suspect 71 per cent of the French of being anti-Semites? It's not serious," he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies