A call for a weekend march in Paris against anti-Semitism sparked bitter squabbling between political parties Wednesday despite a surge in anti-Semitic incidents in the country.
The hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party said it would boycott the “great civic march” called by the speakers of the country’s two houses of parliament for the French capital Sunday.
At the same time, the participation of the far-right National Rally (RN) is creating a headache for the left and centre-left, who argue that the renamed National Front (FN) founded by convicted Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen has no place in such a gathering.
Communist leader Fabien Roussel said he would “not march alongside” Marine Le Pen‘s RN, accusing it of being descended from people who were “repeatedly condemned for anti-Semitic remarks” and who “collaborated” with Nazi Germany.
“It’s important that there is a march against anti-Semitism,” Roussel told public broadcaster France 2.
“We will perhaps march in another place, but not with them,” he insisted.
The two speakers of the French legislature, Yael Braun-Pivet of the National Assembly and Gerard Larcher of the Senate, announced a “general mobilisation” late Tuesday against the upsurge in anti-Semitic acts in France.
But the LFI’s firebrand leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, immediately dismissed the idea, describing it in a post on X, formerly Twitter, as a meeting of “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza.
The party doubled down on their stance Wednesday saying, “It is not practical to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of racism alongside a party that has its origins in the history of collaboration with Nazism.”
It was “hypocrisy to claim to denounce anti-Semitism alongside political leaders who constantly use religion as a pretext of shameful discrimination,” the party said.
Despite the controversy, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said she would not be deterred from taking part.
“I call on all our members and voters to come and join this march,” she said Wednesday.
“The more people there are, the better,” she said, adding that she was ready to march “at the back” if her attendance was such a problem.
Tensions have been rising in Paris, home to large Jewish and Muslim communities, in the wake of the attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel on October 7 which has been followed by a month of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Paris prosecutors are investigating an incident on October 31, when buildings in the city and its suburbs were daubed with dozens of Stars of David.
The graffiti, which for some brought back horrific memories of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II and deportation of Jews to death camps, was condemned across the political spectrum.
Prime Minister Borne said these “despicable acts” and would not go unpunished.
The Paris public prosecutor said it was necessary to investigate “the anti-Semitic nature of the perpetrators’ intentions, particularly in view of the geopolitical context and its repercussions in France.”
The massacres of October 7, which left more than 1,400 dead on the Israeli side, triggered the deadliest ever war in Gaza.
According to the Hamas-run healthy ministry in the besieged territory, the Israeli military campaign has killed more than 10,500 people, many of them children.