French PM attacks the left for giving Israel ‘moral lessons’ during Gaza war

Gabriel Attal accuses La France Insoumise party and its leader of ‘never having a word for the victims of October 7’

France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal delivers a speech during the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris on May 6, 2024. (Julien De Rosa/AFP)
France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal delivers a speech during the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris on May 6, 2024. (Julien De Rosa/AFP)

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal attacked France’s left-wing politicians on Monday night for their criticism of Israel amid the war in Gaza.

As a guest of honor at at an annual dinner held by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) — an organization that lobbies the government on Jewish issues — Attal said the far-left should be ashamed for encouraging the stark rise in antisemitism in the last seven months because “it takes us back to the dark times when we saw that such actions can lead to a great disaster.”

The dinner took place only two days after an Anti-Defamation League report showed that France had experienced the highest rise in antisemitic attacks of any country in 2023, with incidents near quadrupling compared to the previous year.

Attal, who is Jewish, began his speech by telling attendees about a document he had framed in his office that was given to his grandmother Jeanine Weil in 1941 when she removed her yellow Jude star at a police station.

“This document reminds me of the infamy that our country committed by surrendering and being complicit and guilty of antisemitism because, in that hour, our country turned its back on its history and attacked its own,” he said, adding that it was also a reminder that hate is “an infernal machine” that erases “every trace of humanity.”

The document, Attal said, was also a piece of evidence of the horrors of the Holocaust for generations who did not live through it, as survivors die out.

President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), Yonathan Arfi, addresses attendees at an annual dinner at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris on May 6, 2024. (Julien De Rosa/AFP)

“[The Holocaust] was decades ago, but let’s be honest, it could happen again tomorrow,” he said. “We are facing a wave of antisemitism. A wave of rare magnitude that is stronger, more violent and more established than it has been in recent years.”

Attal said the new wave of antisemitism began on October 7 with Hamas’s attack on Israel, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 252.

Three of the 129 hostages who remain in Gaza — Ohad Yahalomi, Ofer Kalderon and Orion Hernandez Radoux — are French citizens, Attal noted, adding, “We do not forget them and we do not abandon them.”

He did not need to invoke the antisemitism of the past to warn about the antisemitism of the present, he said, because “the present is still sufficient on its own.”

“How can we say that Israeli society is overreacting” to the horrors committed by Hamas terrorists who “shouted drunkenly with happiness ‘Death to the Jews'” and called their families to boast of their crimes? Attal asked.

He then criticized those trying to teach Israel “moral lessons” on the way the country wages its war in Gaza after October 7.

Member of the leftist La France Insoumise (LFI) party Jean-Luc Melenchon, center, attends a rally in Paris, January 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

“I have found myself ashamed lately,” he said. “I’m ashamed when I hear certain elected representatives from [left-wing party] La France Insoumise speak of a resistance movement” about Hamas.

Attal attacked the party and its leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, for “never having a word for the victims of October 7.”

He said that France was trying to prevent an escalation of the war in the Middle East, but warned La France Insoumise that “never has peace come through hatred.”

France has been particularly active in trying to restore calm between Israel and Hezbollah since October 8, when forces led by the terror group began attacking Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis.

It was not only attacks on Israel that were the problem, Attal said, pointing to the massive wave of antisemitism that began in France on October 7. Between then and the end of 2023, Attal said there were more than 1,200 reports of antisemitic attacks, which was three times more than were reported in the whole of 2022. A further 366 attacks were reported between January and March, a 300 percent rise from the same period last year.

French Jews make up 1% of the country’s population, Attal continued, but 60% of religious-based attacks are antisemitic and are perpetuated through hate speech, violence and threats.

France’s education and youth minister, Nicole Belloubet, speaks during a session of questions to the government at the French National Assembly in Paris on May 7, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/AFP)

“Each antisemitic attack is a stain on the French flag, so we will not tolerate them and we will never tolerate them,” Attal said, vowing to continue fighting it.

Attal said that antisemitism needed to be fought through education and that together with French Education Minister Nicole Belloubet, he had built a curriculum for primary schools to teach tolerance and respect, and that beginning in the next academic year, it will be taught in all primary schools in the country.

The French prime minister also mentioned the massive pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protests sweeping across universities in the United States, which have also spread to institutions in Europe, including France.

“Together with the interior minister, I have systematically requested the intervention of the police to liberate the surroundings of our universities,” he said. “I did so without hesitation everywhere as soon as the protest movements took place, and I am proud that in France, unlike abroad, none of these manifestations of hatred have become points of fixation for days, weeks, and even months.

“No one should be able to prevent people from working, studying, and revising, and we will be extremely attentive in making sure all sanctions are taken in the long term.”

Chair of EJA Jewish Leader’s Board and President of Consistoire of Paris Joel Mergui (L) listens to President of the ‘Jewish Students of France Union’ (UEJF) organization, Samuel Lejoyeux (2ndR) addressing a gathering organized by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) calling for the liberation of hostages held in Gaza since the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on Israel, at the Trocadeo esplanade in Paris, on April 7, 2024. (Thomas Samson/AFP)

Attal said that antisemites were trying to disguise their hate as anti-Zionism but that it was “no longer a call for a ceasefire when protesters denied Israel the right to exist.

“It is no longer a call for peace when we hold our Jewish fellow citizens responsible for the situation in Gaza,” he added.

With the help of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, Attal said France was working hard to fight all forms of antisemitic attacks, both direct and online.

He ended by saying that “the soul of the French Republic is incomplete without French Jews.”

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