Paris conference with Jewish philosopher held under security amid protests

Paris conference with Jewish philosopher held under security amid protests

Sciences Po says it has cancelled event, then relocated it, but it goes ahead after a threatening letter against Alain Finkielkraut, who was assaulted during yellow vest protests

Alain Finkielkraut in his Paris home (Robert Sarner/Times of Israel)
Alain Finkielkraut in his Paris home (Robert Sarner/Times of Israel)

Amid protests against Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, organizers of a conference at a Paris university where he was scheduled to speak announced the event’s cancellation, and then its relocation, before finally holding it as planned under heavy security.

The organizers of the event Tuesday on Europe’s future at Sciences Po initially wrote that it had been cancelled because “Security is our top priority and it’s preferable to take no risks.” Then, in what the Valeurs Actuelles website described as a confusing cat-and-mouse game between the university and protesters, it was reported to have moved to the IPAG Business School near Sciences Po university, but was eventually held as Sciences Po.

Protesters tried to block access to IPAG and Sciences Po but were held at bay by police.

The event included other speakers, but they were not named in a letter issued ahead of the conference warning of protests. Finkielkraut was accosted recently on a Paris street for being a “Zionist.”

In their statement, the authors of the call to demonstrate outside Sciences Po wrote: “We cannot accept Finkielkraut’s ‘modern Europe’ and his islamophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric.” A Sciences Po spokesperson called the group “far-left.”

The university recently canceled an event on “Israeli apartheid,” which the protesters alleged as showing a pro-Israeli bias by faculty.

Finkielkraut is a centrist thinker who has criticized the far right, as well as Muslim communities and far-left activists, for failing to integrate. A best-selling author, Finkielkraut entered the pantheon of French academia in 2016 when he was admitted into the Academie Francaise, a council of 40 greats elected for life.

A Zionist supporter of Israel, he is a member of the dovish J Call group, styled after the J Street lobby in the United States.

In February, police extracted Finkielkraut from a hostile crowd after he was recognized on the street by participants of so-called yellow vests demonstrations over the cost of living. His assailants called him a “dirty Zionist” and told him to “go back to Tel Aviv.”

French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut is targeted by yellow vest protesters shouting anti-Semitic slogans, Paris, February 16, 2019 (Screen grab via Yahoo)

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

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the abuse hurled at Finkielkraut, as did Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

“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,” Macron tweeted.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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