PARIS, France — A French court on Friday handed a two-month suspended sentence to a “yellow vest” protester who hurled anti-Semitic abuse at a prominent Jewish intellectual during a protest.
Police intervened to protect philosopher and writer Alain Finkielkraut after he was targeted by a group of demonstrators on the fringe of a march in Paris in February.
Authorities identified the man — known only as Benjamin W. — through videos posted on social networks, where he is seen shouting “dirty Zionist,” “filthy race” and “France is ours.”
“I felt absolute hatred and, unfortunately, this is not the first time,” Finkielkraut, 69, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
The incident sparked an outpouring of condemnation, including from French President Emmanuel Macron.
“The son of Polish immigrants who became a French academic, Alain Finkielkraut is not only a prominent man of letters but the symbol of what the Republic allows everyone to become,” Macron said in a tweet at the time.
The court found that the insults “appeared to target Alain Finkielkraut as a person of Jewish confession” and that the term “Zionist” was intended “purely and simply to mask the anti-Semitic nature of the remarks.”
Benjamin W.’s lawyer said that he would appeal the decision.
“We believe there is a double standard when you see the kind of language Alain Finkielkraut uses in television debates which the public prosecutor has never questioned,” Ouadie Elhamamouchi said.
At the trial, Benjamin W. rejected accusations of anti-Semitism and said his comments had been motivated by “the Palestinian cause.”
The yellow vest protests began last November over fuel taxes but quickly ballooned into a broader anti-government rebellion, with some using anti-Semitic tropes to refer to Macron’s former job as an investment banker.