French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday condemned anti-Zionism as no different from anti-Semitism, as he met with Israeli leaders while in Jerusalem to attend the World Holocaust Forum.
At the President’s Residence, Macron told President Reuven Rivlin that France would be “committed and active” in combating anti-Semitism under his watch.
“We decided to talk about the issue of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism in a direct and clear way. Anti-Zionism is not different from anti-Semitism,” a statement from Rivlin’s office quoted Macron saying.
Macron said that while such a position does not mean the countries can’t disagree, “denying the right of the State of Israel to exist is a modern version of anti-Semitism.”
He also acknowledged growing anti-Semitism in Europe and France, calling it a “very serious disease,” and said the gathering of world leaders in Israel to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz sent a powerful message against hatred of Jews.
“I came for Israel, for what the Shoah represents and for the memory of the Holocaust, to join you in the important statement against anti-Semitism,” he said.
French lawmakers last month passed a draft resolution backed by a member of Macron’s party that calls hatred of Israel a form of anti-Semitism. The resolution also urges the French government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which says forms of vitriol against Israel, including comparing it to Nazi Germany, are examples of anti-Semitism, though criticizing Israel’s policies is not.
Rivlin thanked France for the move.
“As the French National Assembly recently noted, in a step we deeply appreciate, anti-Semites have recently sought refuge in anti-Zionism,” he told Macron.
“Like other democracies, the State of Israel is open to criticism, but we will not allow our right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state in our homeland to be undermined, and we will not accept claims against the implementation of our right and duty to protect ourselves,” the president added.
He praised his French counterpart for being “personally deeply committed to fighting anti-Semitism in all its forms” and said acts of anti-Semitism and racism must be clearly denounced.
Rivlin also expressed to Macron his opposition to the possible opening of an International Criminal Court probe into potential war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, according to a statement from the President’s Residence, which noted the two were joined by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi at the start of their meeting.
In addition, Macron held talks with Blue and White MKs Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid.
“I shared my concerns with [Macron] about the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Europe and thanked him for his determined leadership in fighting this concerning trend in France. Anti-Semitism is a threat not only to the local Jewish communities of Europe but to the democratic fabric of European society as well,” Gantz said in a statement to the press.
The two discussed “various regional issues, foremost among them the challenge posed by Iran,” the statement said.
A statement from Lapid said the meeting was “long and positive” and hailed Macron as “a true friend of the State of Israel, a determined and consistent fighter against anti-Semitism in France and a personal friend.”
Macron, one of dozens of world leaders who will be in Israel this week, was hosted for breakfast Wednesday morning by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prime minister thanked Macron for his unequivocal opposition to anti-Semitism. Furthermore, he asked the French president to “deal with the issue of Sarah Halimi’s murderer,” Netanyahu said, adding that Macron had promised to pursue the matter.
Halimi, 66, was murdered in 2017. Kobili Traore is accused of having beaten her to death while calling her a demon and shouting about Allah, before throwing her body from the window of her third-story apartment. However, a French court ruled last month that he will not stand trial, concluding that he could not be held responsible for the killing because he was in a psychotic state triggered by smoking marijuana.
In a message Wednesday to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center, which will host the high-profile event, Macron spoke of “citizens of France and elsewhere (who) are targeted because they are Jewish.
“This return of hatred haunts our present time,” he said in the text published by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. “This fight against anti-Semitism, I lead it every day by tackling it in speeches, in behavior, on the internet.”
He invited digital platforms and public authorities, as well as civil society and individuals, to intervene “to eliminate hateful content.”
“Saying nothing, turning away, is making yourself an accomplice,” he added.