Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged European leaders to take a strong stand against anti-Semitism after the overnight vandalism of dozens of graves in a French Jewish cemetery.
“Today something shocking happened in France,” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew video he published on social media. “Eighty Jewish graves were desecrated with Nazi symbols by wild anti-Semites.”
“I call on the leaders of France and Europe to take a strong stand against anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu continued. “It is a plague that endangers everyone, not just us, and it must be condemned wherever and whenever it rears its head.”
Around 80 graves were discovered to have been daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region.
Photos show the Nazi symbols in blue paint spray-painted on the damaged graves, one of which bears the words “Elsassisches Schwarzen Wolfe” (“Black Alsatian Wolves”), a separatist group with links to neo-Nazis in the 1970s.
Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant called on French Jews to “come home” to Israel following the anti-Semitic vandalism.
“The desecration of the Jewish cemetery in France conjures images of dark times in the history of the Jewish people,” Gallant said in a statement. “Last week I visited the Jewish community in Paris, which is under an anti-Semitic attack and in the process of assimilation. I firmly condemn the anti-Semitism in France and call on the Jews — come home, immigrate to Israel.”
The chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, which deals with Jewish immigration to Israel, called the vandalism “another indication of the rampant anti-Semitism spreading throughout Europe, threatening Jews in the streets.”
“It’s time for governments to wake up!” Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter.
Avi Gabbay, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, said in a statement, “What happened in France has a clear name: Anti-Semitism. This must not be laundered and it must not be muffled. Anyone who comes close to giving legitimization to small anti-Semites gets in return large scale and dangerous anti-Semitism.”
French President Emmanuel Macron visited the vandalized cemetery along with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who tweeted his “outrage and disgust.”
Rallies were planned in Paris and other French cities Tuesday to denounce a flare-up of anti-Semitic vandalism in recent weeks, often coinciding with “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations.
The upsurge in anti-Semitism in France, home to the world’s largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States, spiraled last weekend when a torrent of hate speech was directed at prominent philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a march of yellow vest anti-government protesters.
Politicians on both the right and left urged massive participation in the rallies as a response to the incident.
Last year, 2,679 Jews from France immigrated to Israel, according to Gallant’s ministry.