Police arrest suspect in anti-Semitic abuse of French writer
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French police have arrested a man suspected of taunting prominent essayist Alain Finkielkraut during a “Yellow Vest” protest on Saturday, one of several high-profile anti-Semitic incidents to have shocked the nation.
Paris prosecutors on Wednesday confirmed the suspect, described as a salesman from Mulhouse in the eastern Alsace region, was being investigated for “public insult based on origin, ethnicity, nationality, race or religion”.
Police sources said the suspect could be seen on video footage of the incident calling Finkielkraut a “Zionist”, a “piece of shit”, and telling him “France belongs to us”.
Finkielkraut, 69, has declined to press charges.
Many French Jews are on edge after the government announced a 74 percent jump in anti-Jewish offences in 2018 after two years of declines.
The spike in attacks prompted dozens of political parties, trade unions and activist groups to organise rallies against anti-Semitism on Tuesday evening, with thousands attending in cities across France.
Just hours before the rallies, authorities in Alsace announced that nearly 100 graves in a Jewish cemetery had been covered with swastikas overnight.
Long history of anti-Semitism
Several officials have accused the Yellow Vest anti-government movement of unleashing a wave of extremist violence that has fostered anti-Semitic outbursts among some participants.
French President Emmanuel Macron is to lay out his plans to combat anti-Semitism during a speech at the annual dinner of the CRIF umbrella association of French Jewish groups on Wednesday.
Anti-Semitism has a long history in France where society was deeply split at the end of the 19th century by the Alfred Dreyfus affair, named after a Jewish army captain who was wrongly convicted of treason.
During World War II, the French Vichy government collaborated with Germany notably in the deportation of Jews to death camps.
More recently French anti-Semitism, traditionally associated with the far right, has also spread among far-left pro-Palestinian extremists and radicals among the growing Muslim community.
But Macron has resisted calls by some lawmakers to explicitly penalise anti-Zionist statements criticising Israel.
A recent Ifop poll of Yellow Vest backers found that nearly half those questioned believed in a worldwide "Zionist plot" and other conspiracy theories.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)