French President Emmanuel Macron met with leading representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths on Monday, issuing an appeal to combat rising antisemitism on the basis of France’s “universalist values.”
Speaking following the parley, the president of the Catholic Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, said that Macron had encouraged sustained outreach to younger people.
Christian Krieger — the president of the Protestant Federation of France who was also in attendance — explained that Macron urged that French youth needed to embrace France’s universalist, republican culture if they were to “avoid victim competition and ultimately build the values of the Republic.”
France’s chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, echoed Krieger’s interpretation, saying that “no one can lock themselves into their sole and simple suffering. At that moment, we segment a society.”
Muslim leaders who did not attend Sunday’s national rallies against antisemitism — which drew 182,000 participants in Paris and more than 20,000 in provincial cities — were also present at Monday’s meeting with Macron, arguing that racism and prejudice against Muslims needed to be in the frame alongside antisemitism.
“I have no lessons to learn from the fight against antisemitism. The Mosque of Paris has always been extremely active in the fight against antisemitism,” Chems-Eddine Hafiz, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said.
Hafiz added that while he had no wish “to compete with the victims” because there has been “a real rise in antisemitism,” he stressed as well that “there has been an outburst of statements made against Muslims.”
In an article for the news outlet Le Parisien published on Sunday, Macron spoke of “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism” that followed the Hamas pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
“In one month, more than a thousand antisemitic acts were committed on our soil: Three times more acts of hatred against our Jewish compatriots in a few weeks than during the entirety of last year,” Macron wrote.
“Our Jewish compatriots therefore experience legitimate anguish. Fear of taking their children to school. Fear of going home alone. Fear to the point of erasing their names to protect themselves. As if the grief was not enough, they are gripped by anguish and loneliness. As if the past feelings transmitted by their parents, their grandparents were suddenly resurfacing,” asserted Macron, who faced criticism for not attending Sunday’s march.
Macron emphasized that Israel had a right to defend itself. “There is no ‘yes but’: putting Hamas out of harm’s way is a necessity,” he stated. However, he added, “this defense must be accompanied by the resumption of political dialogue and ensure the protection of civilians and hostages in Gaza who cannot pay the price of their lives for the bloodthirsty madness of the terrorists.”
Senior French politicians who attended the march in Paris included Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, the speaker of the French parliament, Yaël Braun-Pivet, and her equivalent in the country’s senate, Gérard Larcher. The march was overshadowed by a political dispute over the participation of the far right Rassemblement National (RN — “National Rally”), which was accused by critics of exploiting Jewish fears of antisemitism to push its anti-Muslim agenda.