France rallies to denounce anti-Semitic insults at protests

French yellow vest protesters are marking three months since the kickoff of their anti-government movement, as anti-Semitic remarks by some demonstrators have raised national concern about the movement’s ascendant radical fringe. (AP)
Updated 19 February 2019
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France rallies to denounce anti-Semitic insults at protests

  • Political leaders of all stripes called the rallies after a protester was caught on video calling the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist”
  • Last year, police recorded a 74 percent surge in reported anti-Jewish offenses in France

PARIS: Mass rallies are planned in Paris and other French cities Tuesday to denounce a flare-up of anti-Semitic acts which culminated in a violent tirade against a prominent writer during “yellow vest” anti-government protests last weekend.
Political leaders of all stripes called the rallies after a protester was caught on video calling the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist” and telling him that “France belongs to us.”
Finkielkraut had initially supported the yellow vest movement, before criticizing the violence carried out against police forces by a fringe of suspected far-right and far-left demonstrators.
Protesters also launched anti-Semitic abuse at Ingrid Levavasseur, who tried to lead a yellow vest list for coming European Parliament elections, in Paris over the weekend.
President Emmanuel Macron called the insults “the absolute negation of who we are and what makes us a great nation. We will not tolerate it.”
His office said he would not take part in the rallies, though Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will be among several government officials at a Paris march starting at 7:00 p.m. (1800 GMT) at Place de la Republique.
The yellow vest protests began last march against high fuel taxes and rising costs of living blamed on Macron’s policies, which critics say favor the well-off.
But officials accuse the grass-roots movement of helping unleash a wave of extremist violence that has fostered anti-Semitic outbursts among some participants.

“This is the response to the national wake-up call we urged last week,” said Francis Kalifat of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish organizations.
He was referring to a spate of anti-Jewish vandalism and graffiti discovered in and around Paris in the days following another Saturday of yellow vest protests.
Graffiti on the headquarters of French daily Le Monde used anti-Semitic tropes to refer to Macron’s former job as a Rothschild investment banker.
In another incident, the words “Macron Jews’ Bitch” was written in English across a garage door in the city center, and the phrase “Jewish pig” was sprayed onto a wall in the northern 18th arrondissement.
But the rise in anti-Semitic acts in France predates the yellow vest movement.
Last year, police recorded a 74 percent surge in reported anti-Jewish offenses, causing alarm in a country that is home to the biggest Jewish population in Europe.
The government has tried to walk a fine line in condemning the recent surge in anti-Semitism while not criticizing what it calls the protesters’ legitimate complaints.
Several yellow vests have already said they plan to participate in the marches.
But a recent Ifop poll of “yellow vest” backers found that nearly half questioned believed in a worldwide “Zionist plot” and other conspiracy theories.
“The yellow vests aren’t an anti-Semitic movement,” said Jean-Yves Camus of the Political Radicalization Observatory in Paris.
“But it’s a leaderless, horizontal movement... and extremist elements have been able to drown out the voices of its high-profile figures in the media,” he said.
The marches come the day before Macron is expected to address Jewish leaders at the Crif’s annual dinner.


Journey home begins for Christchurch’s foreign victims

The body of Ansi Alibava, who was killed during the New Zealand mosque attacks, is carried upon arrival at Cochin International Airport in Kochi on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Journey home begins for Christchurch’s foreign victims

  • The bodies of foreigners killed by an Australian white supremacist gunman in the South Island city on March 15 are only now beginning to arrive back home

WELLINGTON: The bodies of two Christchurch shooting victims arrived in India as the repatriation process gets underway for foreign nationals killed in the mosque massacre that claimed 50 lives, officials said Monday.
The Indian High Commission in Wellington said the bodies of the two had arrived in their homeland and a third was expected later Monday.
The relatives of another two Indian victims opted to have their loved ones buried in New Zealand, a consulate spokesman said.
The bodies of foreigners killed by an Australian white supremacist gunman in the South Island city on March 15 are only now beginning to arrive back home after delays stemming from the police investigation into the massacre.
The victims, who came from across the Muslim world, were gathered for Friday prayers at two Christchurch mosques when the killing spree took place.
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old motivated by the white extremist belief that Muslims were “invading” Western countries, was arrested within minutes of the massacre and has been charged with murder.
The bodies of the Indian victims are believed to be among the first to be repatriated.
“I’m not sure about the status of bodies from other nationalities but I can say we went through the process as quickly as possible,” a spokesman for the Indian High Commission in Wellington said.
“We completed the procedure within a couple of days of the bodies being released.”
The two repatriated Indian victims are Ansi Karippakulam Alibava, 23, a masters student from Kerala, and Ozair Kadir, 24, an aspiring commercial pilot from Hyderabad city.
The remains of Mahboob Khokhar, a 65-year-old retiree who was visiting his son in Christchurch when he was killed, are en route to India and should arrive about 10:00 p.m. (0300 Tuesday GMT).
The Indians buried in New Zealand are father and son Asif and Ramiz Vora, originally from Gujarat, who had celebrated the birth of Ramiz’s daughter just days before the attack.