Photo Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton / Flash 90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

After a day in which nearly 100 graves were defaced with swastikas and thousands marched in Paris and other French cities to say “no to anti-Semitism,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called France on Wednesday evening (Feb 20) to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Netanyahu condemned the anti-Semitism in France and Europe.

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Macron told Israel’s prime minister that he would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition which determines that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism. Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for endorsing the definition, which makes it clear that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism.

The definition by the IHRA states, Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

A further explanation according to the IHRA goes on to say that manifestations of anti-Semitism “might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Earlier in the day, the European Jewish Congress (EJC) issued a statement welcoming discussions in the French Parliament on how to criminalize anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism.

Sylvain Maillard, from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, chairs a 30-member cross-party study group on anti-Semitism in the French National Assembly. Maillard held a debate on what type of legislation should be used to make anti-Zionism an offense.

“It is clear that the overwhelming majority of those who claim to be anti-Zionist use it merely as a cover for their anti-Semitism,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC. “We are, of course, making a huge differentiation between completely legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies, and singling out and isolating the Jewish people as not being allowed to express its right to self-determination and to live in its national homeland.

“Anti-Zionists never claim that any other nation on earth, apart from the Jewish State, should be dismantled or is illegitimate so it is clear that this meets any standard of delegitimization, demonization and double-standards.”

The debate in the French Parliament comes in the wake of a wave of attacks against Jews and Jewish symbols and institutions in France, like the slathering of painted swastikas on Jewish tombstones in Alsace, the firing of shots at a synagogue in Paris, the defacing of the image of Holocaust survivor Simone Veil and the abuse directed against Alain Finkielkraut when he was called a “dirty Zionist” by some involved in the ‘yellow vests’ demonstrations.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.