Just one day after the National Assembly of France voted for a resolution declaring anti-Zionism is a modern form of anti-Semitism, 107 Jewish gravestones were found spray-painted with black Nazi swastikas near Strasbourg.
The incident took place late Tuesday night at a Jewish cemetery in the city of Westhoffen in eastern France, near the border with Germany. It’s not the first time this year anti-Semites have attacked the Jewish dead in France.
A similar incident took place in February in the French village of Quatzenheim, where 96 graves in a Jewish cemetery were likewise vandalized with swastikas. And there have been other attacks.
“Trees were chopped down that were planted in memory of Ilan Halimi – a young Frenchman of Moroccan Jewish ancestry who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 2006. Anti-Semitic graffiti is appearing on walls and public buildings, at the rate of two a day in Paris according to City Hall,” wrote Nonna Mayer in a report on 2019 anti-Semitism in France.
Mayer noted, however that 90 percent of people in France responded in a study carried out by the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights (NCCHR) that they consider insults such as “dirty Jew” should be a criminal offense and 75 percent of respondents felt a “strong fight” against anti-Semitism is essential. The survey on racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia is carried out annually since 1990.
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the desecration in a tweet late Tuesday evening. “Anti-Semitism is a crime and we will fight it in Westhoffen and everywhere until our dead can sleep in peace,” he wrote.
Les Juifs sont et font la France. Ceux qui s'attaquent à eux, jusque dans leurs tombes, ne sont pas dignes de l’idée que nous avons de la France. L'antisémitisme est un crime et nous le combattrons, à Westhoffen comme partout, jusqu'à ce que nos morts puissent dormir en paix.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 3, 2019
The next morning, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was in the Jewish cemetery.
“I want to say to those who think they can come here in the middle of the night and tarnish the memory of those who are buried here, tarnish the memory of our French Republic . . . I want to tell them that we will not leave them alone,” said Castaner, who spoke at length with reporters.
Calling the incident a “heinous act of anti-Semitism,” the French Interior Minister said, “Our means will be mobilized to follow up and act on this.”
Announcing the creation of an “official office to combat hate” Castaner told reporters police had already launched an investigation into the desecration.
Statistics published this past February show that France has seen a 74 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents between 2017 and 2018, with 311 incidents reported in 2017, and 541 incidents recorded in 2018.
Statistics for the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in France between January and June 2019 seem to be unavailable, though they are readily accessible for the United Kingdom.