July 16th is the Memorial Day for the deportation of France’s Jewish community in 1942 by Vichy’s police forces. “Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver” or shortly Vel d’Hiv raid, consisted of 13,152 Jews, most of them died at the death camps later on. At the compound that gathered the victims back then, there is a monument which was built in 1994. Yet, a controversy exists at the question of whether France is responsible for the death of its Jewish citizens, or the blame rests entirely upon the Nazis.
During Memorial Day this year, France’s new President, Macron, hosted the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. On the podium Macron gave a long, thoughtful speech, in which he explained why the denial and the justification of the Vel d’Hiv raid are not a solution. On the contrary, he said, a strong nation is able to face the crimes of it’s past. Macron said clearly that France is responsible for the death of those Jews, and that a new national pride cannot be built upon lies. On a precedential declaration, he called Anti-Zionism a new form of antisemitism that has to be fought against.
Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish Community leaders echoed the statement. Referring to the last tension and terror attacks in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said: “Your struggle is our struggle. The zealots of militant Islam, who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well.” More he added on France’s part in Vel d’Hiv: “the Nazis and their collaborators… shattered the lives of thousands of Jews at Vel’ d’Hiv. It seems that the values of the French Revolution — liberty, equality, fraternity — these values were crushed brutally under the boots of antisemitism.”
The VP of the largest Jewish advocacy CRIF, Yonatan Arfi, was pleased to hear the support. “He understands what it is today, not just what it was in the past,” he said on an interview. “It’s at once from the extreme right, but also present on the extreme left and among radical Islamists. Anti-Zionism has definitely become part of anti-Semitism today, and it’s a real satisfaction to find someone before us who speaks the same language.”
Macron’s announcement is extremely important, in light of the rising explicit antisemitism in France the last years. It takes shape in attacks, threats and incitement against Jews. On top of that exists the overt Holocaust denial in the population, and also by public leaders such as the rightist party and La penne’s family.
Netanyahu visited France two years ago, after the massacre at a synagogue within a series of terror attacks in France. While comforting the mourning community at the synagogue, Netanyahu proposed them to consider immigrating to Israel. Though many saw this call illegitimate, the number of Jewish immigrants to Israel this year went up to 8,000, comparing to 5,000 the year before.
Nevertheless, there are some who opposed the presence of Netanyahu at the ceremony, in order to let the ceremony be apolitical.
Sources: Washington Post, Jpost, Franc in the US
Image: AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu, Pool)
By: Roni Zedek