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August 27, 2019 11:36 am

Major Row Between French Jews and Leading Masonic Order Averted After Resolution Blaming Rising Antisemitism on Israel Is Withdrawn

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A French masonic banner on display in Paris. Photo: Reuters / Benoit Tessier.

A major row between France’s Jewish community and the largest Freemasons organization in the country was averted on Tuesday after a proposed conference resolution that bitterly attacked CRIF, the French Jewish representative body, was withdrawn.

A statement signed by Grand Master Jean-Philippe Hubsch of the Grand Orient de France Masonic order on Monday evening declared: “No, Freemasons are not antisemitic, just as they are not racist or xenophobic.”

The controversial resolution was due to be debated at the Grand Orient’s annual conference in the city of Rouen this weekend. The text urged the boycotting of all events sponsored by CRIF, lambasting the Jewish communal organization for supporting the State of Israel and allegedly identifying with the “politics of the extreme religious right.” It also blamed rising antisemitism in France on CRIF’s alleged acceptance of Israel’s “encroachment” upon “Palestinian territories” in the West Bank.

The resolution became public after individual members of the 53,000-strong Grand Orient order alerted CRIF to its contents. CRIF President Francis Kalifat told Le Figaro newspaper on Tuesday that he had been “amazed and angered” by the resolution.

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Kalifat said he had quickly reached out to Hubsch. “He was as devastated as I was,” the French Jewish leader said.

Hubsch told Kalifat that the resolution had been irregularly submitted and had been withdrawn by the conference committee following deliberations on Monday. According to Kalifat, Hubsch also emphasized that antisemitism and hostility to Freemasonry were “two forms of hatred, often combined in the obsession with the Judeo-Masonic plot, and the blood of our Jewish and Freemasonic ancestors has flowed too deeply throughout history.”

Kalifat pronounced the “case closed” on Tuesday, but added his view that such a controversy “would not have occurred a few years ago” in the context of a masonic order whose origins go back to the early part of the 18th Century.

Said Kalifat: “While it is legitimate to criticize Israeli policy — and no one in Israel deprives themselves of doing this — this cannot lead to the delegitimization of the existence of the State of Israel. However, this is precisely what this new antisemitism aims to do.”

He urged the French Parliament to adopt the definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which includes examples of anti-Zionist discourse that promotes hostility toward Jews in general.

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