Appropriation of Nazi-Era ‘Yellow Star’ at Paris Demonstration Against Islamophobia Outrages French Jews
The official body representing French Jews and prominent Muslim leaders were among the critics of an incident at a march against Islamophobia in Paris last Sunday, during which some participants donned yellow stars embossed with the word “Muslim” in a conscious echo of the yellow Star of David which Jews living under Nazi German occupation were forced to wear on their outer clothing.
A crowd of 13,500 marched in the center of the French capital to protest anti-Muslim bigotry, in the wake of an arson attack against a mosque in the city of Bayonne on Oct. 28 in which two people were injured. One of the two men arrested in connection with the attack was a former parliamentary candidate for the National Front — now renamed the National Rally — the main far-right party in France.
According to news outlet Le Parisien, the controversial yellow star stickers were worn by a “few dozen” protesters. Among them was an 11-year-old girl who was photographed wearing the yellow star while standing alongside Esther Benbassa, a representative of the left-wing Green Party in the French Senate.
Francis Kalifat — president of CRIF, the representative body of French Jews — accused the marchers of appropriating the symbols of the Holocaust.
“It is scandalous to compare the fate of today’s Muslims to the fate of the Jews during Nazi barbarism,” Kalifat told reporters in Paris. “There were 73,000 deportees in France.”
Kalifat said that while he condemned violence directed against Muslims with the “greatest strength,” the bracketing of “six million murdered Jews with recent anti-Muslim acts is an amalgam that cannot be accepted.”
Benbassa reacted sharply to the criticism, protesting on Twitter that she was being accused of antisemitism and Holocaust denial despite the fact that she is Jewish.
“The condition of the Jews in those dark years and that of the Muslims today are not comparable,” Benbassa argued. “But it is quite understandable that those who are stigmatized today should identify with these past sufferings. Nobody is stealing their suffering from anyone.”
Benbassa also pointed out that the stickers did not show a six-pointed Star of David, but a five-pointed star alongside the traditional crescent of Islam.
Even so, her response did little to appease critics of the display, who included a prominent Muslim cleric.
Tareq Oubrou — imam of the main mosque in the city of Bordeaux and the president of the Association of Imams of France — said that the yellow star stickers demonstrated “an ignorance of the history of Jews in France.”
Several politicians also condemned the display. François-Xavier Bellamy, a parliamentary deputy from the center-right Republican Party, said the yellow stickers were lamentable, while David Assouline, a deputy from the Socialist Party, slammed them as “obscene.”