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December 3, 2019 3:38 pm

French Lawmakers Adopt Definition of Antisemitism That Includes Anti-Zionism

avatar by Ben Cohen

‘Yellow vest’ protesters screaming antisemitic insults at French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a demonstration in Paris in February 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

The French parliament approved on Tuesday a resolution that recognizes and condemns anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism.

Deputies in the National Assembly voted 154 to 72 to adopt the motion. Several French news outlets commented on the small overall turnout for the vote on the measure, with the majority of the 577 deputies in the parliament opting to abstain amid the political controversy surrounding its content.

Proposed by Sylvain Maillard of the LREM,  President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling centrist party, the centerpiece of the non-binding resolution is the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism — a text criticized by anti-Zionists for determining that support for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, or comparing the actions of Israel to those of the Nazis, is a form of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Originally scheduled for consideration last May, the significance of the resolution has magnified against the background of rising antisemitism in France in recent years. The text was drafted in the wake of last February’s widely-publicized attack by radical ‘yellow vest’ protesters on Alain Finkielkraut, a prominent Jewish philosopher, outside his home in Paris.

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Speaking in favor of the resolution at the parliamentary debate, Christophe Castaner — the French interior minister — referred to the 107 graves in a Jewish cemetery in the eastern Alsace region that were found defaced with swastikas earlier in the day.

“Hatred has no place in the Republic, intolerance has no place in France,” Castaner said.

Addressing critics of the resolution, Castaner argued that the text “affirms loudly and clearly the position of France — it is an unambiguous condemnation of all antisemitic words, acts and gestures.”

Another supporter of the resolution, François Pupponi, told the National Assembly that the IHRA definition would “help to better define the aggravating circumstances of antisemitic crimes.”

One deputy who spoke against the resolution claimed that it was more likely to restrict freedom of speech than meaningfully impact the fight against antisemitism in France. The resolution “will criminalize ideas but does not provide additional tools to fight against antisemitism and against racism,” Pierre Dharréville —  a Communist Party representative — told his parliamentary colleagues.

Others criticized the resolution for concentrating on antisemitism alone, with one speaker, Bruno Millienne, urging the legislators “not to make a distinction, but fight at the same time all forms of incitement to hatred.”

Jewish groups meanwhile welcomed the resolution’s adoption. A statement that followed Tuesday’s vote from the Paris office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised the National Assembly’s endorsement of the IHRA definition as “a very welcome and significant boost to France’s determination to recognize the dangers to our society of rising antisemitism and to more effectively fight hatred of Jews in all its forms.”

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